Who is Tara Norris, the USA international who claimed the first ever Women’s Premier League five-for?
Tara Norris, a USA international, has claimed the first-ever five-for in Women’s Premier League (WPL) history. Here’s everything you need to know about the 24-year-old left-arm seamer.
The inaugural WPL has begun amid much fanfare, but amid big performances from household names like Harmanpreet Kaur, Shafali Verma and Meg Lanning, there was one standout showing from an unlikely source: USA seamer Tara Norris, who claimed the first five-for in the competition’s history.
Bowling skiddy left-arm seam, Norris began by claiming the wicket of Ellyse Perry, the Australia great chopping on, and had four wickets by the time she had bowled nine balls, with Disha Kashat, Richa Ghosh and Kanika Ahuja all holing out.
Her fifth wicket took a time coming, and Norris took some tap along the way, but with the penultimate ball of her spell she had another big scalp, England captain Heather Knight hitting straight to extra cover. Delhi Capitals ran out victors by 60 runs.
It was a memorable moment, and the path to get there has been far from straightforward. Norris was the beneficiary of a loophole in the WPL playing conditions, allowing teams to play a fifth overseas player if one of those is a representative of an associate nation. Norris playing for USA is itself a matter of fortune, down to the growing exposure of women’s cricket and a tossed-out ‘fun fact’ that ended up having significant consequences.
Who is Tara Norris?
Cricket didn’t feature in Norris’ early life, and she has Chance to Shine, a UK-based charity dedicated to spreading the sport into state schools and communities that otherwise would not experience it, to thank.
“I grew up in Spain and the US, so I’d never heard of cricket,” she told the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast back in 2021. “It wasn’t until Chance to Shine came into my primary school at about eight or nine years old. They came in for some P.E. lessons which I really enjoyed. They suggested I join the after-school club which I did, and in the end they pushed me through to my local club where there was a girls’ team and it just went on from there.”
Norris attended Loughborough University, which has seen many England cricketers pass through its halls, and played cricket regularly as part of an MCC programme. After finishing, she was part of the first cohort of an expanded group of professional cricketers in England and Wales.
“It’s just that stepping stone,” she said. “The volume that we’ve had all winter has just been incredible. I’ve never trained so much, I’ve never had so many games. This summer is the most cricket I think I’ve ever played, so it’s been brilliant, and the exposure has been brilliant too.”
Norris has been a regular feature in English domestic cricket since then, playing her part in the Southern Vipers dynasty. The Southampton-based side won the first two editions of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy and were beaten in the final of the third, with Norris finishing as her side’s second, third, and leading wicket-taker in 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively. While she is far from an all-rounder, Norris also played a key role with the bat in the 2021 triumph, making an unbeaten 40 in an eighth-wicket 78-run partnership with Emily Windsor as Southern Vipers recovered from 109-7 to chase down 184 with two balls to spare. The 2022 final was another thriller, Norris unbeaten on two as her side lost by two runs.
She was Southern Vipers’ leading wicket-taker in the inaugural Charlotte Edwards Cup – a T20 competition – as they made the semi-finals, and also featured regularly in 2022, with Southern Vipers claiming the trophy. It’s rare for Southern Vipers to not trouble the latter stages of any competition they are involved in, and Norris credits Charlotte Edwards, an England great, for their success.
“I think Charlotte Edwards has a lot to do with that. The environment she creates is just incredible. It’s a fantastic learning environment, it’s very friendly, very encouraging, very supportive. It’s a really good atmosphere.”
Norris has featured in The Hundred too, playing six games as Southern Brave made it to the final in 2021, but not breaking into an XI stacked with internationals in 2022. The Hundred had another impact on her, with an offhand comment leading to her selection for the USA national team.
“That happened because of The Hundred actually, and that exposure for players that I wouldn’t have got previously,” she said. “They [USA coach Julia Price] just saw on my personal player’s page that I was born in the US – it was just a fun fact, really – and the head coach got in touch, and in the space of about 10 days they said: ‘Look, if you can get your passport renewed, we want you to come out and play for us in these competitions’. So I went to the US embassy a week later and got it all signed off.”
Norris played five of USA’s six games at the 2021 Women’s T20 World Cup Regional Qualifiers Americas and played a key part as her country topped the competition. The only game USA lost was the one Norris did not play, against Canada, and she claimed four wickets with an astonishing economy rate of 1.72 runs per over. Norris was unavailable for the 2022 Womens’ T20 World Cup Qualifier, and USA were beaten heavily in all three games as Bangladesh and Ireland qualified for the 2023 Women’s T20 World Cup.
Still, those five games were enough for Norris to qualify as an Associate player under the WPL rules, which allow a fifth overseas player in the starting XI if one is not from a Test-playing nation. Norris was the only player picked up in this way – at her base price of INR 10 lakhs (about £10,000) – but after her immediate success, other franchises might be wondering what they missed out on.
Speaking in 2021, Norris expressed that she still had a desire to play for England, for whom she is also qualified and could represent without any ‘cooling off’ period. “Because it’s not a Test nation it doesn’t affect any eligibility, so it’s pretty much a win-win,” she explained.
While she is not in England contention as it stands, perhaps her WPL success – and her special status – could give her a reason to ponder her international future carefully.