At home: Ash Barty of the Heat looks comfortable at the crease. Photo: Getty Images Ashleigh Barty on Saturday proved she could slog it out with the best of them. In one of the year’s more surprising sports stories, the promising tennis player switched to cricket after a meeting with the national team convinced her of the benefits of playing a team sport.
Barty notched up 39 runs for the Brisbane Heat in their first match of the Women’s Big Bash League against the Melbourne Stars, holding up under bowling pressure while the rest of the second half of the order fell away.
She was their second top-scorer after Grace Harris on 42, and managed two fours and a big six before she was bowled out by English import Natalie Sciver.
“I was just hoping it’d go over the rope really,” she said of her six. “I was just hoping it cleared it and I wasn’t out, and it was good.”
It was a whirlwind transition – as Barty herself recalled, less than two years ago she was facing tennis great Serena Williams on centre court.
Barty had decided to take an indefinite break from tennis, to spend time at home.
“For me it was a little bit too much too soon, I’d been travelling from when I was quite young and I just needed to spend time with my family,” she said.
“I’d done it previously when I’d just come home for a couple of weeks or months here and there, and this time I just didn’t put a time limit on it. I just wanted to enjoy myself and be around my friends and experience the life of a normal teenage girl.”
She still coaches tennis and has not ruled out a return to the sport competitively, saying Tennis Australia had been supportive of her code switch.
“It’s definitely been a big part of my life and I think forever will be,” she said. “I just think it’s great in cricket to come into a team environment, it’s the first time I’ve ever experienced it. It’s pretty exciting and I’m loving every moment.”
While Barty admits she is still learning the skills needed to take her to the top of the sport, at Junction Oval in Melbourne she used her considerable strength to show her selection was warranted.
Coming in at sixth position, she held her nerve as next in Sammy-Jo Johnson went for four, Jemma Barsby for nine and Kate Cross and Courtney Hill for ducks.
Barty said she had not set any particular goals for where she wants cricket to take her, but was enjoying the banter and camaraderie of her new sport.
“I’m just going with the flow, trying to enjoy it and hopefully score some runs and contribute to the team,” she said.
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