When Tahlia McGrath answered a call from Australia selector Shawn Flegler last Sunday night, she expected to be told she’d be lining up for the Cricket Australia XI in a warm-up clash with England.
Instead, the South Australian was informed she’d been named in Australia’s ODI and Test squads for the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes, which kick off with a one-dayer in Brisbane on October 22.
“It was a little bit of a surprise, I was expecting to be in the CA XI,” McGrath told cricket.com.au.
“I can’t wait to meet up with the group and get straight into things.”
It hasn’t been the easiest year for the highly rated allrounder since she made her ODI debut against South Africa in Coffs Harbour last November.
McGrath was struck down by stress fractures in her back while touring Sri Lanka with the Australia A team in April, with the injury ruling her out of Australia’s preliminary World Cup squad and ending her hopes of earning a spot in the touring party for the tournament in the United Kingdom.
But the 21-year-old seamer took the lay-off from bowling as an opportunity to focus on other aspects of her game, and now – having been given the all-clear in her most recent MRI – is building up her bowling loads once again.
“My back is feeling really good and it’s great to be bowling again and not having to worry about anything to do with my back,” she explained.
“I got my first MRI in May and I didn’t bowl off my full run-up until the start of September, so it was a pretty long time.
“But it did give me time to work on my strength, my fitness and my batting so there were some positives to it.”
That extra work with the bat seems to be paying off. McGrath scored 80 for South Australia in the Women’s National Cricket League last weekend, while she also managed four overs with the ball.
“I’m normally not able to put that much time into my batting because usually I’ll bat half the time at training and then bowl, so to focus on my batting for so long was a real positive to come out of (the injury) and I’m really happy with where my batting is at now,” she said.
“I tried to work on the mental side of my batting as well. Last year I made starts but never really went on with it, so I tried to bat for longer periods in the nets and be really patient.”
McGrath is a member of Cricket Australia’s inaugural Women’s National Performance Squad and has been touted by high performance coach Leah Poulton as a genuine allrounder who could make teams for both her batting and bowling alone.
It’s that potential which has Australia’s selectors and coaches excited about what McGrath could be capable of against England during the multi-format Ashes, which will see the Ashes foes meet in three ODIs, one day-night Test and three T20Is.
“We’ve had her in our eyeline for a while,” Australia coach Matthew Mott told cricket.com.au on Thursday.
“She brings in a genuine bowling option and she’s a quality allrounder, so she’s very handy to have back in the squad.
“She’s someone who can swing the ball but also be a handy batter for us, so she’s knocking on the door.”
Mott said the fact McGrath was still building her bowling loads wouldn’t count against her when it came to selection, either.
“We are constantly monitoring it,” he said. “It’s a real balancing act with bowling loads, it would depend on how many games she played in a three-match series.”
Meanwhile McGrath is simply relishing being back in the international mix.
“It seems like ages ago that I played for Australia,” McGrath said.
“I’ve been working really hard since I played that game and I was really eager to get back into the system.
“I absolutely loved my opportunity and realised that’s what I wanted to do, so I put everything into it during the off-season and I’ve been lucky enough to get another chance."
And while selection in the historic day-night Test at North Sydney Oval would be a dream come true for McGrath, just being given the chance to play in the three-day warm-up against an ACT XI is something the South Australian is looking forward to.
“I haven’t bowled with the pink ball yet, hopefully there’s a bit of swing around,” she said.
“I’d be most excited to play in the Test but even the warm-up game, that’s something I’ve never done before so I’m just excited to give that a crack. I’ve always wanted to play a multi-day game, just for that extra mental challenge in the middle.
“I think it’ll be really fun.”
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
First ODI Allan Border Field, October 22
Brisbane Charity Partner: Lord Mayor's Charitable Trust
Second ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 26
Third ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 29
Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12
First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17
North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation
Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19
Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21
Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT