The ghost of Rick McCosker’s jaw is never far away in Australian cricket. No matter what the injury, if you can perform, you should.
An Aussie batsman once told me he couldn’t sit in a chair at the end of the day’s play, but he still fielded the next day even though it was the fourth innings, just so his team-mates didn’t think he was soft. That is how it is in Australian cricket. The team comes first, your health second.
In the Women’s World Cup final, this couldn’t have been shown more obviously than when Ellyse Perry came on to bowl. Perry had missed a great deal of the tournament with an injured ankle. Her replacement, Holly Ferling, had done so well that Perry needn’t have been tested. But she is a star, and she wanted to help win the World Cup for her team. Australia took a gamble on her fitness.
With the bat, Perry’s ankle held up. She slogged her way to 25 off 22, the only Australian batsman with a strike rate above 100, and woke up an innings that was dipping into a coma.
When she came on to bowl, West Indies had handled the new ball well. They’d built a platform, not lost a wicket, and still had Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin to come. Australia needed Perry.
Instead of steaming in and firing through the openers, Perry barely got to the crease for her first attempt. She pulled up, limped and looked worried. As did every other Australian player. It didn’t look like she’d get through a ball, let alone an over. The second attempt was much the same. It ended in no delivery, pain and worry.
It was then that the captain Jodie Fields shot a look off to the dressing room. It wasn’t a happy look. Australia’s gamble was about to cost them ten overs of a strike bowler, and Fields was suddenly trying to work out how she was going to make up for that. Perry could have limped off. An injured ankle for a fast bowler is death.
But Perry refused to give up. Her third attempt was painful to watch, it was someone hurting, someone who didn’t trust her body, but somehow she delivered a ball. Nothing great, but one more than looked likely. Her team-mates screamed their support. The ball was left alone and went through to Fields, who kept the ball and ran up to Perry. It was the briefest of chats, perhaps just mindless support. Fields knew how important every ball Perry bowled was. It was the difference between West Indies having a chance to win, and not. Whatever was said got Perry through the over.
With her sixth ball, Perry took Kycia Knight with a dodgy lbw. Perry’s seventh took the edge of West Indies’ gun, Taylor, but the evidence on the catch at slip was inconclusive. Perry’s tenth ball, she had Taylor out caught and bowled. Perry’s 15th was Natasha McLean’s wicket. After three overs Perry had 3-2-2-3.
Perry might have limped her way through it, but it was West Indies who never recovered. She could have stepped back from there. The job was done, the clichés were ready, and the game was just playing out to what was a fairly predictable result. She could have been hidden in the field, stood back on one leg, and let the rest of her team cash in on her brilliance.
She wouldn’t allow herself to become a passenger. Perry kept giving it her all. She raced around for run-outs, dived to stop singles, threw herself threw into the air unsafely, unwisely and ungainly to catch Deandra Dottin. And continued to bowl.
Perry bowled her entire ten overs, often limping in between balls or overs, but she just kept going until Australia had won the World Cup. In her last over, Perry bowled a bouncer. It was a special effort, courageous and skillful.
An injured ankle is not quite as sexy as McCosker’s broken jaw but what Perry did deserved to be added to illustrious list of Australian cricket propaganda.
It’ll start as a gutsy effort that won a game Australia should have always won. Yet, in a few years time, as people forget the details and just remember the result, it’ll be known as the World Cup Ellyse Perry won on one leg.