Wholesome Harris graces Commonwealth Games in her inimitable style

Grace Harris played a game-changing knock © Getty Images

Grace Harris made her T20I debut at the age of 21 back in 2015 and a few months later, she smashed the first century of Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) and yet seven years later, she has only 17 matches to her name in the format. It can be attributed to the depth of Australia’s domestic system, but also down to some of her performances. After spending a few years in the wilderness, the allrounder made her way back to the side earlier this year.

But having batted every single time in her first stint in T20Is, Harris didn’t get a chance to visit the crease in five attempts this year, nor did she bowl a single over in these matches. She talked about being keen to shake off the ‘specialist fielder’ tag. Being part of a champion side like Australia, these things can happen to players down the order and they have to embrace it and be ready for the challenge when it eventually arrives.

The 28-year-old is quite a character; Harris is often seen wired up and speaking to the commentators on TV during WBBL matches. Team-mates sometimes describe her as annoyingly chirpy. She talks and jokes about everything under the sun. But at the end of it all, she is a bloody good cricketer who enjoys her game.

It was those exact vibes Harris brought to the crease on Friday (July 29), when she joined Ashleigh Gardner with Australia reeling at 49 for 5, while chasing India’s score of 154 in the opening game of the Commonwealth Games 2022.

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Speaking after the match, Gardner said: “She got out there and said, ‘Come on, let’s do this.” And that’s exactly what Harris did. She wasn’t going to let anything distract her from enjoying her first outing with the bat in a long time.

Harris cut the second ball she faced to the cover boundary for four against India’s best spinner on the day – Deepti Sharma –  while Gardner took her time at the other end. Having bowled out Renuka Singh Thakur and with only two overs of debutant Meghna Singh left, India had no option but to persist with spin.

And it’s against spin, Harris, and Gardner are at their most dangerous in T20s. Radha Yadav was introduced into the attack in the tenth over and was greeted with a huge six over long-on by Harris. The bubbly right-hander was all laughs after every shot and was seen chirping away with Gardner.  At the halfway stage, Australia were 66 for 5, still needing 89 runs from the last ten overs.

India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur brought in her other left-arm spinner, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, and it didn’t make an iota of difference to Harris. She hammered the first ball to the long-off boundary and followed it with an edged four while trying to cut the ball.

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In the 12th over, Harris came down the track to hoist Yadav over long-on again before crunching a pull shot to mid-on for four. Harris was on 37 off 19 when the over ended and despite Australia needing 64 off the last eight overs; it felt like she had changed the whole momentum of the chase without breaking a sweat.

Even though Harris fell to the next ball she faced with Kaur taking a good catch, Harris had done enough for Gardner to take over and get Australia over the line, which she eventually did in her own fashion.

Gardner remained unbeaten on 52 as Australia pulled off an improbable win with an over to spare. Everyone attributed the world champions’ win to their incredible batting depth and India’s lack of experience with the ball. While those things were true, the win was remarkable even by Australia’s standards.

They scored 108 runs from 11.4 overs after the loss of the fifth wicket. No team has scored more than 100 runs to win a T20I match after losing their fifth wicket. While Gardner has done it before at this level, this innings by Harris showed she can bring her WBBL persona to the international arena and be that point of difference without changing anything about her.

The broadcasters probably missed a trick by not getting her miked-up, so that the whole world could have gotten a peek into the thought bubbles of Grace Harris as she went hammer and tongs against India.