New Zealand v Australia T20Is - Women's
Darlington determined to seize latest opportunity
Hannah Darlington is pinching herself after being named in an Australia squad for the first time
23 February 2021, 07:06 PM AEST
In the summer of 2019-20, Hannah Darlington flew to across the Tasman to take up a contract with Otago in New Zealand's domestic T20 competition.
She had missed out on a contract with the NSW Breakers and, after a stunning first Rebel WBBL season, the then-17-year-old found herself at a loose end. So, as Australia's other elite players turned their attention to the domestic 50-over season, she took up the chance to instead play overseas.
Fast forward a year and the teenager is not only NSW vice-captain but has also earned her maiden international call-up.
Next month she will again cross the Tasman, this time as part of Australia's 17-player squad for their upcoming limited-overs tour of New Zealand.
The call-up comes hot on the heels of Darlington being crowned the Betty Wilson Young Cricketer of the Year earlier this month, while her WBBL|06 campaign saw her finish equal-leading wicket taker and named in the team of the tournament.
"It's a dream come true," Darlington, who will be the third Indigenous woman to play for Australia if she does debut in NZ, said, admitting she was still pinching herself after receiving the call from national selector Shawn Flegler on Monday.
"A couple of years ago I was watching the Australian team and hoping to meet them one day, so to be playing alongside them is a dream come true.
"The opportunity to learn off some of the players in that squad is going to be amazing.
"To come out of it a better cricketer is the only way I'll come out of that tour."
This will be Darlington's third visit to New Zealand. Her first came during an Australia Under-19 trip in 2019 – which ended prematurely following the Christchurch terror attack – followed by her maiden appearance for Otago in the Super Smash.
In 11 matches, Darlington claimed 13 scalps at 17.84, with an economy rate of 5.75, to be her team's most prolific wicket taker.
She credited that experience with helping her break into the NSW side once she did return home, playing three matches for her state including the WNCL final before earning her first full contract last winter.
"I was lucky enough to get a connection through (Breakers teammate) Lisa Griffith to have the opportunity to join the Otago Sparks," Darlington explained.
"I wasn't going to be in the Breakers squad so to be able to go across and get experience in New Zealand in another T20 comp after the success I'd had in the Big Bash was a no brainer.
"I wasn't even 18 yet, I was living by myself in another country and travelling … it was one of the best experiences I've had and probably the reason I was able to join the Breakers in the backend of the season.
"The conditions over there look a bit of getting used to, but it'll be nice to get back to some familiar grounds I've spent a bit of time in."
Speaking to The Scoop podcast on Tuesday, Australia coach Matthew Mott said Darlington's composure with ball in hand through Sydney Thunder's title-winning campaign, particularly at the death, had made her the ideal replacement for Delissa Kimmince, who is taking a break from the game.
"She's been on the radar for a long time and she had a fantastic WBBL," Mott said
"The selectors really like her composure under pressure … it's a similar role to the one DK has played for us in the past in T20 cricket as someone who can bowl stump to stump, who knows their game and can adapt when we're under fire.
"She's a young player on the rise and we wanted to reward her performances there and look at her in what is an extended squad"
Darlington was named NSW vice-captain last month and the Breakers had intended for her to stand in for skipper Alyssa Healy for the backend of the 2021 WNCL season, but those plans will now require a re-think after her call-up.
She was midway through a training session on Monday when she was told of her selection, quickly dashing from the gym to take the call.
"I was in the middle of a bike session and I saw Shawn Flegler's name came up on my watch so I had to quickly grab my phone and get out of the training building as quickly as possible … it was a really nice phone call to get," she said.
"To get the news I was selected was pretty special.
"I was lucky to have 15 minutes to ring the family and let them know and then I had to go straight back to training and keep a straight face and not tell anyone because I wasn't sure who else had got a call yet."
CommBank tour of New Zealand 2021
Australia ODI & T20I Squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham, Belinda Vakarewa, Tayla Vlaeminck
All matches will be shown live in Australia on Fox Cricket and Kayo