Tahlia McGrath batted England into submission in the opening Ashes match, but the all-rounder has revealed how England can make the exceptional just average.
Australian batting sensation Tahlia McGrath has given England’s bowlers a tempting insight into how they might get her out in the second T20 of the Women’s Ashes at Adelaide Oval on Saturday.
The all-rounder smashed an unbeaten – and matchwinning – 91 (49 balls) in the first Ashes T20 on Thursday night, but said her game certainly had its weaknesses.
“I’m susceptible to full tosses and then short and out wide I’m rubbish at, I can’t believe I just said that out loud, but they’re my weaknesses,” McGrath said.
The 26-year-old South Australian has relished her return to the national side following a four-year absence from the green and gold.
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Since making her T20 international debut in October last year has played four T20Is for Australia, batted in three of those matches and been unbeaten in each, putting in innings of 42*, 44*, 91*.
This means she is yet to give herself an official batting average (but mathematically, it’s 59).
The Aussie batting line-up required an unwelcome reshuffle after opener Beth Mooney fractured her jaw in training, which saw captain Meg Lanning promoted to opener and then McGrath joined her at the crease at No. 3 when Alyssa Healy was caught for 7 (9) in the fourth over.
McGrath described her 91* (49 balls with 13 fours and one six) in Australia’s nine-wicket win as “a lot of fun”.
“There was a lot of talk about who was going to open … I had no idea where I was going to bat and in (Wednesday’s) team meeting I saw my name listed at three and had to double-check and wasn’t sure whether that was legit or not,” she said.
“But we’ve got so much confidence in this side that no matter who bats at the top of the order we know they’re going to do the job.”
English opener, and former Adelaide Striker, Tammy Beaumont said her side would need to
pay special attention to McGrath heading into the second match.
“I know T-Mac from playing at the Strikers and I said to her that’s one of the best innings I’ve ever seen,” Beaumont said.
“I think she’s quite a hard batter to bowl at, she just seems to move around a lot, so you’re trying to hit off-stump and she’s hitting that through cover or backward point and then you bring square leg up and she’s moving to the off-side.
“We’ll come back with something, for sure, and there’s two (T20) games left and I’m sure we’ll give her an average.”
England could not be too disappointed with their opening Ashes performance, having set the Aussies a 170-run target for victory, which required the home side to put in a record T20 run-chase to claim the points.
“(We’re) really happy with how we went about it with the bat, but obviously we’re going to have to come back and try and get a few more (runs) and then maybe bowl a tiny bit better,” Beaumont said.
“If we tighten up a few areas we’re really going to compete over the weekend.”
Australia leads the multi-format Women’s Ashes 2-0, with six matches left.
* Women’s Ashes, Second T20I, Saturday, January 22, Adelaide Oval, 1.40pm, tickets through Ticketek.
MCGRATH’S ALL-ROUND MAGIC ANCHORS AUSSIES’ ASHES ROUT
All hail Australia’s newest star all-rounder! A magical turn with bat and ball from Tahlia McGrath has seen Australia take first points in the Women’s Ashes, with a nine-wicket win in a record-breaking run-chase.
But the match didn’t all go the Aussies’ way: England captain Heather Knight came into the game saying she wanted her team to “punch first” this Ashes … and they did just that, setting Australia 170 runs for victory, a total requiring the green and gold to put in a record run-chase in international T20s.
Aussie captain Meg Lanning sent England in to bat, and as the sun set and shadows lengthened across Adelaide Oval, so too did the English resolve at the crease and openers Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt dug in to post a record opening partnership against Australia in T20Is (82 off 60 balls).
England at 4/169, set up a thrilling run-chase, which required an equally stunning show with the bat from Australia — equal to the task, the total eclipsed with three overs to spare.
Eye-opening England openers
It was a batters’ wicket in Adelaide and England’s experienced opening pair of Beaumont and Wyatt took full advantage, with an entertaining batting display, not only finding the rope with ease — but clearing it.
While the Beaumont-Wyatt combination piled on the runs (Wyatt even smacking spinner Jess Jonassen for consecutive sixes), Australia was left scrambling for a bowling combination to break the partnership and they bowled six different bowlers in six consecutive overs, to no avail as England happily piled on the runs. It took debutant legspinner Alana King until the 11th over to take the first scalp (Beaumont for 30 from 24 balls).
But it was McGrath’s night and she set a convincing case that she’s currently the country’s best all-rounder.
Not only was she pick of the bowlers (from either side), taking 3-26 from four overs, but was the best of the batters (from either side) scoring her maiden T20I half-century and going on to compile 91 not out from 49 balls with 13 fours and one sixes.
McGrath came out at No. 3, with Australia precariously placed in the chase at 1-26, but put nerves aside to compiling a matchwinning 144-run partnership with Lanning, at one point launching the ball so over the fence, that it took security guards some time to find it.
Not to be undone, Lanning made 64 not out (44) and hit her 3000th T20I run.
Aussie selectors made a bold statement in game one, dropping superstar all-rounder Ellyse Perry, replacing her in the middle order with Queenslander Grace Harris.
Harris didn’t get a chance to prove herself with the bat with Lanning and McGrath stealing the show in that department, however she took a nice boundary-side catch to dismiss Amy Jones.
But possibly the biggest takeout from the game was the spirit and fight with which England’s batters played out their opening innings and it bodes well for how the rest of the Ashes could play out.
Hope and Grace: Aussies to unleash power-packed Plan B
Queensland all-rounder Grace Harris has been rewarded for an outstanding WBBL campaign after being added to Australia’s Ashes squad ahead of Thursday night’s opening T20 clash in Adelaide.
