In a recent development, spin-bowling all-rounder Sophie Molineux has made her way back into Australia’s Test squad set to face South Africa at the iconic WACA ground.
Molineux, who hasn’t held a central contract recently, last donned the Australian colors in 2021. Her return to action in December 2023, after a year sidelined by an ACL injury, has caught the selectors’ attention.
National selector Shawn Flegler expressed delight in including Molineux, highlighting the emotional journey she’s undergone in the past years. He acknowledged her hard work over the last 12 months and her resilience despite missing significant tournaments.
“It was a nice call to make. She’s been through a lot in the last couple of years. She was pretty emotional. She’s put a lot of hard work in over the last 12 months but even the previous 12 months as well [and has] missed out some big tournaments for us,” national selector Shawn Flegler said as quoted by ESPN Cricinfo.
“We’ve always kept in touch with her. We spoke to her pretty quickly afterward and said there’s a lot of cricket coming up next season, focus on that, get yourself right, and see what happens after that,” he added.
Molineux’s recent performance, including a half-century against the South Africans and being the joint-leading wicket-taker in the WNCL, has certainly made her case stronger.
“She has come back and played really well…has probably surprised herself a little bit with how well she’s gone. She was an all-format player before she got injured and she’s come back in great nick,” Flegler added.
The competition for a spot in the final XI is intense, with Molineux likely going head-to-head with the experienced Jess Jonassen. Flegler hinted that having both left-arm spinners might be unlikely in the playing 11.
Lauren Cheatle and Heather Graham have been left out of the squad. Cheatle, a left-arm seamer, is unavailable due to undergoing surgery for skin cancer, forcing her to sit out the entire season. Flegler expressed sympathy, acknowledging the tough situation, and noted that the conditions at the WACA would have likely suited her playing style. The selectors emphasized their support for Cheatle’s health-focused recovery.
Megan Schutt, despite expressing her belief that Test cricket is behind her, has been included among the frontline pace options. However, her chances of making it to the starting XI seem slim unless there’s an injury to another option.
Australia’s upcoming Test against South Africa will be their third Test in nine months, with previous encounters against England and India. The squad remains flexible, acknowledging uncertainties in the playing conditions. Flegler highlighted that the WACA has shown spin-friendly characteristics this season, and with the expected hot weather, the team is prepared for various scenarios. Flegler expressed confidence in covering all possibilities, emphasizing the squad’s adaptability to the potential playing conditions at the WACA.
Australia squad for the only Test against South Africa:
Alyssa Healy (c), Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Jess Jonassen, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham
Teams revealed for Australia A’s game: ‘Green vs Gold’
Additionally, the selectors have announced two teams for a three-day red-ball fixture named ‘Green vs Gold,’ a crucial component of the expanded Australia A program aiming to provide players with extended format exposure. Cricket Australia is also actively working on finalizing reciprocal A tours with India, complementing their existing agreement with England.
The upcoming match is scheduled at Karen Rolton Oval, spanning from March 5-7. Notably, players from the Women’s Big Bash League (WPL) were not considered, although several prominent Australian players are set to participate.
Heather Graham, Maitlan Brown, Maddy Darke, Amy Edgar, Alana King, Chloe Piparo, Lilly Mills, Kate Peterson, Sophie Reid, Hayley Silver-Holmes, Courtney Sippel, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Voll
Charli Knott, Emma de Broughe, Darcie Brown, Sophie Day, Nicole Faltum, Tess Flintoff, Kim Garth, Sianna Ginger, Milly Illingworth, Katie Mack, Grace Parsons, Courtney Webb, Amanda-Jade Wellington