Legends Month: The best of Shelley Nitschke
As part of Legends Month on Cricket Network, look back on one of Shelley Nitschke's greatest performances
23 May 2018, 09:00 AM AEST
Shelley Nitschke’s time at the top level of cricket was short but oh so sweet, the South Australia allrounder leaving an indelible mark on the game.
Nitschke was a late bloomer in international cricket, making her debut in late 2004 aged 28.
But it took little time for her to make a big impact for Australia. In April 2005, she was the Southern Stars’ leading wicket-taker as they romped to victory in the World Cup in South Africa, taking 11 wickets in six matches – including 3-5 against Sri Lanka – at an average of 8.27 and economy rate of 2.06.
In the six-and-a-half years that followed, the left-arm spinner and top-order batter claimed an incredible four Belinda Clark Awards as Australia’s top female cricketer before retiring at the peak of her powers, ranked No.1 in the ICC’s ODI allrounder and bowling charts, in mid-2011.
Nitschke’s international career was still in its infancy in August 2005 when she produced the best figures by an Australian in a women’s ODI, leading her team to victory over England in the wonderfully-named Worcestershire town of Kidderminster.
In just 7.4 overs of destruction, Nitschke claimed an incredible 7-24, tearing the heart out of the hosts as they were dismissed for 128.
Half-centuries from Lisa Keightley and Kate Blackwell had helped Australia to 8-198, a total England would have fancied themselves to chase with ease when they were 1-80 in reply.
The Australians dealt a crucial blow when Claire Taylor was caught behind off Julie Hayes two runs short of a half century, before Nitschke got to work.
She dismissed Clare Connor and Arran Thompson for ducks, before bowling Laura Newton to leave England reeling at 5-109.
The wickets of Lydia Greenway and Beth Morgan – both bowled – shortly followed, and Nitschke needed no help in removing England’s other Clare Taylor, taking a return catch.
Only two women - England's Jo Chamberlain in 1991 and Sajinda Shah of Pakistan two years ago - had previously taken seven wickets in a one-day international.
Nitschke joined them when she claimed the final wicket of the match, Jo Watts stumped by Julia Price in the 39th over to seal a comprehensive win.
It remains Australia’s best bowling performance in a women’s ODI – no other Southern Star has bagged more than five scalps in a one-day innings – with Glenn McGrath and Andy Bichel the only other Australians to claim seven-for in the format.
Nitschke would go on to establish herself as one of Australia’s greatest allrounders, playing 122 international matches and collecting 153 wickets and scoring 3108 runs before her retirement.
Now, the laidback South Australian has a chance to shape the next generation of Southern Stars heroes after being appointed assistant coach under Matthew Mott for the next two years, a period that will see them contest two World T20 tournaments and an away Ashes series.