Harris, who had a strong WBBL campaign opening for the Brisbane Heat, was initially named in the Australia A squad, has been elevated to the main group for the T20 component of the Ashes after Aussie opener Beth Mooney broke her jaw earlier this week.
Mooney required surgery after breaking her jaw when hit during throwdowns in the nets.
The no. 1 T20 batter in the world, she will miss the T20 series but Australia are hopeful she may recover to play a part in the Test or one day matches later in the campaign.
But Harris is a more than capable replacement, with 11 T20 internationals already to her name.
And she brings strong form to the table after scoring 55 off 37 balls for Australia A in the second of their T20 warm-up matches against Australia on Tuesday.
National Selector, Shawn Flegler backed the choice of Harris, who is also a handy bowling option, having taken 13 wickets at 10.5 during the recent WBBL campaign with her off spin.
“While the injury to Beth is unfortunate it does provide an opportunity for someone else to step in to the squad,” Flegler said.
“Grace has a great skill set for the T20 format and has the ability to play multiple roles if required.”
Tonight’s Ashes series opener starts at Adelaide Oval at 7.10pm AEDT.
MOONEY BLOW TURNS AUSSIE PLANS UPSIDE DOWN
Meg Lanning has left open the possibility of a player from the Australia A squad to be
elevated to the senior team for the opening T20 game of the Ashes series on Thursday.
While Australia heads into the opening Ashes game as firm favourites, the squad faces a number of critical selection conundrums, including whether superstar all-rounder Ellyse Perry will play in any of the three T20 matches in the multi-format series.
But the most pressing question remains who will open the batting for Australia with Beth Mooney sidelined after fracturing her jaw during a practice session in the nets on Monday.
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Lanning said both the Aussie and Aussie A squads were blessed with heavy hitters, including Victorian and Aussie A batter Elyse Villani who made a quickfire 45 (27 balls) and Queenslander Georgia Redmayne (29 off 20) in practice matches on Tuesday.
“A lot of players in the Australian squad open the batting for their WBBL franchises and we saw some really good performances in the Aussie A side, which is really exciting, and we’re weighing up our options with who we might go with,” Lanning said.
“For a long time we’ve spoken about the depth in our squad … and (Mooney’s absence) presents a bit of a test for our batting depth, (but) it presents an opportunity for someone and I look forward to seeing what pans out.”
Lanning said if Australia decided to stick with the left-hand/right-hand formula at the top of the order, vice-captain Rachael Haynes could be promoted.
“It’s an element to consider,” Lanning said.
“It has worked for us for a long period of time … but there’s a number of things to consider. The great thing is we’ve got options and we’ve just got to work out what’s best.”
Lanning said a decision was still to be made on Perry’s participation amid patchy form and having joined the squad later than expected after a Covid diagnosis.
“She’s here now and available for selection so we’ll just work through what our best line up looks like and you’ll find out (on Thursday),” she said.
England captain Heather Knight said the visitors would keep their team secret until the toss.
Knight added her side was after redemption following a poor showing in the 2019 Ashes.
“We massively underperformed, we didn’t play anywhere near our potential as a side in that 2019 Ashes and everything we’ve done since then is about addressing that,” she said.
“When you have a big loss like that it leads to a bit of soul searching and what you can do better, while also trying to remember what you have done well and trying to take that forward.
“We definitely did that after 2019 and we’ve built as a group, taken a lot more ownership, got more leaders in the side and we’ve added some young players and a bigger squad to pick from.”
But she acknowledged more hard work now lay ahead to defeat Australia on their home soil.
“They are an extremely good side, they’re world champions and we’re going to have to be extremely positive and trust our game massively against them. They are very aggressive and we want to be the same and go right back at them.” she said.
Lanning reveals self-imposed pre-Ashes exile
Refreshed, revived and ready for battle: Australian captain Meg Lanning’s self-imposed cricket break in December has helped steel her for an Ashes showdown against England.
Ahead of the opening Ashes T20 game at Adelaide Oval, Lanning has revealed she sidelined herself in mid-December and opted not to represent Victoria in two WNCL games against New South Wales as a much-needed refresh.
After a big series win against India in October, followed by captaining the Melbourne Stars in the Women’s Big Bash in November, Lanning said the break was necessary with Australia now turning its attention to one of the biggest cricket schedules it has faced: the Ashes, followed by the 50-over World Cup in New Zealand in March and then the Aussies’ first appearance in the Commonwealth Games in July.
The 29-year-old said she was happy with how the break had panned out.
“I felt like the best thing for me to prepare for the upcoming couple of months was to take a bit of a break and I enjoyed my time off, but I guess the thing that says it was a good move is that I’ve come back and I’ve really enjoyed my training,” the world’s No. 4 ranked T20 batter said.
“It’s a long period of time where we need to be in good condition and able to play at a high standard at international level, so I guess another bonus of having that little break over Christmas was to focus on getting myself ready for what’s to come.
“I certainly feel like I’m in that spot now.
“I’m really excited about the Ashes and what’s to come, it was certainly worthwhile, taking a bit of a break and putting a pause on things and then getting back into it.”
Lanning kept up her fitness during her break with her favourite type of exercise – running – in either 10km jogs or in short, sharp bursts.
“I tend to find from a mental point of view (running) is quite a good thing, it allows me to clear my mind a bit and take my mind away from cricket, while at the same time preparing me for the game,” she said.
Originally published as Women’s Ashes 2022: The trick to dismissing all-round star Tahlia McGrath