As Australia kept themselves in the Women’s Ashes with a win in the 2nd ODI at Melbourne, Raf Nicholson watched a remarkable debut performance from the Southern Stars’ Nicole Bolton.
Debutant Nicole Bolton is about to face the second over of the day, from England’s Kathryn Cross. She is on 1*, after a nervy single off Anya Shrubsole’s first over. English cricket fans the world over are poised for the series victory which will be England’s if they win today: a victory that looks increasingly likely, given that they have won their last seven encounters with the Aussies.
Bolton has not really been on anyone’s radar until recently but she has had an excellent domestic season for Western Australia, scoring more runs than anyone else in Australia’s national women’s cricket league. On the basis of those performances, she found herself in the Southern Stars squad for this Ashes series; and suddenly, here she is, opening for Australia against England, with the Ashes on the line. No one can predict what will happen next.
What happens is this: Cross bowls the ball, and Bolton anticipates it perfectly, middles it, and sweetly, elegantly, pulls it through mid-wicket for four runs.
Bolton goes on to make 124 runs off 152 balls, including 12 fours. She is the first Australian woman to score a century on ODI debut; and only the fourth woman ever to do so. That first, glorious four, as it turns out, is only the beginning of a spectacular debut, and with it, a swing in the momentum of this Ashes series.
Bolton’s century is topped off by what comes next: England are batting, and having lost two early wickets, are racing towards their target of 267, with Sarah Taylor and Arran Brindle at the crease. Brindle strokes the ball to mid-wicket and calls for the single; Taylor sets off. Bolton collects the ball, scores a direct hit, and runs out the danger-woman.
Her team, running to congratulate her, know the wicket is key. And so it proves, as England collapse to 240 all out.
If Bolton was nervous this morning, she certainly didn’t show it. Her intent, from the get-go, was clear: be positive, and take runs wherever you can find them. She dominated the strike to such an extent that, when her opening partner Meg Lanning was out in the 10th over, she had made just 5 and faced only 14 deliveries.
Bolton’s attacking strategy with the bat this morning was not without risk. She was dropped on 5, edging to Jenny Gunn at third slip; and then dropped again pulling a ball to Natalie Sciver at mid-wicket when on 28. The risky singles came thick and fast, too. But with great risk, as they say, comes great reward. The reward was Australia’s first victory over England since that ODI at Lord’s last August. It was Bolton who made the difference.
She said, after play ended: “With the 100 and the win, I couldn’t ask for a better day.” Neither could the rest of her team. Australia are right back in this series, as the teams go into the next ODI with England 8-2 up on points. The question on everyone’s lips is this: if the Australian selectors had put their faith in Nicole Bolton a little earlier in this series, might that scoreline look a little different right now?