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Who Does it Best?

The pull: Alyssa Healy

Bowl anywhere near short at Australia's pocket dynamo and you'll disappear leg side

Annesha Ghosh
Annesha Ghosh
16-Feb-2022
Healy has three kinds of pull (at least)  •  William West/AFP/Getty Images

Healy has three kinds of pull (at least)  •  William West/AFP/Getty Images

It is one of the go-to shots she uses to bully attacks, however vaunted or varied, into submission. In many a rampaging innings, like the 51-ball 111 in WBBL 2020-21, it often sets the tone. At crucial junctures in play, as seen in her maiden international hundred, in 2018, it is a tool with which to crush the opposition's spirit. Still, the pull shot remains something of an unsung hero in Healy's ever-evolving repertoire.
It doesn't enjoy as much celebrity as her inside-out lofted drive over cover, the most viscerally appealing shot in her arsenal. But the frequency of its appearance, and the ease with which Healy uses it to clear the boundary from square leg to deep-midwicket, makes the pull one of her most high-reward shots.
Deceptively nonchalant-seeming, the stroke is technically straightforward for Healy. A solid base. Feet firmly planted. An early, accurate assessment of length. Copybook arm extension. The power to muscle the hell out of the delivery. And seamless transfer of weight. The ball needn't always be a world off a good length; anything marginally short, into the body, is enough for her to take a step back and swat it over the square-leg cordon.
It's not all one pull for Healy. One variant is executed after shuffling outside off; another is played while charging down the track; and the third, with minimal foot movement, is all hands and twist of torso to generate power in the swivel, resulting in a forceful short-arm pull.
"From a young age Alyssa has been very quick to pick up length and rock back on the back foot," Lisa Sthalekar, the former Australia captain and broadcaster and Healy's one-time team-mate, says. "She never really misses out on capitalising when the bowlers miss their length. That is why she is one of the most destructive batters in the women's game."
Healy isn't among the tallest around, and her small frame often puts bowlers at a disadvantage on pitches with bounce. Deliveries ever so slightly short, which might ping taller players high on the pads or just above them, run the risk of ending up waist-high for Healy, enabling her to unleash the pull.
"She's a compact, very technical batter, and a very good puller," says South Africa batter Lizelle Lee, whose WBBL stints as an opponent have given her a ring-side view of a gallery of Healy's menacing pulls. "She's the kind of batter I love watching: fearless, doesn't waste time, always goes big, so when it comes off, she comes off big."
Perhaps the ever-burgeoning range of her strokes make it difficult to identify any one of them as a trademark Healy shot. And the mastery her contemporaries, such as India opener Smriti Mandhana, Australia team-mates Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry, and New Zealand allrounder Sophie Devine, have demonstrated in playing the pull doesn't quite make Healy peerless at it. This was reinforced by a poll of some members of ESPNcricinfo's editorial staff for this series, in which Healy beat Mandhana by a whisker.
Still, in Healy's advent as a force of nature in limited-overs cricket since her maiden WBBL hundred in January 2018, the pull has been pivotal to establishing her authority in diverse conditions. Perhaps its relegation to a relatively low profile in her repertoire may not have been too bad a thing for the pull after all.

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha