This time last year, Sarah Aley was on the verge of retiring from the 50-over game.
Today, she was named in Australia’s squad for next month’s Women’s World Cup in England, where she could finally make a long-awaited international debut aged 33.
At the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, Aley, having played in all but one of NSW’s 10 consecutive Women’s National Cricket League titles during a decorated domestic career, felt it might be the right time to focus her efforts solely on Twenty20 cricket.
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Fortunately for her – and Australian cricket – it was a decision she was convinced to reconsider.
What followed was an outstanding summer in both formats, with the right-armer collecting 11 wickets at 20.45 as the Breakers won their 18th WNCL title, before playing a crucial role in guiding the Sydney Sixers to victory in the second edition of the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League, topping the tournament wicket tally with 28 scalps at 11.75.
A call-up to Australia’s T20 squad to play New Zealand followed and while she didn’t debut during the three-match series, Aley was subsequently invited to train in Brisbane as part of the Southern Stars’ extended squad for the tournament, where she put forward an irresistible case to be included in the final 15 who will travel to the United Kingdom early next month.
"I am excited, it’s something that at the start of this season I didn’t think would happen,” Aley told cricket.com.au.
"This time last year, I was considering retirement from 50-over cricket.
"So to put those thoughts aside and have the season I did, and then hopefully make my debut in the World Cup, that would be something pretty special.
"I spoke to a few people about (retirement) and in the end (I realised) the reasons why I was considering it probably weren’t the right ones for me personally.
"Someone told me to put it out of my mind and said, ‘focus on this year, you might have a cracker’, and in the end that’s what’s happened."
With her ticket to England locked in, Aley says she can’t wait to get back into the thick of World Cup preparations with the Southern Stars, who will spend the next two weeks training in Queensland.
"To be included in that preliminary squad camp, it gave me an opportunity to do everything in my power to give myself a chance of being selected in the final squad,” she said.
"I had some good form during season but that’s a long time ago now, so the camp for me was about getting into good rhythms with my bowling and working with (bowling coach) Joe Dawes on a few different tactical things I could try and implement.
"I felt like I did that and bowled quite well in the training sessions and match scenarios we had, so hopefully I’ll continue that at the next camp and obviously into the World Cup."
While her only experience in the United Kingdom was a county stint 10 years ago, Aley feels her bowling style will be suited both to the conditions, and to Australia’s game plan.
"The game plan (Australia has) had since Matthew Mott and (bowling coach) Joe Dawes came in, wanting to have the bowlers be relentless in attacking the stumps, that’s something I do quite well.
"I think like my bowling will also be suited to English conditions in terms of seaming and swinging wickets, so I feel like what I’ve got to contribute will help the team during the tournament."
There’s no question for Australia head coach Matthew Mott that Aley’s bowling style slots perfectly into the team’s plans.
But it was her powerful displays with the bat during the three-week training camp in Brisbane that did manage to surprise him – a factor which will add an extra string to her bow when the time comes to select Australia’s XI to meet West Indies in their tournament opener in Taunton on June 26.
"Aley is your ultimate professional. She added a bit more with the bat than even we thought,” Mott told cricket.com.au last week.
"During our scenarios, she came out and hit the ball hard and strong.
"She could add firepower to the back end of our innings which could be very handy … and she fits into our bowling plans and hits the stumps a lot."
Women's World Cup 2017 Guide
Australia World Cup squad: Sarah Aley, Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell (vc), Nicole Bolton, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Meg Lanning (c), Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington
Australia's World Cup schedule
View the full tournament schedule here
June 20: Australia v South Africa, Oakham
June 22: Australia v Pakistan, Leicester
June 26: Australia v West Indies, Taunton
June 29: Australia v Sri Lanka, Bristol
July 2: Australia v New Zealand, Bristol
July 5: Australia v Pakistan, Leicester
July 9: Australia v England, Bristol
July 12: Australia v India, Bristol
July 15: Australia v South Africa, Taunton
July 18: First semi-final, Bristol
July 20: Second semi-final, Derby
July 23: Final, Lord's