Mind over matter: The evolution of Grace Harris
Having recognised a tendency to be either all out attacking, or not at all in the past, Grace Harris has been able to find a suitable balance to propel her WBBL|07 form
23 November 2021, 09:14 AM AEST
Grace Harris has been a lot of things to the WBBL over the years.
She was its first centurion in WBBL|01, a season later she was the first big-name player to be poached by a rival club (and the first to move back to her original home at the Heat a year later).
In the space of 42 balls at the Gabba in 2018, Harris became the WBBL's fastest centurion.
The 28-year-old is the go-to on the player mic; the hard-hitting aggressor able to strike fear into the heart of any bower.
But for six seasons, Harris's explosiveness was often been tempered by inconsistency, an area she has been actively working to address with coach Ashley Noffke in recent years, training herself to assess a match situation, rather than going big simply because she can.
Those struggles to blend her power game with cricket smarts were perhaps most evident during WBBL|06, a season where Harris hit two brilliant half-centuries that promised much, but ended the tournament with by far her lowest strike rate across seven seasons.
The Eliminator: Adelaide Strikers v Brisbane Heat | Adelaide Oval | November 24, 6.40pm local (7.10pm AEDT)
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The Final: Perth Scorchers v TBC | Optus Stadium | November 27 at 4.10pm local (7.10pm AEDT)
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"I think in the past she's been caught between being a hitter, or being a batter that can't get out of first gear," Noffke told cricket.com.au.
"I think she's (balanced) that exceptionally well this year. She's evolved heaps.
"I was super impressed with Gracie in the off-season, we had some really long chats about the type of player she wanted to be and how she wanted to go about playing the game."
The sound off the bat here! 🤩 Grace Harris goes bang for her first six of the evening #WBBL07 pic.twitter.com/ggBczIOAtF— Weber Women's Big Bash League (@WBBL) November 19, 2021
Grace Harris with the bat across WBBL seasons
WBBL|01: Inns 12 | Runs: 289 | Ave: 24.08 | SR: 154.54 | 100s: 1 | 50s: 0
WBBL|02: Inns 11 | Runs: 127 | Ave: 12.80 | SR: 122.11 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 0
WBBL|03*: Inns: 4 | Runs: 111 | Ave: 37.00 | SR: 115.62 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 1
WBBL|04: Inns: 16 | Runs: 374 | Ave: 24.93 |SR: 148.41 | 100s: 1 | 50s:1
WBBL|05: Inns: 16 | Runs: 212 | Ave: 17.88 | SR: 123.97 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 0
WBBL|06: Inns:14 | Runs: 246 | Ave: 22.36 | SR: 95.71 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 2
WBBL|07: Inns:13 | Runs: 403 | Ave: 33.58 | SR: 128.34 | 100s: 0 | 50s: 4
* Missed most of the season due to knee surgery
The arrival of Georgia Redmayne at the Heat and her opening partnership with Harris has been an important development; the 'keeper-batter typically scores quicker than Harris in the powerplay, a factor that allows Harris time to get into her innings before catching up later with her expansive stroke play.
"Grace has played some outstanding knocks for us and she's played it at different gears, different levels," Noffke said.
"She's controlled the game and been about to hit that power game at the back end, but also playing beautiful shape and traditional cricket shots off the back and front foot.
"Her cutting and pulling has been at a really top level.
"She's worked really hard at that. She's been really committed to evolving her game to where she believes she can win games for the Heat and that's what she wants to do.
"In essence, it's always about the team and it's always about what she can do to be better for the Heat, and it's just been really good to see."
It was Harris's strength and ability to clear any fence that saw her included in the Australian side in 2015 aged 22, but that raw talent has taken time to mature.
An untimely run-in with deep-vein thrombosis killed her 2016 T20 World Cup dream when she was unable to travel to India for the event – famously, her family went anyway, having booked non-refundable tickets to see their loved one in action – and she dropped out of the Australian set-up later the same year.
Shortly after, another prodigiously talented off-spinning allrounder with the capacity to clear the fence broke into the Australian team: Ashleigh Gardner.
Australia currently boast no shortage of spin-bowling allrounders; Jess Jonassen and Sophie Molineux joined Gardner, and even Georgia Wareham was rapidly making a case for all-round status before her devastating knee injury last month.
It has made it impossible for many, Harris included, to break back into the national side across the past three years, a period that has seen Australia claim back-to-back T20 world titles and win an unprecedented 26 ODIs in a row.
But Noffke believes Harris could yet resume her career in the green and gold.
"If you asked every opposition team (how much) they want to get Grace out, (compared to) any of the other Australian players, they would say she's equally as dangerous, if not more at times," he said.
"She's an outstanding all-around player.
"But she's definitely got a bit more cricket nous (than previously), she's applying her skills as a batter better than she ever has since I've known her.
"And I think she's got more to come."