You could say that the young Ellyse Perry had everything. She was drafted into the Australian team at the age of 16, the youngest ever player, because she had raw pace. She had swing. She had a simple action, classical, repeatable and durable. It earned her an international cap before she even played a game for her senior state side.
She had wickets on debut in Tests (two), ODIs (two) and T20Is (four). Besides having pace and age on her side, Perry also had another sport. She also became the youngest player to represent Australia at football, turning out for the Matildas a month after her cricket debut.
That much athletic talent, at that age. It was scary.
Naturally, being a bowler then, she didn’t have an international hundred.
You could say that Perry the bowling spearhead had everything. She was accurate, she had the outswinger, a mean bouncer, and the tricks to bowl at the death. She was quick in the air, certainly among the fastest in the world. She had a contract with Cricket Australia, among the first group of female cricketers to be handed one. She was fit and was rarely troubled by injury. Even when she was injured, like in the 2013 World Cup final, where she could barely walk, she was the pick of the bowlers.
But she didn’t have an international hundred.
You could say Perry the batter had everything. Her bowling had lost its edge after ankle surgery, but that had been compensated for by her evolution with the bat. Her talent was being wasted down the order, so she was bumped up to number four, occasionally No 5. Whoever made that decision deserves the Belinda Clark medal to be renamed after them.
Perry celebrated with 12 half centuries in her next 16 innings, including a run of six fifties in a row in 2014-15, equaling a then world record. In the next two years, she would twice make five consecutive half centuries. She had four scores of more than 90 in that incredible run, three of those unbeaten. Her ODI average is over 50, and at No 4 it is 82.78. She averages more than 26 in T20Is, and 31.28 in Tests before Thursday.
Her transition from raw tearaway who could bat to genuine batting all-rounder was complete.
But she still didn’t have an international hundred.
You could say that Perry’s trophy cabinet had everything. Three consecutive WT20 trophies. One World Cup trophy. Two Ashes trophies. 18 Player of the Match trophies. Five Player of the Series trophies, two of those in Ashes. A Baggy Green. A Matilda yellow shirt. You might even find a shoe in there, the one which she stuck in the way of Sophie Devine’s straight drive to deny New Zealand a win in the WT20 2010 Final.
You name it, it will probably be on Perry’s mantle.
Except an international hundred.
You could say that off the field too, Perry had everything. Endorsements with multiple brands. TV and radio gigs as an expert for cricket as well as football. A CA contract that was getting heavier every year. The wisdom and will to stay off Twitter. A series of children’s books. The opportunity to make a living from sports. A high profile marriage to a rugby player, and the café in Canberra that the pair own a share in.
Besides being among the best all-rounders in the world, Perry was probably the game’s most marketable athlete.
But even after a decade in the game, no international hundred.
You could see the emotion. Usually one would expect a bigger celebration for a double hundred than a hundred, especially in women’s cricket, where an Ashes Test is the equivalent of the last pair of rhinos in existence. Women’s tests are rare, and so double hundreds are rarer still. There were only six before Perry’s megalith at North Sydney Oval, an unbeaten 213 off 374 balls, with 27 fours and one six.
But it was the first hundred runs that meant more.
Partly it was due to the context of the match. Australia were 54 for 2 when Perry walked out, which soon became 95 for four in response to England’s 280. Half of Australia’s team was dismissed with them still 112 behind, and the revival of the innings depended on Perry and wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy.
The pair responded in typically Australian fashion, assisted by some loose bowling at the start of Day 3. They put on a 102 run partnership, Healy getting 45 of those. With Healy — “a sister” to Perry in many ways — at the other end, Perry finally brought up three figures.
After 3766 days and 181 international appearances, Perry finally had an international hundred.
This is not to say that the all-rounder was desperate for one. Having played two team sports at the highest level, it is perhaps natural that a ‘team first’ attitude permeates her actions. If she wanted, Perry had the skills and the fitness to convert one of those unbeaten 90s into a ton. But that has never been her priority.
Despite her stardom, Perry is essentially most comfortable away from the limelight. “Being an athlete is a selfish pursuit”, Perry once said in another context. Some such players might relish a chance to celebrate a double hundred twice, as Perry got to do. When on 194, she lofted towards mid-wicket, but it fell just short of the rope. Perry thought it was six though, and reacted accordingly, taking off her helmet and raising her arms in the air. “It came out of the middle ok but the crowd just completely fooled me. I didn’t see where it landed, but the crowd on the hill celebrated like it was six,” she said of her premature party. Eventually she had a chance to repeat it, as she brought up the double ton with a lovely straight drive down the ground.
But if anything, she looked sheepish, content with a simple raising of the bat. And at the end of the day’s play, she was even reluctant to lead the team off the pitch.
Perry’s knock will reignite the debate over whether women should play more Tests. More than 3000 people came into North Sydney Oval over the past three days to watch the first ever day-night women’s test, and only the longest format can present a canvas for masterpieces of the drawn-out variety, like double hundreds and ten-wicket hauls. With this innings, Perry has grabbed headlines for the format as much as herself, and in doing so, she has taken the game forward again. “The amount of young kids I’ve seen over the last three days who have hung around for autographs late into the night, that for me is the biggest thrill I’ve ever had in my career,” she said on Saturday night.
Having finally scored a hundred in international cricket, she has resurrected talk about a near-dead format, and finally laid a ghost to rest. But while you’re at it, might as well lay it 213 feet under the ground.