CHENNAI: When Tammy Beaumont was asked how much she knew about Tahlia McGrath before coming into the women’s Ashes series in the post-match press conference of the first T20I on Thursday, her response was quick. “I knew about Tahlia McGrath years ago when I came here and played down at the Southern Stingrays with her… I’ve known her for many years, probably about seven or so,” she said. That question and the answer pretty much summed up the career of McGrath so far.
She has always been around, making noise with her performances in domestic cricket and Women's Big Bash League for the better part of a decade, but the world didn’t notice her until this Australian summer. When the lanky South Australian drove Australia home in the second ODI against India with Beth Mooney, people started talking about her for the first time. Following her stellar show in the T20Is, her debut series after playing her first ODI in 2016, McGrath has been the talk of the town as she led Adelaide Strikers to the final of the WBBL.
On Thursday, in the first T20I against England, the opening game of the multi-format Ashes series, the expectations got only bigger as Ellyse Perry was dropped and McGrath was anointed to play the lead all-rounder role. While the start did not go her way as she gave 18 runs in her first two overs, McGrath was just warming up.
With Danielle Wyatt and Natalie Sciver setting up the England innings — 136 for one in 16 overs — for one final push, Meg Lanning called upon McGrath, and she delivered. Two yorkers — dipping in front of the batter to deceive them and clean up the middle and off-stumps — in a span of three deliveries sent both set batters back to the pavilion, and the hosts were back in the game. She finished with three for 26, and Australia were set a target of 170.
Meg Lanning opened the batting with Alyssa Healy in the absence of Beth Mooney. England were spot on with their match-ups, bringing on Sophie Ecclestone early. And it worked as Healy got out to the left-arm spinner, but what they weren’t prepared for was McGrath.
An excellent player of spin, and a manoeuvre of pace between fielders, the all-rounder gave Lanning the necessary assurance to settle in. The duo added 32 runs in four overs as Australia went to 58 for one after eight. What followed in the next four was mayhem. McGrath smashed back-to-back fours of Sarah Glenn and followed it up with a pull shot off Freya Davies for a massive six, racing her way to a 28-ball 50.
As she hit one boundary after another, McGrath was already breaking the social media, with stories and stats starting to come out as the world took notice of the 26-year-old, who looked ridiculously good and could potentially dominate world cricket in the coming years.
Meanwhile, Lanning, too, joined the party as they added 54 runs between overs 9 and 12, reducing the required run rate to 7.25. There was no stopping from thereon. McGrath finished with 91 from 49-balls, and Lanning scored a 44-ball 64 as the hosts chased down the target in 17 overs.
Player of the series from the multi-format series against India, McGrath is yet to be dismissed in her short T20I career, with scores of 42*, 44*, and 91*. “I wasn’t even sure if I’m going to get a nod tonight. When you get your opportunity, you got to make the most of it, because there’s so many waiting on the sidelines,” said the all-rounder, who was the player of the match on Thursday.
Brief scores: England 169/4 in 20 ovs (Wyatt 70; Mcgrath 3/26) lost to Australia 170/1 in 17 ovs (McGrath 91*, Lanning 64*)