Meet the teenage leggie ready to take the Big Bash by storm
Amelia Kerr has deceived the biggest names in world cricket with her wrong'un, broken a world record with the bat and now she's in teal for WBBL|05
Laura Jolly is a Melbourne-based journalist for cricket.com.au. She previously wrote for News Corp Australia and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
When the Brisbane Heat landed the prized signature of teenage leg-spinner Amelia Kerr for this year’s Rebel WBBL, a sense of excitement quickly started to build among her new teammates.
At 19, Kerr has already been plying her trade for New Zealand for three years, playing 53 matches across both limited-overs formats, but this would be her first season of Big Bash cricket.
Kerr wasted no time delivering on that promise on her Heat debut last Saturday night, taking three wickets in four balls against the Sydney Sixers.
Nearly time to do it all again! Here's what's to look forward to over the weekend #WBBL05 pic.twitter.com/AeCL94FFmO— Rebel Women's Big Bash League (@WBBL) October 24, 2019
She also came within a whisker of a hat-trick, finishing her four-over spell with figures of 3-8.
Kerr may have only just turned 19 this month, but she has already made a habit of dramatic arrivals and headline-making performances.
On international debut in November 2016, less than a month after her 16th birthday, Kerr picked up the wicket of Pakistan captain Sana Mir with a caught-and-bowled.
The first time she played against Australia, she took 2-16 to help dismantle Meg Lanning’s team for just 66 in a T20I at Adelaide Oval. Less than two weeks later, she picked up 4-54 against the world’s best team in an ODI at Mount Maunganui, including the wickets of Lanning and Elyse Villani with consecutive balls.
Then last year, out of nowhere, Kerr – whose batting potential had been recognised, if not yet realised at international level – broke Australia legend Belinda Clark’s record for highest individual score in a women’s ODI, smashing an unbeaten 232 against Ireland.
She took 5-17 in the same match.
The daughter of Wellington representatives Robbie Kerr and Jo Murray, and the granddaughter of former Black Cap Bruce Murray, cricket is in Kerr’s blood.
With that pedigree, it was only natural Kerr and her older sister Jess – herself a Wellington player – would take up the sport.
"I started playing cricket when I was six years old," Kerr told cricket.com.au ahead of the Big Bash season.
"Me and one of my good friends grew up watching our older siblings playing and we got sick of watching them, so we joined a local team."
Originally a pace bowler, Kerr’s slight stature saw her make a switch to spin. Her potential was immediately evident to her father, who enlisted a specialist spin coach for his then-10-year-old daughter.
"I knew from quite a young age that I wanted to play for New Zealand," Kerr said.
"I played a lot of sports growing up, but when I was nine I remember watching the White Ferns on TV and from that moment, I knew it was a dream of mine to be a White Fern one day."
Whispers of a teenage spin sensation from Wellington started to grow in early 2015, when Kerr – then 14 years old – played her first televised match for the Wellington Blaze in New Zealand’s domestic T20 competition.
She had made her debut for the Blaze months earlier, but that performance against Otago under the glare of the television cameras marked a breakthrough.
Her first delivery was smashed to the boundary. She kept her calm, took a wicket with her fourth ball and finished with figures of 3-19 from four overs, officially announcing herself.
After that game, White Ferns (and now Adelaide Strikers) star Sophie Devine described Kerr as "unbelievable".
"Thinking back to that age, I would’ve been crapping my pants … if we look after her and let her grow up, she could be a world beater," Devine said at the time.
Almost five years later, Devine’s prediction is looking on the money.
The key weapon in Kerr’s arsenal is her wrong’un, a delivery that’s successfully deceived the world’s best batters, including the likes of Lanning.
"My googly is something I’ve always bowled since I started bowling leg-spin," Kerr told the ICC in an interview last year.
"I try to make my googly as similar as I can to my leggie to make it harder for the batters."
Now, Kerr’s new Brisbane Heat teammates hope playing alongside the leggie will help them unlock the secrets to facing her in the international arena.
"I’m excited to learn how to pick her wrong’un, and hopefully teach a few of our girls how to pick it as well," Australia batter Beth Mooney told cricket.com.au.
"She’s got a good head on her shoulders, she’s very mature and has a lot of cricket nous so I think she’ll be a great addition to our group.
"It’s really exciting that we’ve got someone like her."
For Kerr, WBBL|05 is also a precious chance to play in Australian conditions ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup, to be played in February and March.
New Zealand have missed the semi-finals of the last two ICC tournaments, a blow for the proud team given their strong history of making play-off games at T20 and ODI World Cups.
The White Ferns will play Australia at Melbourne’s Junction Oval in early March, while they’ll also play a group match at the WACA Ground during the tournament.
"It’s a disappointing last few World Cups for us and we didn’t perform in the games that mattered," Kerr said.
"But we’ve seen change at Cricket New Zealand and we’ve got new contracts for people (to be) able to be more full-time. So we can work harder and get better at our skills and spend more time together as a team.
"Getting to play in the conditions where the T20 World Cup will be, there’s nothing better than that.
"With seven Kiwis playing in this league, that will be good preparation for us."
The Heat will host a WBBL Festival this weekend, with four matches to be played at Allan Border Field across two days.
Brisbane will meet Scorchers on Saturday at 1.10pm local time (2.10pm AEDT), before playing the Hurricanes at the same time on Sunday.
The AB Field Festival will also see the Strikers take on the Hurricanes on Saturday (9.40am) and the Scorchers on Sunday (9.40am).