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Abhishek Purohit in Mumbai
February 8, 2013
A gangling, giggling fast bowler, all of 17, finds out she's playing an important World Cup match against the old rivals after the woman she idolizes is ruled out unfit. "Instant nerves" result, but in a low-scoring game, she pounds in, a bow holding her flying long hair together, and strikes with her first delivery. She strikes again in the first over of a comeback spell, removing the game's top-scorer. She ends with 10-0-35-3 in only her second international match. Not exactly a normal Friday for your average teenager.
But Australia's Holly Ferling is no normal teenager. And it is not the first time she's made an immediate impact after replacing an injured player. She took a hat-trick with her first three balls in men's grade cricket in her hometown of Kingaroy in Queensland. She was 14 then. She is the first female to be declared the Queensland Junior Cricketer of the Year and has reportedly impressed Jeff Thomson, the former Australia fast bowler. Today, she tested England with the bounce she generated at speeds in the late 110kphs, striking for someone so young.
Her obvious talent cannot mask her age, and when she walked into the media room at Brabourne Stadium, she looked every bit the awkward teenager feeling overwhelmed, with spotlights trained on her and people waiting to ask questions. Just like she was able to overcome her nerves on the field, though, she answered without inhibition, flashing the radiant smile of a young girl thrilled beyond measure to have done what she did.
With her inspiration Ellyse Perry ruled out with a stomach bug, Ferling found out she was going to play about an hour before the start. "I was like, 'oh my God, I am playing England'. It was an unreal feeling," Ferling said. "I was just excited to get another game."
Perry had a few words of advice for Ferling, whose international debut had come only a week ago against Pakistan. "She just wished me luck and told me to hit the deck. My goal was just to come in and bowl fast."
Brought back for her third spell in the 41st over of England's chase, Ferling felt tense again. "I was so nervous. I was trying to keep things simple which is something I have struggled with in the past, and tried to do too much. Hopefully they'd make the mistakes." Lydia Greenway, on 49, hit the final ball of that Ferling over to short extra cover.
Ferling felt she had come a long way in the past year, with support from Queensland Cricket and Cricket Australia. She then forgot the name of the place she trains at. "Centre of Excellence," the team's media manager helpfully reminded her.
Ferling's voice was laced with emotion when she revealed what Perry, who has represented Australia in World Cup football as well, meant to her. "I have always looked up to her. To do what she has done at such a young age is an incredible feat and I don't think it will ever be done again. To play alongside her against Pakistan and then to train alongside her and to be in the team environment with her is just an incredible feeling."
Didn't she feel she would be inevitably compared with her idol? The 17-year old laughed as she pointed out the differences. "I wear a bow and my hair is curly."
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Plays of the Day from second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan, in Port Elizabeth