Melbourne Stars' rookie left-arm spinner Sophie Day has come on in leaps and bounds throughout WBBL|06, and is just getting started
All in a Day's work: Sophie's rapid rise
Earlier this year, Sophie Day was bowling to the world's best batters … as a net bowler, during the ICC T20 World Cup.
Now, she is bowling to the world's best batters in the Rebel WBBL, after winning her first contract with the Melbourne Stars.
Day is something of a late bloomer in the cricket world, only taking up the sport during her final year of high school, but she is quickly making up for lost time.
The 22-year-old, who also earned her first Victorian contract this year, arrived in Sydney hoping to potentially make a debut at some point during WBBL|06.
What a grab from Annabel Sutherland to hand new @StarsBBL recruit Sophie Day her first ever WBBL wicket! 🙌 LIVE: https://t.co/0kSKhJ8YH9 #WBBL06 pic.twitter.com/upkjvt2Hh1%E2%80%94 Rebel Women's Big Bash League (@WBBL) November 7, 2020
The left-arm spinner was pleasantly surprised to be named in the Stars XI for their opening match … and their second … and their third … but when all three games were washed out before she had a chance to bowl, Day began to wonder if she was cursed.
"I did start to think it was me," Day told cricket.com.au. "Then the first over I bowled, as I was handed the ball, the rain started again.
"But it was great to finally play a game, my nerves were starting to build up over the course of a few days.
"It's crazy you look down the other end and see (the best players in the world) ... I've only ever watched them on TV and I've looked up to them, and now I'm bowling against them, it's a bit surreal."
Now, she has taken the field in all 11 of the Stars' completed matches, taking 10 wickets to help her team finish on top of the table and reach their first finals campaign.
It has been a rapid rise for Day, who only took up cricket during Year 12, after quitting hockey.
Renegades skipper gone! Sophie Day with the bullet arm runs out Amy Satterthwaite! #WBBL06 pic.twitter.com/BpgiHFkZY8%E2%80%94 cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) November 15, 2020
With her parents insisting she continue to play a sport, she decided to join her dad at the local cricket club in Warrandyte, where she played as a batter.
Her potential quickly spotted, she signed with women's premier club Plenty Valley – and when they were in want of a left-arm spinner, Day figured she would give it a crack.
"I wasn't a big studier, so I said I'd play cricket with dad, and that takes up the whole day so I don't have to study," Day laughed.
Unlike the vast majority of her Victorian and Stars teammates, who rose through the underage pathways, Day then forged her way to the elite level through her grade cricket form.
She won opportunities with the Victorian futures squad, before signing on as a net bowler for the T20 World Cup, which gave her a taste of bowling to the likes of Sophie Devine, Smriti Mandhana and Alyssa Healy.
"I learnt so much being able to bowl to players with such high standards," Day said.
"I learnt what I needed to do if I ever wanted to play alongside them in the Big Bash."
Sophie Day gets the massive wicket of Suzie Bates! She departs for 28, Strikers now 2-64 after 9 overs: https://t.co/rK5sieC34b #WBBL06 pic.twitter.com/GRq3AioLZW%E2%80%94 Rebel Women's Big Bash League (@WBBL) November 10, 2020
In May, Victoria came knocking with a contract, and while a winter of training under strict bio-secure conditions in Melbourne does not sound ideal, it proved the perfect setting for Day to hone her skills against the world's best.
"The restrictions were tricky down in Victoria but I got to spend time with all the Aussie girls in the Victorian set-up, so for me it was a positive," she explained.
"I got to train alongside Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry, Sophie Molineux and Elyse Villani … whereas they would usually have been overseas on tour.
"To have them around for my first preseason in a high-performance set-up, you can't get much better."
When she isn't training or playing, Day is indulging her other great love: art.
Currently completing a Fine Arts degree at the Victorian College of the Arts, Day can see plenty of similarities between art and cricket – and her sport inspires her creative pursuits.
While she has not been indulging in anything much more than the odd sketch in the WBBL Village, she does believe her two passions provide balance.
"I love to paint," she said. "I've always loved art and sport and I think the two work together nicely.
"I go about them in a very similar way, I'm very structured with how I train and how I look at my cricket and same with my painting, I've got a formula with the way I like to go about it.
"Both industries can be quite consuming and having the two is a really good outlet for me.
"I also do a lot of paintings on cricket – I like to look at stats and wagon wheels, and when we look at that stuff in cricket, I see (potential) paintings, so it gives me heaps of ideas and inspiration."
A prodigiously hard worker, Day is tireless whether is it in the nets, fielding or simply running laps.
The chance to work under the leadership of Lanning and the mentoring of new Stars coach Trent Woodhill has been invaluable, she believes, with the pair backing her to learn on the job.
"Trent has been fantastic ... the confidence he has shown in me, has given me so much confidence (in return)," Day explained.
"And Meg showing that she trusts me and she'll give me a go, I've learnt so much from being able to bowl in all stages of the game.
"I've grown so much in my game from that.
"I came here not expecting anything at all, I hoped to play maybe one game, if that.
"To now have played all the games has been pretty crazy and I've loved every minute of it.
"I'm so grateful to the Stars to give me the opportunity to do that, and to let me learn out on the field.
"I know sometimes I make mistakes, but for them to give me the freedom to make those mistakes on the field is massive for me."