Sarah Aley’s international debut was 12 years in the making, but a day to remember turned out to be well worth the wait for the veteran fast bowler.
It was only in the hour before the coin toss on Wednesday morning that Aley finally received the news she’d be waiting for: she would be playing in Australia’s Women’s World Cup match against Pakistan.
Handed her cap by Australia World Cup winning captain Margaret Jennings, the moment Aley received ODI cap No.136 was an emotional moment not only for the bowler but for her teammates, who loudly cheered and rushed to jump on Aley in celebration once that coveted gold hat was finally, firmly fixed on her head.
The cricket gods must have been making up for lost time at Leicester’s Grace Road, because Aley’s maiden game had a little bit of everything for the 33-year-old, who is the third oldest woman to make her ODI debut for Australia.
Quick Single: Aussie juggernaut rolls past Pakistan
She had the opportunity to bat, coming in with 3.5 overs remaining, and added 51 runs with Alyssa Healy, 15 off those coming from the eight deliveries she faced.
Then, when brought on to bowl in the ninth over of Pakistan’s chase, it took just two deliveries for Aley to capture her first wicket for Australia, as Ayesha Zafar miscued a catch to Elyse Villani.
And if Aley and her teammates had been elated earlier in the day, it was nothing compared to the celebration that followed that precious first wicket.
Three overs later, Aley took a catch to dismiss Sidra Nawaz, while she returned with the ball in the 37th over to take her second wicket, finishing her 10 overs with 2-29.
"It was pretty special, I’ve said before it’s been a long time coming," Aley said.
"It was very special to get out there and play with some of the best players in the country, it’s something I’ll remember for a very long time."
Meanwhile, that first wicket is a moment Aley will be happy to watch replays of over and over.
"I can’t really remember to be honest, I’m just glad Elyse was there to catch it," she said.
"It was one of those moments where I wasn’t sure what was going on, it was all a bit of a blur.
"I’m sure if I watched it again I’ll probably have the same amount of excitement as I did for that second ball.
"It was pretty special and a lot of fun."
Aley was brought into the Australian XI in place of seamer Megan Schutt, who was rotated out of the side as Australia look to manage their bowlers' workloads during the busy seven-game group stage.
It remains to be seen whether she’ll remain in the team, which meets England at Bristol on Sunday, but Aley is confident she can continue to perform if given the opportunity.
"I think for me, having the five weeks lead in I had was really good to get amongst the group and assess where I was at with everyone else," Aley said.
"I didn’t feel out of my depth which was good, because I felt as though if I was given the opportunity I could come in and perform the role I needed to.
"Today, I got that opportunity and hopefully I can have some more opportunities, but I know it’s a pretty tough squad to get into, anyone can make this XI."
When Jennings presented Aley with her ODI cap, she described the bowler as "like a fine wine, getting better with age".
It certainly seems to be the case. Just 12 months ago, Aley considered walking away from the 50-over game, but now retirement is nowhere on her radar.
"There were a few moments where I thought it wouldn’t happen, but I was quite content playing state cricket," she said.
"There was some contemplation of retirement 12 months ago but now that’s not on the cards for a little while longer."
Women's World Cup Guide
Australia World Cup squad: Sarah Aley, Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell (vc), Nicole Bolton, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Meg Lanning (c), Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.