Rebel WBBL|04

Strano spins her way to top of wickets tally

Molly Strano has a long-term dream of returning to Aussie colours, but first and foremost she wants to help the Renegades reach the finals

Laura Jolly

4 January 2019, 11:08 AM AEST

Melbourne Renegades off-spinner Molly Strano says she hopes to one day return to Australian colours, but for now her mind is firmly on the task at hand as her team vies to reach the Rebel WBBL finals for the first time.

Strano is currently the equal leading wicket-taker in WBBL|04 alongside Perth Scorchers allrounder Heather Graham, with 18 scalps at 11.88 and a tidy economy rate of 6.32.

“Sometimes in T20 cricket you’ve got to have a bit of luck and I’ve had a slice of luck go my way, but I feel like the ball is coming out really nicely at the moment,” Strano, 26, told cricket.com.au on Thursday.

“I’m enjoying bowling in the power play, I really relish that challenge and I love the battle against the opening batters, so I’m really enjoying my role in the team at the moment.”

Renegades claim crucial win in Geelong

She also drew level with Sixers star Sarah Aley as the WBBL’s all-time equal leading wicket-taker during the Renegades’ five-wicket victory over Hobart Hurricanes on Thursday.

Strano’s dismissal of Mikayla Hinkley in the 13th over of the Hurricanes’ innings at GMHBA Stadium was her 71st across a little over three-and-a-half seasons wearing the Renegades red in the WBBL.

“It’s not a stat I keep an eye on,” Strano, who was unaware of the record, said. “I played my 50th game the other day and I feel my time in red’s gone really quickly.

“I’ve had so much fun over the last three-and-a-half years and the main thing is I’ve made some lifelong friends and memories playing in this competition and for this franchise.”

Strano has played five T20Is for Australia, the last of which was against England in late 2017.

Strano smashes records with 5-10

The No.1 ranked Australians collected their fourth T20 World Cup title in the Caribbean last month and breaking into that side is no easy task, but Strano said she was working hard to make herself a more complete T20 player, not only with the ball but also with the bat and in the field.

“I still feel like (playing for Australia again) is a long way away, it’s such a strong team to break into, but I still hold hope of one day wearing the green and gold again,” Strano said.

“But there are a few things I need to fine tune in my game to be able to put my name forward for higher honours.

“I need to contribute more with the bat and I’ve got a few things I’m working on with my bowling.

“I’m not going to reveal (too much) … but I’m working to evolve my game to become a good all-round package as a T20 bowler.”

The emergence of fellow off-spinner Ashleigh Gardner, who is a powerful top-order batter as well as a skilful slow bowler, has played a role in keeping the talented Victorian out of the national team, and former Australia wicketkeeper and Channel Seven commentator Lisa Sthalekar believes the fact that players of Strano’s calibre are on the sidelines is a sign of the current strength of Australian women’s cricket.

“The Australian team is so successful, there’s going to be players (who miss out) and you look at the Australian men’s side 10, 15 years ago and the people in Sheffield Shield cricket who were churning out runs but they couldn’t get a go because the playing XI was solid,” Sthalekar said during coverage of Thursday’s game.

“The Australian (women’s) team now has got a good core group of players who’ve played a lot of cricket together and they’ve got that winning feeling.”

Strano snares four in Geelong

Strano finished her four overs with figures of 1-14 on Thursday, continuing her strong record while playing in Geelong.

She captured 4-21 against the Brisbane Heat at the Geelong Cricket Ground – just outside the walls of the main stadium – earlier this season, while in 2017, she took a record 5-10 against New Zealand on the main ground, a performance that remains the best in a T20 International by any Australian.

“I love playing in Geelong, I went to school in Geelong so I’ve got a lot of friends here and I saw one of my old schoolteachers in the crowd too,” Strano said.

“It feels like a home away from home and I grew up 30 minutes up the road as well.

“I absolutely love playing here.”

Next stop for the Renegades, who sit one point outside the top four, is a showdown with the Brisbane Heat in Mackay this weekend – a match that will be critical to their hopes of reaching the finals.

“We’re precariously placed in the middle of the table, so those last four games become massive for us, hopefully we can pinch a few wins and sneak into finals,” Strano said.