Baptism of fire greets impressive Graham on debut

Playing in her first T20I, Heather Graham took a crucial 3-22 before she was handed the ball for the super over, topping off a whirlwind debut in front of more than 45,000 fans

When Heather Graham was presented with Australia T20I cap No.59 ahead of Sunday’s second game in Mumbai, the Tasmania and Hurricanes allrounder could never have predicted the baptism of fire that would follow.

With Australia defending 187 in superb batting conditions and confronted with a sell-out 45,000-strong crowd at DY Patil Stadium, Graham acquitted herself exceptionally well during her initial four-over spell, removing Jemimah Rodrigues, Harmanpreet Kaur and Deepti Sharma in her 3-22.

Her standout efforts with the ball also included a 19th over that went for just four runs against a rampant Richa Ghosh.

So impressive was Graham, that went Ghosh and Devika Vaidya sent the match to a super over, she found herself handed the ball by captain Alyssa Healy.

Given! Graham picks up wicket on T20I debut

"I wasn't expecting to bowl the super over ... I thought it might have been (Megan Schutt) Shooter that got the nod," Graham said following the game.

"But I'm pretty fortunate that I've been able to have experiences like that in the WBBL.

"So I just relied on that, and the fact that we had the Power Surge as well in the WBBL, that gave me a lot more confidence in myself."

Full of momentum, Ghosh and Smriti Mandhana scored 20 runs off that additional over, before Australia fell four runs short in response.

From the ecstasy of claiming one of the biggest wickets in world cricket in Kaur, to the surrealness of the boisterous sell-out crowd and the adrenaline of the game ending in a tie, then finally, to a loss that marked Australia’s first defeat in any format since September 2021 and first T20I loss since March 2021, Graham was still wrapping her head around the events of the evening when she fronted the media.

"Unfortunately it didn't come off today ... when I walked off the field, I probably wanted to cry to be completely honest, because I didn't execute what I wanted," Graham said of the super over.

"But I think on any other day, if I execute, then it's a completely different game. So sometimes you've just got to take it with a pinch of salt and that's just cricket for you."

Flawless batting conditions at DY Patil Stadium were always going to make defending difficult – as demonstrated when Australia chased down a target of 173 in 18.1 overs on Friday – and Graham said the tourists suspected their total was only around par at the midway point of the match.

Nonetheless, she agreed that being forced to scrap would hold Australia’s attack – one that was missing two key components in Jess Jonassen and Darcie Brown – in good stead heading into a T20 World Cup title defence early next year.

"I think we will just take massive learnings from that," Graham said.

"I think the way that we were able to battle our way through that bowling innings and be able to bring it to a super over was an incredible feat for our bowlers and probably gives us a vote of confidence.

"We obviously know we probably didn't score enough runs out there, but on any wicket like that, you've always got to give yourself a chance and I think we did that with the ball and in the field.

"We were really fortunate to be able to get that to a super over ... (the conditions) were extremely challenging, I think the wicket just got better and that outfield's lightning quick with pretty short boundaries.

"As a bowler it's not too fun but it was a good challenge to be able to try and defend on the ground like that."

'I was wondering why you wearing a microphone!": Graham's debut moment

Sunday’s game marked Graham’s first appearance in the green and gold since her ODI debut in late 2019, with the 26-year-old rewarded for her consistent domestic form in both white-ball formats.

On a larger scale, the match marked a significant moment in the women’s cricket in India.

The game was a lockout after more than 45,000 tickets were snapped up by eager fans, creating an atmosphere the likes of which Graham had never experienced before.

Only those members of the Australia XI who took the field in the 2020 T20 World Cup final at the MCG had played in front of a larger crowd.

"I'm not sure you can compare it (to anything else) to be honest," Graham said.

"I think we had about three or four thousand max in (the crowd in) the WBBL.

"I turned to Phoebe Litchfield who was debuting as well and I was just like, 'this is insane'.

"And we just soaked it all in. It's incredible to be able to come over and play in India and get a crowd like that, it's something I'm going to cherish forever."

Australia's T20I tour of India 

1st T20I: Australia won by 9 wickets

2nd T20I: Match tied (India won the Super Over)

3rd T20I: December 14, Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai (Dec 15, 12.30am AEDT) 

4th T20I: December 17, Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai (Dec 18, 12.30am AEDT) 

5th T20I: December 20, Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai (Dec 21, 12.30am AEDT) 

Australia squad: Alyssa Healy (c), Tahlia McGrath (vc), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Heather Graham, Grace Harris, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda-Jade Wellington

India squad: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Smriti Mandhana (vc), Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Radha Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Renuka Singh Thakur, Meghna Singh, Anjali Sarvani, Devika Vaidya, S Meghana, Richa Ghosh, Harleen Deol