Four short months ago, Tahlia McGrath was yet to play a T20 international, though she’d won a handful of ODI caps, plus one Test cap, mostly during in the 2017 Ashes. No one disputed that she was a very good domestic player, but aged almost 26 it looked a good probability that she’d nonetheless end her career without troubling the international honours boards too much.
Her T20 debut against India, on October 7th 2021, was ended prematurely by rain without McGrath (or any other Australian) having the opportunity to bat; but in the final two games against India she scored 42* and 44*, snagging two Player of the Match awards, plus Player of the T20 Series.
If there were any remaining questions over whether she belonged at this level, they were comprehensively answered today against England.
After playing a crucial role with the ball, taking the wickets of Danni Wyatt and Nat Sciver in the 17th over, when both were in full flow and England were threatening 180, she then topped that with the bat, scoring 91* off just 49 balls to win her third straight Player of the Match gong. She has now scored 177 runs in 3 T20 innings without being dismissed – it will happen one day, but that day wasn’t going to be today, and she still hasn’t got a T20 average!
England looked to have made a decent enough total, after Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt were given the chance to shake off some of their winter rust, hitting their straps by the end of the powerplay, and taking England to 82-0 at the halfway mark. Wyatt went on to make a 54-ball 70, but England stuttered slightly with the dismissals of Wyatt and Sciver. It was a situation made for someone like Alice Capsey to come in and start striking from the get-go; but instead England faltered, and despite hitting 14 off the final over, were probably 10 short of par in retrospect.
Not that it would have made any difference – with McGrath in the form of her life, and Meg Lanning looking back to her ominous best, Australia simply cruised to their highest ever successful chase. Par? Pah!
Would it have been a different story if Amy Jones had held on to a relatively straightforward chance to dismiss Lanning early on off Sarah Glenn? We’ll never know, and Australia still had a lot of batting to come, but those are the chances England need to take if they are going to have any chance of winning the toughest prize in cricket – Nat Sciver’s brilliant catch to dismiss Healy (and it was a much more difficult take than it looked, with the ball on a trajectory so close to the ground) was what England need to do more of if they are going to come back into this series.
Dave Tickner joked on Twitter: “At least the men never tricked us into thinking they might be competitive.” I’m not sure it is quite that bad… yet! But England can’t afford to fall too much further behind – Saturday’s 2nd T20 already feels like a “must win”. Top Tip for England: Make it the day Tahlia McGrath finally gets a T20 average!