“The greatest female player we are ever going to see” is how Charlotte Edwards described Australia all-rounder Ellyse Perry after her phenomenal run in the multi-format Ashes series in England.
Including England great Edwards, there are many contenders for the greatest woman cricketer tag. But few of them could claim to have the kind of all-round impact on a multi-format series that Perry has had in the competition between the two strongest teams in women’s cricket: the ODI and T20I world champions.
A day before the men’s Ashes Test series began, the Southern Stars took home the multi-format women’s Ashes with a massive 12-4 margin. This equaled England’s 2013 showing for the most dominant victory since the introduction of the multi-format series.
The Player of the Series, to no one’s surprise, was the one who was named player of the match in four of the seven games – the inimitable Ellyse Perry. The 28-year-old was both the highest run-getter and wicket-taker across the three ODIs, one-off Test and three Twenty20 Internationals, with her rocket arm helping on the field as well.
In a team that has batters of Meg Lanning and Alyssa Healy’s caliber at the top of the order and a pacer like Megan Schutt, to top both charts is no mean feat. To do it in England in a high-stakes series makes it even better.
The women’s Ashes, unlike the men’s, is played across all three formats and the very fact that one player can dominate all three formats with both bat and ball is proof that we are witnessing something special.
But as unprecedented as her run has been in England, it has not been entirely unexpected. This is the fourth successive Ashes that she has been the highest run-getter while she was the leading wicket-taker in three of those.
Although Perry has always been surefire with the ball, what has stood out is how she has worked on her batting to become an all-round great in all three formats. In the seven games, she scored 378 runs at 94.50 and took 15 wickets averaging just 12.86 with the ball. In the process, she recorded the best bowling figures by an Australian woman in ODIs with a stunning 7/22, became the first player - male or female - to reach 1000 runs and 100 wickets in T20I cricket and scored her second straight Test ton.
“You knew then she’d become an unbelievable batter. She was mainly a bowler in my career, and now we see what an unbelievable all-rounder she is,” England legend Edwards said. Edwards, the highest run-getter in women’s cricket across formats knows a thing or two about unbelievable batting.
It may be hard to believe but not too long back, Perry’s batting in the shortest format was considered a drawback. You won’t find her very high on list of the top run getters in the three formats, unlike her captain Lanning.
She has a solid technique and you can see it flourish in the few Tests she has played. But in limited overs, she had not been able to get those big scores and swift runs. She scored her first ODI ton only this year while her first international hundred was the Test double in 2017. She has played 105 T20Is but managed to cross the 1000-run mark in only the second Ashes T20 and her highest is 60, scored in the final match.
A couple of years back, she was even asked to step up her strike rate to fit in the shortest format of the game. She batted as low as No 7 at the 2018 World T20 which Australia won.
But in classic Perry fashion, she responded with a record-breaking Women’s Big Bash League season scoring 777 runs in 16 innings. It was this batting form that she carried into the Ashes as she smashed records, established several new firsts and reiterated that she is indeed the best all-rounder in the game.
In the first ODI, she took 3/34 to restrict the hosts to 177, in the second she top-scored with 62 as Australia chased with ease and in the third, she showed an all-new facet of dominance with her seven-wicket haul.
In the one-off Test, she picked up from where she left off in the last Test she played to bring up her second Test century, following it with an unbeaten 76 in the second innings even as rain meant the four-day match ended in a draw.
In the three T20Is, she was unbeaten through the three matches. In the first match, she was just the foil as Lanning smashed the highest T20I score by a woman. In the second, she was unbeaten on 47 stitching together a match-winning stand with her captain.
Even in the only game Australia lost – Wednesday’s dead rubber in Bristol – she was at her best, with 60 not out.
With this successful series, her batting average is a stunning 50 in ODIs, 30 in T20Is and an astounding 78 in eight Tests. She also has 145 ODI wickets, 103 in T20Is to add to her 31 in Tests.
From batting at No 9 on her ODI debut to averaging 50 in the format, Perry has come a long way to become the world’s best all-rounder.
The most striking thing that she is only 28 with 12 years of international cricket behind her. And as Edwards said, the greatest player there is will only get better with age.