Australia have called spinning allrounder Sophie Molineux into their squad for the Women’s Ashes Test, which starts next Thursday in Taunton. The left-armer has played three ODIs and 15 T20Is, taking 21 wickets for her country, but has yet to feature in Tests.
Molineux missed the original cut for the Ashes squad in June, as she was continuing to recover from shoulder surgery, but has now been brought into the group with the expectation that the Test surface could be receptive to spin. Her last outing came for Victoria in February, but she could get game time in a three-day tour match against England Academy at Marlborough College, starting on Thursday.
Australia are already 6-0 up in the points-based Ashes, having won all three ODIs. They only need a draw in the one-off Test to retain the trophy.
“I think it’s a wonderful addition to our squad, Soph’s done exceptionally well in the short international career she’s had,” team-mate Beth Mooney said. “She throws a lot of banter around the group and has a great time. It’s really nice to see her back amongst the group after she had shoulder surgery. She’s ticked all the boxes she can and put her hand up for the Test match.”
Australia were dominant in the one-day matches, culminating in a 194-run thrashing at Canterbury on Sunday, with England unable to cope with the pace of Ellyse Perry in particular. They also have several slow-bowling options, in Jess Jonassen, Georgia Wareham and Ashleigh Gardner, if a spinning deck is rolled out at Taunton.
“There’s been a bit of chat about that, we’ve played a few games at Taunton in the past, whether it’s with Australia or the KSL,” Mooney said. “The wicket’s generally pretty good but if it’s a bit drier we think it’ll take a bit more turn. We’ve got some really good options there, pace bowling and spin. Once we get closer to d-day they’ll have a good look at that wicket and make a decision.
“We’ll try not to get too ahead of ourselves, obviously there’s a lot that could happen in a four-day game. The carrot that’s dangling in front of us means we’ll go really hard early doors and makes sure we get ahead as much as we can as early as we can in the Test.”
Australia had ‘bitter taste’ after fading in previous Ashes – Mott
Australia women coach Matthew Mott has admitted that the way the team faded at the end of the 2017-18 Ashes has provided motivation to retain the prize with outright victory in this year’s multi-point series.
Australia kept hold of the Ashes when it was played on home soil – having regained them in 2015 – but England won the final two T20Is to level the contest at eight points each. Australia were bowled out for 112 in Canberra, before Danni Wyatt’s century cancelled out Beth Mooney’s unbeaten 117 in the final game.
Mott said that slip had been used as a drive to bring a greater ruthlessness to Australia’s cricket and the results since have been evidence of that, with just two defeats in all internationals since the end of the previous Ashes.
“It’s been a huge factor. Everyone in that team felt a bit of a bitter taste at the end of that series. We’d done the hard work and just took the foot off the throat,” Mott said. “We talk a lot about finishing teams off and it’s really been a motivating factor for the last 12 months and how we’ve played the game.
“In all the series we’ve played since the intensity on the last day has been as good as the first. It’s been a huge factor and in our minds one of the themes is a bit of unfinished business. We are obviously happy to hold the Ashes but we want to come over here and win them this time.”
Mott knows his team will face a confident England side that is currently on a run of 14 unbeaten matches having made convincing work of defeating West Indies over the last few weeks. “It’s two great teams going head-to-head, they’ll be chock full of confidence and we’ve had a really good 12 months. Two of the best teams in the world going head-to-head, it’s a special summer, I think everyone has earmarked this for a while and we just hope to start well.”
The Ashes begins with the three-match ODI series – where two points are on offer for a victory – before the Test in Taunton, where victory carries four points, followed by the three T20Is. Australia could look to supplement their squad ahead of the Test with a player from the Australia A team which is playing concurrently in the UK.
“It’s created a really unique opportunity for us to play alongside each other and give our players the opportunity to get some game time,” Mott said. “We are going to work together to make sure we maximise game time for everyone, rather than sitting and watch if they can get some games in, then great. Also there’s an added incentive for the A-team players, they know we’ve got the opportunity to add an extra player around the Test match so that 15th player, if they are knocking the door down in the A team, they have the chance to come in.”
Australia begin the tour with two warm-up matches against the England academy team in Loughborough ahead of the opening ODI in Leicester on July 2.
Ashes squad Nicole Bolton, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Meg Lanning, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani, Georgia Wareham, Tayla Vlaeminck
Australia A squad Maitlan Brown, Erin Burns, Maddy Darke, Josie Dooley, Heather Graham, Sammy-Jo Johnson, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Georgia Redmayne, Molly Strano, Rachel Trenaman, Belinda Vakarewa, Amanda-Jade Wellington