On Thursday, April 27, Australia announced their 21-member extended squad ahead of the ICC Women’s World Cup in England beginning in June. At first glance, there were no major surprises in the list — until you scrutinise the group of fast bowlers.
The uncapped trio of Sarah Aley, Piepa Cleary and Belinda Vakarewa will join Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Holly Ferling and Tahlia McGrath, who has played only 1 ODI, as part of the pace bowling contingent. And then you note two glaring omissions: Lauren Cheatle, the 18-year-old left-arm pacer, and — Rene Farrell.
While Cheatle misses out due to a shoulder injury, Farrell had recently called time on her ODI career. She chose to step aside ahead of the preparatory camp to give Australia a chance to find an adequate replacement; however, no matter whom they pick in her place, Farrell’s departure will leave a gaping hole in the bowling attack.
“With preparations about to begin ahead of this year’s World Cup, the time felt right for me to retire from one-day cricket for Australia,” Farrell was quoted in a press release. “I’ve had mixed fortunes in this format over the last few years and I no longer feel I can give what is required to compete at this level.”
Farrell has had two clear phases in her career. The first between her debut in 2007 and the time she chose to retire because her “heart was no longer in the game” in 2011; and the second from 2014, the year of her international return, to 2017. A right-arm seamer, Farrell has grown immensely from mostly being a threat only with the new ball, to becoming one of Australia’s best medium pacers in all conditions.
Her ODI record of 42 wickets in 44 matches may not be earth-shattering, but the consistency, calmness and assurance she brought to the Australian bowling line-up will certainly be missed.
Genuine swing bowler
Farrell started her career as an out-and-out swing bowler. She had the ability to get the ball to hoop around in almost any conditions and was therefore a real threat with the new ball. More often than not would she shatter the stumps or rap the top-order batters on the pads with her big in-swinger; or leave them perplexed with the ball that straightened or held its line.
Between 2007 and 2011, she took 15 out of 24 wickets with the new ball (between overs 1 and 12). The numbers tell how much she troubled the batters with her swing and accuracy.
With the World Cup in England, conditions that normally suit swing bowlers, Farrell would have been one of Australia’s key bowlers — not only for her wicket-taking skills but also the ability to control the scoring rate in the Powerplay overs.
On her return to the international circuit in 2014, Farrell dropped in the pecking order and was often not first choice with new ball. She worked on her variations and became extremely effective in the middle and towards the end of an innings.
In recent years Farrell had become one of Australia’s go-to bowlers in the death. Her ability to bowl the yorker consistently and her large repertoire of slower balls made her hard to score off. Much like Tymal Mills, Jasprit Bumrah and Lasith Malinga, Farrell has been entrusted with huge responsibility at the back-end of the innings. She has delivered more often than not, either taking wickets or keeping boundaries to a minimum.
Like most good death bowlers in the modern era, Farrell relies not only on her yorker, but changes of pace as well. Her ability to read the play better than most is what sets her apart. She was deadly effective at the death because she seemed to know exactly what the batter wanted to do. She knew when to unleash which delivery and quite often got it right.
After her return to the international circuit in 2014, Farrell took 12 out of 18 wickets between overs 40 to 50. This is how a break-up of her wickets look like:
|New/semi-new ball |
|Overs 16-39||Overs 40-50||Total|
While Perry is the star of the pace-bowling unit, Farrell is often the unsung hero. She is the bowler Meg Lanning would usually call on whenever she needed to take control of the match. Farrell may not have always gotten wickets, but her contributions were very important. She put her hand up to bowl the ‘tough overs’ and her career economy rate of 4.15 proves that she has done a splendid job.
Even when she did not have the ball in her hand, Farrell would constantly be in the ear of the bowler, chipping in with useful suggestions, guiding the bowlers through their plans.
Farrell has toured England twice. She has also played for the Surrey Stars in the first edition of the Women’s Super League in 2016. It is thus fair to say she knows how to bowl in English conditions. She has not had a great deal of ODI success in the country, but in a World Cup it is often experience and the ability to stay calm under pressure that carry teams through. Australia had that in Farrell. Whether with the ball, bat or in the field, she will be difficult to replace.