India v Australia ODIs

Gardner smells the roses after head blow

Destructive allrounder has rediscovered her touch following a concussion that curtailed her hot early WBBL form

Laura Jolly, in Mumbai

08 March 2018, 11:18 AM

Ashleigh Gardner has revealed it took the better part of the Rebel Women's Big Bash League season to regain her confidence after a nasty blow to the helmet that left her suffering her third concussion in the space of 12 months.

But if Gardner's stunning 90 from 44 balls in Australia's first warm-up match on Tuesday is anything to go by, the explosive allrounder looks to have returned to her best just in time to tackle her first tour of India.

Ashleigh Gardner cops hit on helmet

The hard-hitting Australia and Sydney Sixers' star missed two WBBL|03 games in December after copping a ball to the grill of her helmet from the bowling of Perth Scorchers quick Katherine Brunt after mistiming a pull shot.

It came after she blasted a record-breaking century in the first match of the season and when she did return, Gardner averaged just nine from her next nine matches before regaining form in startling fashion just in time for the finals where she scored a 45-ball 72 in the semi-final and an unbeaten 22 off 16 in the decider.

Ground-breaking Gardner puts Stars in compost

In Tuesday's practice match at Mumbai's BKC Ground against India A, it was Gardner at her devastating, destructive best.

She started cautiously, working her way to 16 from 15 deliveries, but when she escalated, she escalated, striking 74 runs from the next 29 balls she faced and clearing the boundary six times.

"It was awesome to get out there and get some runs under my name, it was really cool," Gardner reflected before Australia returned to the nets on Wednesday.

"Patience was the key out there. I tried to play it really straight early because I haven't had much experience on Indian wickets, and I think I was just listening to the advice from other people who have played on these wickets a lot more.

"It was really helpful being out there with Rachael Haynes, and then Jess Jonassen at the end."

Gardner cleared the rope six times in Australia's warm-up game against India // cricket.com.au
Gardner cleared the rope six times // cricket.com.au

When she's on, Gardner has the ability to casually and consistently clear the ropes without ever looking concerned, making for compelling viewing. 

Asked how she approaches her batting when she's in the zone, Gardner was typically : "When I'm seeing the ball well I like to think I can keep going. 

"Getting 90 in the end was really cool, once I'm in the zone and I see the ball in my areas, I play to my strengths and just try to clear the boundary when I can."

Gardner unleashes in semi-final showdown

The 20-year-old makes big-hitting look easy, but that wasn't the case throughout the WBBL as she fought to regain her confidence following her concussion.

"There were lots of lows and highs (in the WBBL), coming off the first game making 100 and then a couple of days later getting concussed, which was the lowest of lows.

"I missed the next couple of games and then I couldn't find any form.

"But once I I got my confidence back facing bowlers again in the nets, that really helped. Speaking to my coaches about ways I could go around things also helped."

Fittingly, the moment Gardner appeared to conquer her short-pitched demons came against Brunt in the Big Bash final, when she sent a bouncer from the fiery Englishwoman into the Adelaide Oval crowd.

Gardner goes big with spectacular six

"The only thing on my mind during that period was getting a short ball. Once I tried to conquer that and build my confidence back up with hitting the ball, rather than being hit in the head, that was a massive boost for my confidence," she said. 

The 20-year-old has made a name for herself with her big-hitting antics in the WBBL, of which she's only showed glimpses at international level – due in part to her position in Australia's lower order in the one-day format.

But with Tuesday's knock under her belt, Gardner hopes it's a sign of things to come in the green and gold.

"It's the first time I've made such a score going out in Australian colours, so no matter if it was a practice or not, it was still a pretty special moment.

"Having those runs under my belt before the first ODI is really helpful."

Australian cricket presses for progress

Australia will play a second warm-up against the same India A side on Thursday before flying to Vadodara, where the first of three ODIs will be played on March 12.

Cricket.com.au will provide news, scores, highlights and behind-the-scenes coverage from on the ground in India, while Fox Sports will broadcast all three ODIs and the T20I tri-series that will follow live.

Australia tour of India

Australia ODI squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Nicole Bolton, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington

Australia T20 squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Naomi Stalenberg, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington

India ODI squad: Mithali Raj (Captain), Harmanpreet Kaur (vice-captain), Smriti Mandhana, Punam Raut, Jemimah Rodrigues, Veda Krishnamurthy, Mona Meshram, Sushma Verma, Ekta Bisht, Poonam Yadav, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shikha Pandey, Sukanya Parida, Pooja Vastrakar, Deepti Sharma

Warm-up match v India A, Australia won by 321 runs

Warm-up match v India A, BKC Ground, Mumbai, March 6

ODI series

First ODI Reliance Stadium, Vadodara, March 12

Second ODI Reliance Stadium, Vadodara, March 15

Third ODI Reliance Stadium, Vadodara, March 18

T20I tri-series

First T20I Australia v India, Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, March 22

Second T20I Australia v England, Brabourne Stadium, March 23

Third T20I India v England, Brabourne Stadium, March 25

Fourth T20I Australia v India, Brabourne Stadium, March 26

Fifth T20I Australia v England, Brabourne Stadium, March 28

Sixth T20I India v England, Brabourne Stadium, March 29

Final Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai, March 31