CommBank Women's Ashes - T20Is
McGrath heroics vindicate Australia's bold Perry call
Having dropped arguably their greatest ever player from their T20 side, Australia's selectors were vindicated on Thursday night by the continued emergence of Tahlia McGrath
Laura Jolly at Adelaide Oval
21 January 2022, 07:54 AM AEST
All the talk at the toss of the coin for Thursday's Ashes opener was about the omission of one legendary allrounder, but by the time the winning runs had been scored, attention had turned to the emergence of a new all-round force in the Australian team.
Tahlia McGrath could hardly have scripted a better way to overshadow the fact Ellyse Perry was left out of the Australian side than by producing an unprecedented display of dominance with both bat and ball, the sort that has been a hallmark of Perry's own decorated career.
The term 'changing of the guard' will no doubt be overused in the coming days, but it is apt.
Never before has a player scored more than 75 and taken three wickets in a women's T20I, and McGrath very nearly reached a maiden hundred, finishing on 91 not out from just 49 balls to follow her 3-26, which included two decisive yorkers that stopped Danni Wyatt and Nat Sciver in their tracks.
England opener Tammy Beaumont called it "one of the best things I've ever seen" and her somewhat awestruck reflection that she had known McGrath since their days batting together for the Adelaide Strikers five years ago came with an air of 'I knew her before she was famous'.
For all the talk about Australia's batting line-up, which was minus the injured Beth Mooney, their re-cast middle-order was not required in the record-breaking pursuit of 170, with the target reached with three overs to spare.
But the game was nonetheless a line-in-the-sand moment for Australia's selectors, a statement that their actions will back up their words.
After pledging to evolve and choose players capable of scoring rapidly in their middle-order, it meant Perry, a veteran of 126 T20Is and the greatest player Australia has produced, was left on the sidelines and the hard-hitting Grace Harris was picked in the middle-order alongside Ashleigh Gardner and Rachael Haynes.
Explaining the decision on Channel Seven, Australia coach Matthew Mott said he had flagged the upcoming selection squeeze with Perry some weeks earlier.
"All our research shows the ability of those at 5, 6 and 7 to score quickly and get a high strike rate (is important in T20s)," he said.
"So once she wasn't considered in the top order, it became a different conversation and that's why someone like Grace has come in."
Perry still has a major role to play in her strongest formats, Test and ODI cricket, through the remainder of the Ashes, and McGrath acknowledged the depth of talent sitting on Australia's bench following Thursday's game.
"When you look at the players sitting on the sidelines, it's such a quality side and I wasn't even sure if I was going to get the nod tonight to play," McGrath said.
"When you get your opportunity, you've got to make the most of it because there's so many waiting on the sidelines ready to have a go.
"The fact we've got so many talented allrounders, it's a blessing in our side ... the opportunity I got to bat at number three today, I had to take it with both hands because there's plenty waiting in line and they're more than capable.
"It's really healthy competition in the side."
After just three T20Is, McGrath does not yet have a batting average – her record reads 42no, 44no, 91no – and the self-effacing 26-year-old had this to offer when asked how one might hope to get her out in future: "I'm susceptible to full tosses, and short and wide bowling."
Jokes aside, this performance was special for McGrath, her first appearance for her country in front of her home crowd and with her family in attendance (even if she had to search in vain for them in the stands before heading out to bat).
While admitting she had done a double take when she spotted her name listed at No.3 on the team sheet the evening before the match, any nerves she may have had were not evident as she achieved what few can – overshadow her skipper Meg Lanning, who peeled off an unbeaten 64 of her own).
"Batting with Meg out there, she was really good for me, just telling me to keep playing to my strengths and every time I went away from that, she'd remind me," McGrath said.
"Something just clicked tonight.
"I don't know what it was; if I could put my finger on it, I'd like to replicate it throughout the rest of the series.
"But I was so excited for this match; the first time playing for Australia in my home state, having friends and family in the crowd, I was just that excited to get out there and just really enjoyed every minute of it, so maybe that contributed to it."
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes v England
Australia Ashes squad: Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes (vc), Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Meg Lanning (c), Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Tayla Vlaeminck
England Ashes squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Maia Bouchier, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Tash Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Nat Sciver (vc), Anya Shrubsole, Mady Villiers, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danni Wyatt
Australia lead the multi-format series 2-0
Jan 20: Australia won by nine wickets
Jan 27-30: Test match, Manuka Oval, 10am AEDT,
Australia A v England A
Australia A squad: Georgia Redmayne (c), Maitlan Brown, Erin Burns (OD only), Stella Campbell, Nicole Faltum, Tess Flintoff, Heather Graham, Phoebe Litchfield, Katie Mack (OD only), Courtney Sippel, Molly Strano (OD only), Elyse Villani, Georgia Voll, Courtney Webb, Amanda-Jade Wellington
England A squad: Emily Arlott, Lauren Bell, Alice Capsey, Alice Davidson-Richards, Georgia Elwiss, Kirstie Gordon, Eve Jones, Beth Langston, Emma Lamb, Bryony Smith, Ellie Threlkeld, Issy Wong
Jan 20: Australia A won by three wickets