Australia v New Zealand, Women's World Cup, Bristol July 2, 2017

Go-to girl Perry continues her rise

From teenage fast bowler to middle-order rock, Ellyse Perry has evolved into a match-winning allrounder over her decade in the game

Ellyse Perry struck her 19th half-century to see Australia home © Getty Images

Australia v New Zealand, second ODI, Darwin, July 22, 2007

A precociously talented 16-year-old makes her debut. She has never played a senior domestic match but she is one of Australia's best teenage athletes, excelling in both cricket and football. But while she is an all-round sporting talent, in this match her role is very much defined by her bowling. She takes two wickets and helps effect a run out. Coming out to bat at No. 9, she manages 19 runs off 20 balls before being bowled. Australia lose the match by 35 runs.

And the international cricket career of Ellyse Perry, bowler, has begun.

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There is footage of Perry playing for New South Wales as a young girl. She is small for her age, so small that the regulation shorts hang below her knees and the sleeves of her t-shirt come well past her elbows. She doesn't look to quite fit in with the bigger girls around her any more than she fits in to the clothes she wears.

As a teenager she was constantly wheeled out as the promotable, marketable face of the women's game. She was asked in almost every interview what it was like to juggle two sports - there were times you could almost see her eyes glaze over while she smiled obligingly and gave the same answer she had given what must have seemed a thousand times before. Women's cricket was not a 'sexy' sport and few media sports editors could name a female cricketer beyond Perry; she was the go-to girl in an industry where the coverage was often cursory at best and patronising at worst.

But as the game - and the coverage of it - has matured, so has Perry in a myriad of ways.

As the players from that first match - a roll call that included Karen Rolton and Shelley Nitschke - lived out their careers and moved on, Perry became less the prodigy and more the cornerstone of Australia's bowling attack. Blessed with the the athleticism to generate pace and a lovely action which teased just enough movement both through the air and off the seam to trouble batsmen, Perry could easily have consolidated a lengthy career batting low in the order while winning games with the ball in hand.

When Meg Lanning writes her selected line-up on the team sheet, Perry is undoubtedly the first bowler listed. She opens consistently and is there at the death. She is a go-to strike bowler who led Australia to victory in the 2013 World Cup final carrying an ankle injury that left her unable to complete her first two attempts to bowl a delivery. She is special, a match-winner.

But here in Bristol it wasn't really working for her. It wasn't that she was bowling badly, it was more that the pitch - used for three consecutive World Cup matches - wasn't giving her much help. It was a day for spinners, a fact highlighted by selectors opting to include only Perry and Megan Schutt as quicker options.

So while Perry took on Suzie Bates with a series of short-pitched deliveries - she seems to employ aggressive bouncers far more often these days - with little success, it was the left-arm spin of Jess Jonassen and Schutt's hooping inswing that most discomforted the New Zealand batsmen and claimed three wickets apiece.

In the end, Perry was the only Australia bowler who finished without a wicket and she was also the most expensive, conceding 58 runs off her ten overs. They weren't terrible figures, but they weren't match-winning.

But such is the beauty of Perry's evolution that there are as many ways in which she can influence a game as there are to skin a cat, some of them just as painful for the opposition.

As other players left the side it opened the way for Perry to gradually move up the batting order. And as she climbed so did her average. Overall it stands at 49.12 -  at one stage during her innings it touched 50 - but batting at No. 4 she averages a mighty 83.83. Considering the bulk of those innings have occurred in the past 18 months it's reasonable to imagine that number could become even more impressive.

Often it is has been Lanning at the other end; the squad numbers 8 and 17 have shared many a match-defining partnership.

Against New Zealand it seemed as though the Lanning-Perry show would bring down the curtain. Lanning looked to be in imperious form and Perry was offering solid support. They differ in style, of course. Lanning's shots are more expansive, strong on both sides of the wicket and she scores at almost a run a ball. Perry, as displayed in her innings today, loves to score in the V; the high-elbowed drive is her trademark while she interspersed it with delicate late dabs for easy singles down to third man.

The pair were controlling the tempo of the chase, despite the slower pitch that made scoring look far more difficult than it had been in the previous matches at Bristol.

When Lanning edged behind to become the victim of the latest 16-year-old prodigy, the exciting legspinner Amelia Kerr, and then Elyse Vilani was out the very next ball - a rip-roaring wrong'un that was easily the delivery of the day - it was the only time Australia wobbled as they steadily accumulated.

With the brisk, no nonsense, Alex Blackwell pushing Australia's run rate into the black, Perry continued to drive and dab, drive and dab, until the scores were level, at which point she went for the big smash over midwicket only to be caught in the deep by Amy Satterthwaite. A red-faced Perry apologised to Alyssa Healy as the wicketkeeper walked to the non-striker's end to run the winning single. Even Perry is not perfect.

Nor does she have to be. Because, on a day when her bowling didn't win the match, she was the highest run-scorer. Because the skinny little bowler whose clothes were too big for her had just clocked 2000 ODI runs. Because there was the reminder of her all-round sporting abilities when she brilliantly booted the ball into the stumps and almost effected a run out while following through.

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Australia v New Zealand, Women's World Cup, Bristol, July 2, 2017

There is only one player still there from that Australia side of ten years ago. The 26-year-old is playing in her 86th ODI. She is no longer defined by her bowling, she excels in all parts of the game. She takes no wickets but, coming out to bat at No. 4, she makes 71 off 90 balls. Australia win the match by five wickets.

And the international career of Ellyse Perry, allrounder, is still evolving.

Melinda Farrell is a presenter with ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Brian on July 4, 2017, 13:53 GMT

    Scored a cracking goal in the 2011 women's World Cup QF against Sweden. I guess he needed to pick one sport. Shame she didn't stick with football.

  • dayaku2216664 on July 4, 2017, 12:22 GMT

    Perry is sensational but as I was following this WWC keenly, I see a lot of other players better on par with Perry, if not better. Meg Lanning is in fact one such great. If it's only about all-rounders, the English duo of Heather Knight and Natalie Schiver and the West Indian duo of Dottin and Sarah Taylor too are good. But there's one thing which makes Perry phenomenal, and that's consistency.

  • Shahid on July 4, 2017, 5:59 GMT

    Ellyse perry is one of the most beautiful woman in the world

  • izzido8204666 on July 4, 2017, 2:50 GMT

    Though I am not a very keen follower of Women's cricket I was amazed by the high standard of women's cricket in Australia and NZ. The batting, bowling and fielding of both teams was of such high standards. The stroke play of Elysse Perry and Meg Lanning was a treat to watch while the wicket keeping of Alyssa Healy was very stylish and immaculate. The current Australian Men's Cricket Team lacks the services of a genuine all-rounder, middle order batsman and a genuine wicket keeper and I reckon these women cricketers could easily walk into the Men's team without much effort.

  • Chris on July 4, 2017, 0:32 GMT

    Australia are fortunate to have her outstanding all-rounder skills - a captain's delight having a fast bowler averaging about 25 who bats at a touch under 50.

  • lodale9317828 on July 3, 2017, 13:34 GMT

    Best women cricketer by a margin,

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