Sydney Sixers star allrounder Ashleigh Gardner admits her stint on the sidelines has been longer than expected as she works her way back from her third concussion in less than 12 months.
The 20-year-old was hit on the grill against the Perth Scorchers on December 12 and has missed the Sixers' two Rebel WBBL clashes against the Hobart Hurricanes since.
She mistimed her shot at the Katherine Brunt delivery, with the ball skimming off her arm and into her helmet.
"Katherine Brunt bowled me a short ball and it was a lot quicker than what I actually expected, and it just came off the deck pretty hard and just skimmed my bicep on the way through and hit me straight into the grill," Gardner told Network Ten during an in-match on Saturday.
"I stayed out there for maybe five more balls, didn't bat very well after that, and got assessed and (was told) that I was concussed."
It comes on the back of Gardner missing the second ODI of the Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes after top edging Brunt – this time with the fast bowler representing England – into her helmet late in Australia's thrilling win in the series opener.
Back in January, the first of her concussions came when she copped some friendly fire while facing teammate Alyssa Healy – usually a wicketkeeper – in practice the day before the WBBL|02 decider against Perth Scorchers.
"It was in the nets the day before the WBBL final last year and Midge (Healy) was being funny and decided to bowl me a bouncer, and it was that slow that I played it way too early and got sconed straight into the side of the head, so that was the first of my three concussions this year," she said.
Although she played that final, her third concussion this calendar year means Gardner and the club are taking a cautious approach to her return. It is understood the Sixers will treat Gardner as a match-by-match prospect, rather than setting an expected return date.
"It's probably taken a little bit longer than what I would've expected to be out for, but my health is more important than playing cricket," Gardner said.
"So I just want to get my health right before I'm back out in the field.
"Obviously three concussions under 12 months isn’t ideal. Yes, they are only minor hits, but obviously a couple of minors could turn into a major, so my health is more than anything else at this point in time."
In the two matches prior to the Scorchers' clash, Gardner had been in excellent form with the bat, making 114 in the Sixers' season-opener – just the third ton in WBBL history – and 47 the next day against crosstown rivals Sydney Thunder.
The Sixers' next match is against Perth Scorchers at Perth’s Lilac Hill on December 30.