Nicole Bolton began her One-Day International career with the highest score by an Australian on debut: 124 in a winning cause against England.
With the bar set that high, it might be easy to slip under, but the bespectacled Bolton, who punctuates her innings with a smile that only gets wider as the runs come, has an average of 45.7 in 31 games since that 2014 debut.
Her unbeaten 107 in Australia’s ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 opener against Windies in Taunton, along with a 171-run stand for the opening wicket with Beth Mooney while chasing 205, completed a comprehensive eight-wicket win on Monday.
“I’m just so excited to be here. I was saying to [Mooney] out in the middle, I felt like I was in a dream, like this was not happening, because we were having so much fun,” Bolton said after her performance.
“She’s been threatening in the practice games to go on and get a big score,” praised Meg Lanning, her captain. “She’s been hitting them really nicely and just hasn’t quite put it together for that big one. She’s a very talented player, someone who can bat long and make those match-winning hundreds, which is what we need.”
Bolton and Mooney did well to see off the new ball, not taking too many risks but keeping the pressure on the fielding side with smart running and ensuring a boundary was never too far away.
“They were great. They took their time getting in against good fast bowling, and really just put their foot on the accelerator when they felt comfortable and that’s a really good way to play over here. The new ball can do a little bit, so if you can get through that period, you can put a lot of pressure on the bowlers,” said Lanning. “They really snuffed out any chance the West Indies had.”
They kept pace with each other, and while Mooney was first to her fifty, getting there in 67 balls, Bolton followed soon after. They both accelerated after that, Bolton dealing in a flurry of boundaries that quickly brought up her century in 108 balls – the second fifty took just 35. It perhaps helped that by then, Windies was deflated.
It was the first time they had put on a hundred partnership in nine matches opening. Since her debut, Bolton has had four different partners, but it would appear that Australia has finally now settled on a stable pair.
Mooney too has been in great form, her 70 in Taunton the fourth time in a row she’s crossed fifty.
“She’s great to see,” Bolton praised her partner. “In the last couple of series that she’s played, particularly New Zealand, she came away with a hundred and a couple of fifties. It’s something that’s been building for a while, to be honest. She’s dominated domestically for a number of years, so she’s a readymade player.
“She was disappointed she wasn’t there at the end to finish the job with me and that would have been the icing on the cake.”
Strike rotation and an understanding of how to pace their game was vital to their partnership.
“It’s something that we do even without noticing. When someone’s going, the other one is just sort of working the ball around and getting into their innings,” said Bolton. “We seem to be able to change as the partnership goes and that’s the good thing. We match quite well.
“If it’s going along nicely, and one player is going, we just assess to try and make sure the other batter is getting them on strike.
“She’s just a calming influence, someone I really enjoy batting with. Good energy, loves to get up and down the wicket – it’s been a pleasure,” added Bolton.
With more women’s teams embracing the approach of going big and hard in the first ten overs, Australia too has stressed on the importance of making the most of the fielding restrictions in place.
“It’s a tricky one in the first ten,” said Lanning. “Over here, it can move around with the new ball. So it’s about finding that balance of getting the scoring rate up, but also making sure you see off the new ball without too much damage.
“[Bolton and Mooney] did it perfectly … It’s about assessing the conditions as you go. If it’s not moving around, then maybe you go a little bit harder.”