This is the sequel to the feature that was written earlier by the same author.
What are the best movie sequels?
The ones that increase the stakes for your protagonists, like Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight? Or the ones that take the narrative forward, like Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather 2? Some sequels take a lot of time in making, but the end result is worth the wait just like Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049.
After a promising start in her first outing with Australia, the return of Tahlia McGrath, just like these movies deserves a sequel of its own. Some of her performances will remind you of Rocky Balboa's win against all odds in the Rocky series, and some will take the genius of McGrath one step further.
"Every once in a while, a person comes along who defies the odds, who defies logic.” Rocky III
The first match of the Ashes series in January 2022 couldn’t have been more challenging for McGrath. She was essentially replacing Ellyse Perry, one of the greatest cricketers Australia has ever produced. That, there, is an unprecedented weight of expectations. Two days before this match-up, the home team’s most reliable batter, Beth Mooney, was ruled out of the T20 series. The Southpaw had to be rushed to emergency surgery as she broke her jaw in the nets.
With the bat, England registered their highest score against Australia,169 for four. It could have been way more, but McGrath’s three wickets helped them claw back. Australia needed their highest-ever chase against the arch-rivals, with two of the most experienced clutch performers out of the game. If that wasn’t enough, they lost the dynamic opener, Alyssa Healy, before she could think of doing any damage. McGrath walked in when Australia needed 144 runs off 97 balls.
“A few things from that match. It was the first match I played at my home, Adelaide for Australia,” McGrath told Women’s CricZone like a director would begin a narration of a story. “I had a whole heap of friends and family in the crowd. I did quite well with the ball in the first innings, that gave me a bit of confidence going into the batting innings.”
“I was lucky enough I got a few out the middle and Meg (Lanning) was really good at the other end helping me through. And then I sort of got on a bit of a roll, I guess.” On a roll she was. McGrath hammered 91 off just 49 balls and Australia chased down the target with plenty of ease. Such was her striking power that Lanning, who became the first Australian player to score 3000 T20I runs looked like a sidekick.
England never recovered from that early blow and they could not win a single match against Australia that summer throughout the Ashes and the World Cup in New Zealand. The Summer of Tahlia started with that innings and it’s still going on. “It was a special one. From an individual game perspective, the highlight of my career.” At the end of the day, it was not “Yo, Adrian, I did it.” from Rocky II, but it was close. She defied the odds to land the victory punch.
Sometimes you are Bat(wo)man, but sometimes you gotta be Robin
McGrath, the protagonist of the story, had to play a supporting role in the ODI series against India in September 2021. Robin, affectionately known as the Junior Crime-Fighting partner of Batman, from DC Comics is the trusted sidekick. If Batman is the serious beast, Robin is the one that will frustrate the enemy with lighter jabs. If you think, you can break the partnership, think again.
Chasing 274 in Mackay, to keep their winning streak alive in ODIs, McGrath walked in to bat when Australia were grappling at 52 for four in the 16th over. Jhulan Goswami, Meghana Singh, and Pooja Vastrakar were all over the home team. Mooney, who usually bats at five or six in the ODIs, had to open the batting in the absence of vice-captain Rachael Haynes. The southpaw was in desperate need of a partner, but she was running out of them.
This was McGrath’s time to become Robin. Mooney and McGrath divided the workload. The left-hander went after India's spin bowling, while the right-hander was aggressive against the opposition’s pace unit. McGrath reached her maiden half-century off 57 balls, and Mooney joined with 50 of her own in the next over. You cannot keep Batman and Robin apart, can you?
“All I remember from that India series was every single game was hard fought and could have gone either way,” McGrath reminisces. “I was batting with Beth Mooney. She's just a freak. I love batting with her because she just is always on top of everything,” just like Batman. “She simplified stuff for me (against India). She told me exactly what the run rate was, and exactly what we needed to do.”
Batman and Robin may not have it, but that partnership of 126 runs against India, McGrath, and Mooney got the nickname, McMooney. And it has stuck since then. “I have heard that (nickname) and I love it.” The protagonist, who became the sidekick for the day approves of this nickname.
Hasta la Vista, baby
Like the Terminator, Australia were on a mission in the Ashes series against the old enemy. After comprehensively sealing the multi-format series in the first ODI at the Manuka Oval in Canberra, the competition shifted to the home of women’s cricket in Victoria, the Junction Oval. England could not get going against the Australian bowling attack and were reduced to 68 for seven in the 25th over. They found a ray of hope with the partnership between Amy Jones and Sophie Ecclestone.
Meg Lanning, the hope-crusher, finally handed the ball to McGrath in 40th over. She was the sixth and final bowler used in the innings and it took her just 20 balls to clean up the English tail. Why would you not use the shotgun at your disposal if you need immediate results, Meg? McGrath took three wickets before the real Terminator could finish saying “Hasta la Vista, baby!”
“My bowling role changes every single game. I'm pretty sure the day before that one I bowled my 10 overs. I just didn't think I was gonna bowl that day, so I was pretty content with just letting everyone else take the wickets,” McGrath recalls. “I got the nod from meg that I'd be on to bowl, and picked up a few wickets.”
“There were a few slight comments from my teammates towards Meg,” laughs. “I suppose she's spoiled for choice with the bowlers. So I'll just be ready whenever and wherever Meg chooses to hand me the bowl.”
McGrath took a long road to feature in her sequel. Unlike many players all over the world, she was supported by the system that wanted this sequel to be a hit. McGrath, the sequel has rave reviews and it is an audience darling. Now Australia’s T20I vice-captain has an average of 121.25 in T20Is and she is the highest-ranked T20I batter in the World. Is this the beginning of the Tahlia McGrath Cinematic Universe?