If you hear the name Natalie Sciver, there’s a strong chance one thing will immediately spring to mind: The Natmeg.
Sciver’s extraordinary knack for producing what is more commonly known as a ‘draw shot’ attracted worldwide attention during the 50-over World Cup in 2017, when she deliberately and effortlessly paddled an in-swinging yorker from New Zealand quick Holly Huddleston between her legs for two.
The shot was quickly re-dubbed a ‘Natmeg’, a play on Sciver’s first name and the footballers’ trick of pushing the ball between an opponent’s legs.
That talent for innovation, combined with her sheer ability to hit the ball long and hard, makes Sciver one of the game’s most exciting allrounders, but there’s much more to the 27-year-old than just one trick shot.
Sciver has returned to the Perth Scorchers this season for Rebel WBBL|05 after sitting out the tournament last summer, where she joins England teammate Amy Jones in a stacked top-order that also features Australian batters Meg Lanning and Nicole Bolton.
Her return is key to Perth’s hopes of returning to the finals after finishing fifth last season, while a stint in the Big Bash is also a crucial chance for Sciver to refamiliarise herself with Australian conditions ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup, which will see England begin their campaign against South Africa at the WACA Ground on February 23.
Sciver comes across as someone blessed with an unflappable ability to take things in her stride, an attribute that could well be the result of a childhood spent constantly on the move, living everywhere from Japan to various posts throughout Europe.
Born in Tokyo, Sciver was something of a latecomer to cricket. Her mother’s work saw her spend the majority of her childhood outside of England, living in the Netherlands and then Poland.
Cricket was played in the backyard with her father and siblings, but it wasn’t until Sciver was in her early teens and living back in England that she joined her first club.
"My mum works for the foreign office so she had various postings around the world," Sciver told cricket.com.au.
"I lived (in the Netherlands and Poland) for four years each, so I did quite a lot of growing up outside of England.
"I decided to join a club at 13 when I got back to England and I haven’t looked back."
Sciver quickly rose up the ranks of underage cricket – even if she didn’t entirely realise what was happening – before making her England debut against Pakistan in 2013, aged 20.
"I didn’t really know about the England women’s team, so I was naively going along and enjoying (it all)," Sciver said.
"I went to a Surrey trial and got picked up there, and it kind of just grew and grew.
"I played a Super Fours match, which is the step between county level and the England Women’s Academy … so when I got selected for that, it did start to be a bit more real for me."
Australia thumped England by eight wickets in the final of the 2018 event in Antigua and that result, combined with Meg Lanning’s team’s emphatic 12-4 win in the multi-format women’s Ashes in July, has Sciver and her national teammates searching for a way to match their No.1 ranked rivals.
"Our summer didn’t go as well against Australia as we would have liked," she says.
"As a team, we’ve been talking about how we operate and our culture and our responsibility as players to take a bit more on and take ownership of how we do things and how we play.
"I don’t think it was our skill levels (that was the difference), but our application of that on the pitch."
Sciver is one of seven English players appearing in WBBL|05, something she can see will benefit the squad come the start of the tournament next February, particularly given the remaining England players will spend the bulk of the northern winter training indoors at Loughborough University.
"Playing matches competitively and at a high standard is going to be great preparation for us," she said.
"Putting into practice the things we’re talked about with the coaches at home … and in terms of myself, taking more responsibility for the team and making sure I’m doing the right thing to try and win games for the Scorchers and ultimately for England as well."