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A splash of Grace Harris

Every multi-sport showcase turns up magnetic characters and the Australian is an early contender for fan favourite

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
A Grace Harris counterattack was crucial to Australia winning their first T20 of the Commonwealth Games  •  AFP/Getty Images

A Grace Harris counterattack was crucial to Australia winning their first T20 of the Commonwealth Games  •  AFP/Getty Images

Every big multi-sport showcase turns up wonderful, magnetic characters that have always been around in their chosen event but who finally get a chance to shine on a bigger stage.
At the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, it took just a few hours for women's cricket - a newcomer to this forum - to give us Grace Harris.
Her simple philosophy for winning T20 matches might appeal more to the cricket community while her perfectly executed public speaking - open stance, hands spread wide in explanation, clear voice - will appeal to all. Throw in a pair of bright yellow ankle socks bearing pictures of dalmatians pulled high but "boring" by her standards, and her ambition to become an international shooter because "you can eat a tub of ice-cream before your event" and we have our star.
And that was after she had shared a 51-run partnership off just 34 balls with Ashleigh Gardner to rescue Australia from 49 for 5 and help win their opening match against India by three wickets with an over to spare.
Playing her 17th T20I but batting in one for the first time since 2016, Harris came in at No. 7 and played the aggressor in that union, smashing 37 from 20 balls as Gardner contributed 14 off as many deliveries. Once Harris was well caught by Harmanpreet Kaur, running to her left from the mid-off region off the bowling of Meghna Singh, Gardner resumed the lead role to finish with an unbeaten 52 off 35 to see her side to victory.
It's more how you play the game... or how happy you are with how you get out
Grace Harris understands that in T20 cricket you have to take risks no matter what
That they had found themselves in such a hole - thanks largely to Renuka Singh's 4 for 18, which accounted for Beth Mooney, Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning and Tahlia McGrath - didn't worry Harris.
"I'm not concerned whatsoever," she said. "India are a great team. They've always been challenging. Their opening bowler was moving it off the wicket and in the air. She bowled well, and you've got to give credit where credit's due.
"I'm happy for the top order to face the swinging ball. I'll take any opportunity I get to bat at the moment, because at No. 7, I don't often get to spend that amount of time in the middle. I'm disappointed with how I got out - it was probably the one shot all game that I didn't make the best contact."
Harris explained that for her, T20 cricket was all about the manner in which she plays.
"We basically just back our depth in the batting line-up and if you're going to win T20 cricket, it's not ideal to lose wickets, I will say that, but... runs on the board always matter, wickets not so much given you've only got 120 balls to face.
"It's more how you play the game... or how happy you are with how you get out. Essentially it's risk-versus-reward cricket.
"In T20 cricket that's basically how I look at it as a player and I guess we're encouraged at the Australian cricket team to really not so much take unnecessary risks but take risks and make them kind of calculated or educated in the scenario that you're in."
As the more experienced batter, you might expect Gardner to have coaxed Harris through her innings but, a few minutes speaking with Harris and it becomes clear what Gardner meant when she said Harris had done "most of the talking" through their partnership.
"She was really confident when she came out and that's the best thing about her," Gardner said. "We know what she's capable of doing and we've seen her in domestic cricket for so long doing exactly that and it's awesome to see her doing that in Aussie colours as well.
"People probably had written us off at 5 for 50 but I knew what Grace was capable of doing when she came out and she really put the pressure back on the bowlers."
Harris scored the first century of the WBBL in its inaugural season in 2015 and, in 2018, she smashed a 42-ball ton. In last year's edition, she scored 420 runs for Brisbane Heat at an average of 32.30 and with a strike rate of 123.16, showing good consistency with four fifties in 14 innings.
And she was clearly revelling in being part of a wider sporting event where she could rub shoulders with the likes of the swimmers, who enjoy a higher profile among sportspeople in Australia than they do in most other countries.
Asked which sport she would like to compete in if she had to choose another, her answer was simple: "It would be shooting. I read at an Olympics one year that [one athlete] ate a whole tub of ice cream before she went out and I thought, 'if you can do that before your sport, that's the sport for me'.
So, now to those socks: "I always wear funky socks. I've got a dalmatian dog, Dorrie, so I went with Dorrie today, I went with the yellow background. I think these go best with the kit.
"I've got some red socks [with] burgers and fries. I don't know if I'll whip them out, it could be a bit too much colour, a bit too full-on. I might get the confidence up enough to wear them for the next game but today I just kept it boring for me really."
There is one thing Grace Harris is not, and that's boring.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo