Inspired by Warne, Wareham prepares for Test challenge

Inspired by Warne, Wareham prepares for Test challenge

Imagine you are about to fulfil a life-long dream, playing in an Ashes series for Australia in England.

Imagine you are a legspinner, in the mould of your hero Shane Warne, on the cusp of playing your first Test match. But, imagine going into the series having never played a long-form game of cricket in your life.

That is the task facing Australia's 20-year-old legspinner ahead of the women's Ashes series.

"I've never played a game longer than a 50-over match," Wareham told ESPNcricinfo. "Wrapping my head around the longer format has been a little bit harder. But with our recent camp up in Brisbane I had the chance to bowl with the red ball in red ball scenarios, which was really good to kind of get a feel for it."

Amanda-Jade Wellington bowled 57 overs of legspin for Australia in the last Ashes Test . The extra bowling load has been a shock to the system for Wareham.

"I reckon in the last couple of weeks I've probably bowled 50 or 60 overs in a week, which is a lot compared to what I'm used to bowling," Wareham said. "But just getting the volume up, especially this early in the season helps build a bit of confidence with the ball coming out as well."

Not only has Wareham never played a multi-day game in her life, she has never even travelled to England.

"I'm pretty nervous actually," Wareham said. "The Ashes is the biggest series apart from the World Cups. Obviously playing all those games against England, they're typically our biggest rival, it's pretty exciting but at the same time really nerve-racking as well. It will be pretty cool to get over to England to play some cricket which I haven't done before."

It is a dream come true for Wareham. She grew up in the small country town of Mortlake, about two-and-a-half hours west of Melbourne. She played cricket endlessly in the backyard with her older brother Jordan and a set of cousins, on a bowler-friendly surface in highly competitive scenarios.

"I've watched so many interviews of Warney, him talking about his game, and there's little things that I pick up out of that. He was just an incredible player and I watched him a lot when I was younger" Georgia Wareham on learning from the best

"We had a really rough backyard," Wareham said. "Some [deliveries] would go two metres. It was good fun. It was hard batting but good fun bowling."

When she wasn't playing she was watching cricket.

"I always used to watch the cricket with my nan," Wareham said. "Especially in the summer, I'd go up there and we'd black out the lounge room and watch the cricket all day. I'd spend hours in front of the TV with her."

Wareham has no recollection of how or why she started bowling legspin. "I don't really remember a point where I bowled anything else, which is really funny," she said.

Warne is naturally her hero, and yet she is barely old enough to have memories of his Test career. Wareham cannot recall Warne's remarkable 2005 Ashes series, and nor would she. Play started at 7.30pm at night on the east coast of Australia, well past most six-year-old's bed time.

She has memories of Warne's last two years in Test cricket in Australia. But in a YouTube generation, there's nothing she hasn't seen.

Georgia Wareham has been getting used to bowling with the red ball Getty Images

"Watching him with my nan on the TV and just anytime I got to see him bowl was incredible," Wareham said. "Just the way he'd set up batters and just be all over them was really cool to watch. I've watched so many interviews of Warney, him talking about his game, and there's little things that I pick up out of that. He was just an incredible player and I watched him a lot when I was younger.

"Just the poise he has at the top of his mark. He's very calm and he's always got a plan. I think he's also very patient, the way that he bowls. That's the part I've tried to work on a bit. Obviously, the planning is a massive part of it, and it's something I'm definitely still working on."

Patience is something Wareham has learnt through playing in open men's club cricket in Mortlake.

"Playing in the men's stuff, I think it fast-tracked my cricket," Wareham said. "I think at the time there was no women's cricket at home. Playing against the boys, who hit it harder and bowled faster and threw it harder in the field and everything like that, I think that kind of helped.

"It was quite challenging actually. A lot of the guys at home, as soon as they see a spinner they just want to smack it as far they can. I think that worked into my favour a little bit. But it was just making sure I hit all my spots as much as I can because if I missed then it's probably going to go over my head or over the fence. Just being really patient as well and not trying to force the issue.

"When I was playing men's cricket I was bowling a lot slower than I am now. I don't know if I meant that back then but I think that helped a lot, getting the ball above the eyeline of the guys."

Her rise through the elite women's pathway has been meteoric. She credits National Performance coach Shelley Nitschke and Australia and Victoria legspinner Kristen Beams as key mentors that have helped guide her through domestic cricket to international level.

She was a surprise packet in last year's , just her 11th T20I, taking 2 for 11 against an England team that had not faced her in international cricket before. Now she enters an Ashes series as more of a known quantity which, like Test cricket, will be an entirely new challenge.

"I think it's just making sure that I've always got a back-up plan and I'm always being adaptable when I'm bowling, not just sticking to the same thing if it's not working," she said

"And just using my resources as well. Meg [Lanning] as captain, she knows a lot, so do all of the coaches as well, so I've got a lot of people behind me that I can use to help me in that regard. But I think it's just in the moment being able to adjust and read the play and see what's happening."

It's a whole new world for Wareham. But it's a childhood dream that's become a reality. Perhaps only her wildest imagination had thought it possible.