Murray Wenzel / AAP News
Dean Boxall may have met his match in Australian spark plug Grace Harris. The energetic allrounder announced herself with a match-turning knock in Twenty20 cricket’s Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham on Friday.
Fearless despite the world champions teetering at 5-49 in pursuit of 155 against India at Edgbaston, Harris blazed 14 off one over and finished with 37 off just 20 balls.
Ash Gardner then took over, piloting the raging gold medal favourites out of trouble to a six-ball, three-wicket win.
Starved of opportunities in the green and gold since debuting in 2015, Harris is lapping up the chance to be part of women’s cricket history.
Her zest for life may even have rattled swimming coach Boxall, whose exuberance when Ariarne Titmus won Tokyo gold captured the world’s attention.
“I’ve been frothing getting around the other athletes and Dean Boxall’s my new life hype coach I reckon,” she said after Australia’s win.
“He was great to chat to (at the welcome ceremony) but I probably annoyed him for a fair bit.
“I’ve grown up watching the Comm Games; mum and I like to critique athletes’ outfits at the opening ceremony.
“To be part of the wider Australian team is fantastic, I’m really loving it, I really am.”
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Harris only just pipped bowling allrounder Nicola Carey for the No.7 spot in a side strong enough to keep a fit Ellyse Perry on the bench.
Bizarrely it was the first time the allrounder has batted or bowled in the five matches she’s played since being recalled.
“Any opportunity I can get to shake this specialist fielder tag, I’m all for it,” the 28-year-old laughed.
“It’s always been a hard team to crack into and there’s so many people back home that could be on this trip.
“I reached a point where it wasn’t that I gave up, but it wasn’t what drove me, to make the Australian team.”
Her positive energy has rubbed off on a side already brimming with confidence.
“She’s a really bubbly character and takes the game on; she’s not scared to get out. She got out there and said, ‘C’mon let’s do this,” Gardner said.
Captain Meg Lanning said her presence had added another layer to the all-conquering side.
“It’s a great sign for the team that someone like Grace can come out and dominate on the world stage,” she said.
“She is quite the character; very loud voice, lots of laughing. She’s brought great energy to the group and is properly embracing the Commonwealth Games and everything that goes with it.”