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Ashes women’s cricket 2022: Australian all-rounder Tahlia McGrath dominates series opener

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In just four matches, South Australia’s Tahlia McGrath has eclipsed superstar Ellyse Perry as Australia’s first-choice T20 all-rounder.

Tahlia McGrath was once again the hero as Australia took an early lead in the multi-format Ashes series, defeating England by nine wickets at Adelaide Oval on Thursday evening.

Australia captain Meg Lanning and McGrath combined for an unbeaten 144-run partnership to help chase down the 170-run target with three overs to spare.

It was Australia’s largest successful run chase in women’s T20 internationals, bettering the side’s previous best of 163 against New Zealand in September 2018.

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McGrath starred with bat and ball in the series opener, snaring three wickets and scoring 91 not out off 49 balls to claim her third-consecutive Player of the Match award in international cricket.

The 26-year-old South Australian repeatedly found the boundary with ease at her home ground, cracking 13 boundaries and a six — she joins Glenn Maxwell in an illustrious list of Australians to score 90+ runs and take 3+ wickets in a T20 international.

Since making her T20I debut against India earlier this summer, McGrath has plundered 177 runs in three innings at a formidable strike rate of 156.63 without being dismissed.

After Lanning won the toss and elected to bowl first, England openers Tammy Beaumont and Danielle Wyatt combined for a rapid 82-run partnership — a record opening stand against the Aussies.

Australian debutant Alana King broke the partnership in the 11th over, claiming a return catch to remove the dangerous Beaumont for her first wicket on the international stage.

Earlier in the evening, assistant coach Shelley Nitschke presented King with her maiden cap, making her the 57th woman to represent Australia in T20 internationals.

McGrath claimed three quick wickets at the death to help restrict England to 4/169 from their 20 overs — Wyatt top-scored with 70 off 54 balls, her knock featuring six boundaries and three sixes.

Australian wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy was removed early in the run chase, slapping a full delivery from England tweaker Sophie Ecclestone straight to the mid-wicket fielder.

But Lanning and McGrath steadied the ship, combining for Australia’s third-largest partnership in women’s T20 internationals.

“That was truly astonishing how easy they made that look, a really professional performance,” former England bowler Isa Guha told Fox Cricket.

“Ashes cricket is about making your mark and delivering and wanting to define yourself s a cricketer – and Tahlia McGrath has done just that.”

Australia’s largest partnerships in women’s T20 internationals

151 — Alyssa Healy, Beth Mooney vs BAN, Feb 2020

147* — Kate Blackwell, Karen Rolton vs ENG, Sep 2005

144* — Meg Lanning, Tahlia McGrath vs ENG, Jan 2022

139 — Meg Lanning, Elyse Villani vs ENG, Mar 2018

Lanning finished unbeaten on 64 off 44 balls, passing 3000 T20I runs during the classy knock.

Speaking to reporters after the victory, McGrath conceded she initially thought her promotion to No. 3 on the team sheet had been a mistake.

“I had to double-check, I wasn’t really sure if it was legit or not,” she said.

“When you look at the players sitting on the sideline, it’s such a quality side, and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to get the nod tonight to play.

“It was a lot of fun. Something just clicked tonight, I don’t know what it was.

“I was so excited for this match. It’s my first time playing Australia in my home state, having friends and family in the crowd. I enjoyed every minute of it.

“Batting with Meg out there was really good for me, she was telling me to keep playing to my strengths and every time I went away from that she’d remind me. It was literally just see ball, hit ball, play straight and try and hit the gaps.”

Most runs for Australia in women’s T20 internationals

3007 — Meg Lanning (107 innings)

2136 — Alyssa Healy (106 innings)

1649 — Beth Mooney (57 innings)

1369 — Elyse Villani (58 innings)

Lanning was opening the batting in place of the injured Beth Mooney, who fractured her jaw during a training session on Tuesday morning — it was the first time the Australian skipper had opened the batting in a T20 international since 2017.

Brisbane Heat powerhouse Grace Harris had been parachuted into the Ashes squad on Thursday morning, and was named in the national starting XI for the first time in nearly six years — but she was not required with either bat or ball in the first T20.

Australia was without superstar all-rounder Ellyse Perry, who had been sidelined following an underwhelming couple of seasons in the game’s shortest format.

In just four matches, McGrath has eclipsed her as the country’s first-choice T20 all-rounder.

“The fact we have so many all-rounders is a blessing,” McGrath said. “It’s really healthy competition in the side.”

The second T20 between Australia and England is scheduled to get underway at Adelaide Oval on Saturday at 2.10pm AEDT.

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