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NEW ZEALAND V AUSTRALIA 2017

Stars selection a surprise for Strano

02 February 2017

Strano has been named in Australia's T20 squad // Getty

Molly Strano's journey to the Southern Stars T20 squad has had its ups and downs, but the spinner is ready to take her chance in the green and gold

The idea of an Australian call up was so far from Molly Strano's mind before Monday, she wasn't even aware a national selection meeting was taking place last weekend.

Strano's form during an outstanding summer for Victoria and the Melbourne Renegades meant her name was frequently mentioned as a possible inclusion in the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars squad to play New Zealand in three T20s later this month.

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She topped the wicket-takers' list in the Women's National Cricket League, with 13 scalps in six matches at 16.15, before carrying that form into the Rebel Women's Big Bash League where she took 21 scalps for the Renegades at 14.80, to be the tournament's second-highest wicket-taker.

But after several years away from the national set-up, the 24-year-old insists the last thing she expected was a call from Australia's selectors.

Now, she has hastily rearranged her plans for the coming month and is on the verge of an international debut.

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"I'm still in shock, it hasn't hit home yet but I think everything will kick in next week when I go to camp and everything feels more real," Strano told cricket.com.au.

"I didn't even know selection was happening.

"I wanted to tell my nana in person, so I drove around to her house and the waterworks started, she was crying, I started crying, everyone was crying."

A highly-rated young spinner who was a part of the Commonwealth Bank Shooting Stars squad in 2013-14 and 2014-15, Strano feared her dream of Australian selection might have slipped away when she was dropped from the development squad in early 2015.

She suffered a further setback when stress fractures in her back that developed during a winter spent playing in the United Kingdom ruled her out of the 2015-16 WNCL season.

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From there, her focus switched from pushing for a return to the Australia set-up to simply getting back out on the park.

"I'm a really passionate Victorian and I was just striving to be the best domestic player I could be," she said.

"Aussie selection went to the back of my mind after I was dropped from the Shooting Stars and I hadn't thought much about it the last couple of years.

"I just thought Australia was a little bit out of reach for me."

Strano stars in Renegades' win

She surprised herself upon her return from that back injury, playing all 14 WBBL|01 matches and taking 18 wickets, and credits a full preseason in the lead-up to the 2016-17 summer for her outstanding current form.

"It put me in good stead for the season I've had. Last year I walked straight into the Big Bash extremely underdone, so this year having a full preseason gave me confidence in my body and my skills," Strano said.

"When I first came back I worked a lot with (bowling coach) Tim McCaskill who helped me redevelop my action.

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"The coaches and support staff in Victoria have been so generous with their time over the last year, helping me do extra sessions, because I'm a tragic who likes to train a lot."

Big Bash fans should already be familiar with Strano, who made a habit of pulling out her best performances when the Melbourne Renegades were being broadcast live on the Ten Network during the first two seasons of the WBBL.

It's earned her a reputation as a big-stage player – and something of a cult-figure following among WBBL fans – but she insists it's purely coincidence.

Strano has developed a cult following among WBBL fans // Getty
Strano has developed a cult following among WBBL fans // Getty

"I strongly believe there's no correlation between me playing well and TV games," she said, laughing.

"I just love the contest, I'm a real competitor and I love the big games.

"I love bowling to the best batters in the world.

"So if I get the chance over the next three weeks to don the green and gold, I'll give it 100 per cent.

"If not, it'll be an honour to hang around the girls and learn as much as I can."

And if anyone needs further convincing that Strano is one to keep a close eye on, Southern Stars great Mel Jones will happily provide a reference.

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Australia Women

Melbourne Renegades WBBL

Molly Strano

New Zealand v Australia 2017

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