'That is pretty incredible for a 17-year-old'
Hannah Darlington has only just graduated from high school, but she is holding her own against some of the world's most intimidating batters in the WBBL
14 November 2019, 01:11 PM AEST
On the evening of October 17, Hannah Darlington found herself in quite an extraordinary position.
The next morning, she would be undertaking her Year 12 English exam; a stressful enough experience for any teenager.
Then came the call from Sydney Thunder coach Trevor Griffin, with the news she would be making her Rebel WBBL debut the next night, under lights against the Sydney Sixers in the WBBL|04 season opener.
Suddenly, the study notes for Shakespeare’s King Edward IV were battling for space with game plans as Darlington wrapped her head around bowling to Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy.
"I don’t think many other people had that on their minds going into the exam," Darlington told cricket.com.au.
"My mind was a little bit jumbled, but I got through the exam and then all my focus was on cricket.
"It’s been a bit tricky (juggling class and cricket) but it’s nice to have cricket as the break from school and vice versa.
"I think I would have been a lot more stressed about school if I didn’t have Big Bash to keep me occupied."
Hannah Darlington wins it for the Thunder with a cracking catch on the boundary! 👏 #WBBL05 pic.twitter.com/MCl5V5xH1S— Rebel Women's Big Bash League (@WBBL) October 26, 2019
The first graduate of the Thunder’s WBBL Academy, that debut was a long time coming for Darlington, who has been on their list the previous two seasons without playing a game.
But a major shake-up in personnel, and experience, provided the opportunity the 17-year-old from Erskine Park in Western Sydney had been waiting for.
She’s part of a crew of Thunder young guns making an impression this season, alongside 16-year-old Phoebe Litchfield and Tahlia Wilson, 20.
"(Phoebe’s) a really good mate of mine, She’s just a ball of energy and someone who is really vital to keeping this group up and about," Darlington said.
"She’s just a class of a talent, an absolute jet.
"Sometimes we sit back together and realise how lucky we are to be in this situation."
The story of how Darlington found her way into cricket is one that’s already received plenty of airtime midway through the regular season of WBBL|05. It’s also a tale she’ll likely be spinning for plenty more to come.
Mucking around in the schoolyard, she accidently struck a teacher in the head with a ball.
Impressed by her arm, Darlington was offered a choice of attending detention – or joining the cricket team.
"I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I chose cricket and it stuck from there," she said.
It was sound decision and Darlington has been working her way through the ranks of under-age cricket ever since.
Hannah Darlington talks through the special bat design she's been using in #WBBL05 💚 #ThunderNation pic.twitter.com/BubNDqjOrc— Sydney Thunder WBBL (@ThunderWBBL) October 30, 2019
She’s captained the Thunder's Indigenous XI and led NSW Metro’s one-day side to victory in last summer’s Under-18s Female National Championships.
The proud Kamilaroi woman also plied her trade in England last year as part of the Aboriginal XI which commemorated the 1868 tour of the UK.
A right-arm pace bowler, Darlington has been relishing the chance to work alongside former Australian representative Rene Farrell.
How good! A first @WBBL wicket for Hannah Darlington!#ThunderNation pic.twitter.com/O9ZNDLP5Fr— Sydney Thunder WBBL (@ThunderWBBL) October 20, 2019
"We’re similar types of bowlers and I’ve been working with her over the last three seasons to perfect the art of T20 bowling," Darlington said.
"I think she’s got it perfected, I don’t think there’s anyone better to work with.
"We’re pretty lucky at the Thunder to have some really experienced heads around the group."
Darlington has played every match this season and, on Tuesday, was entrusted with the ball at the death by skipper Rachael Haynes, finishing her four overs with figures of 1-15.
"Hannah’s been absolutely exceptional for such a young player," Haynes told cricket.com.au.
"Bowling the death over … (that) is pretty incredible for a 17-year-old.
"I’ve seen Hannah come up through the NSW pathway and she's always had something special about her.
"I knew sitting down with her at the start of season, she was going to be a really valuable player for us.
"You can just see how eager she is to learn about her game and improve and we’ve seen that happen gradually game by game this year."
This weekend, it’s the Sydney Thunder’s turn to host the WBBL Festival Weekend action, with four games to be played across three days at Drummoyne Oval.
It all starts with a Sydney Smash under lights on Friday evening from 7.10pm AEDT, before the Thunder meet Brisbane Heat at the same one on Saturday night.
On Sunday, the Heat will play the Perth Scorchers (10am) before the Sixers take on the Melbourne Renegades (2.10pm).