Muted celebrations; a sigh of relief and the arrival of Ellyse Perry
The AB de Villiers of women's cricket, they say.
The nuanced soccer player. The menacing out-swing bowler. The edgy but determined cover drive batter.
The female AB de Villiers, they say.
No appearance in the senior state side in domestic cricket but a spot in the Australian cricket squad at just 16. The raw pace of the bouncers, harmoniously tweaked along with her footwork skills. When she was not defending balls in the nets, she would be attacking them in preparation for a call-up to the Matilda's line-up. A goal scorer in the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup in 2011. A T20I champion in 2010,2012 and 2014.
As versatile as the South African wicket-keeper, they say.
The owner of a café in Canberra with her illustrious rugby-player husband. The author of a number of children's magazines, inspiring young girls to take on a sport. Brand endorsements to go with her Cricket Australia contract. Marketable. Attractive. Talented.
A game-changing player, just as the male counterpart, they say.
A plethora of wickets with a crisp action and an even heavier plethora of runs against her name. 17 ODI fifties in 23 innings between 2014 and 2016. 23 in her last 35 innings. A world record. A close shuffle with the three-figure mark on four occasions in her exceptional phase, only to either see the target fading out or her partners. An average of 50. An overflowing cabinet of trophies and Man of the Series awards.
A World Cup eluded de Villiers. A landmark century eluded her 181 times. Yet the phenomenal records and the fighting spirit never ceased. She played with a broken ankle in the 2013 Women's World Cup and picked up three wickets. She knew playing further would hamper her career, but it was borne for the trophy. When she could not bowl as effectively, she switched towards improving her batting.
However, they say she fails to be a power-hitter like de Villiers. The sixes are on course, but she rarely scripts a strike rate of above 100 in ODI cricket. The shots played are not insane ones. The boundaries breached are stuff humans would punch- away from the 360 degree angled shots her contemporary is known for.
She is not averse to hitting them. She just loves to remain uncannily poised and composed, almost like a cricketer replicating the rules in an old-school coaching manual. Unflustered. Eating up the deliveries whilst the world around her goes into a haywired chaos.
At the North Sydney Oval in Australia, as the mayhem continued, she remained vigilant and focused. She was a figure of stoic calmness as the disciples around her watched in horror and fright. Chasing England's 280 in the first innings, Australia had collapsed to 13-3 and 95-4 in the Women's Ashes. Coning out to bat at number four, her sole aim remained a lead and an exit from the cluttered position her side was in.
Resuming on an individual score of 70 on Day 3, a one-dimensional vision was in place. As she settled down, the boundaries started flowing. The technique was on display. The drives timed to perfection.
Her first ever century in international cricket remained satisfying. Though she did not need any proof, the milestone convinced her of her place in record books. A sigh of relief followed. A silent celebration. But the job remained. She was a woman on a mission- pledging to scrape through every ball and every run for her team.
The only flutter came when the 27-year old reached her 190s. The penultimate wicket for Australia fell when she was batting on 192. Would she? Would she not?
A few balls later, she dispatched the pink ball over the sky and the celebrations began. Now, she was in the mood to sway her arms and fling her helmet- scenes amiss when the first hundred had been recorded. The bat twirled and no sooner did it have to stop. It was a four. She was on 198.
All it took was a millisecond to get her composure back again. When she finally did achieve the feat, the celebration remained mute. Just a silent acknowledgment as she became only the seventh woman cricketer to achieve the double whammy in Test arena. Her first one. One that would be remembered by her and the 3000-odd spectators who continued to field her for autographs once the day's play was over.
As the frame zoomed away from her pretty frame onwards the night sky which was brightened up by the shining floodlights, the horizon applauded the disappearance of the female Abraham Benjamin de Villiers and the arrival of Ellyse Alexandra Perry.