Sophie Molineux recalled to Australia Test squad, Megan Schutt remains in contention


Spin-bowling allrounder Sophie Molineux has been recalled to Australia’s Test squad to face South Africa at the WACA.

She is part of a 14-player group that includes five spin options. Molineux, who currently does not hold a central contract, last played for Australia in 2021 and in December last year returned to action after a year sidelined by an ACL injury. Last month she scored a half-century for the Governor-General’s XI against the South Africans and is currently the joint-leading wicket-taker in the WNCL.

“It was a nice call to make,” national selector Shawn Flegler said. “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.

“We’ve always kept in touch with her. We spoke to her pretty quickly afterwards and said there’s a lot of cricket coming up next season, focus on that, get yourself right and see what happens after that. 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.”

Molineux is likely competing with the experienced Jess Jonassen for a place in the final XI with Flegler indicating it was unlikely that both left-arm spinners would play in the same side.

From Australia’s previous Test squad against India, Lauren Cheatle (unavailable) and Heather Graham are not part of this group. Left-arm seamer Cheatle has recently undergone surgery for skin cancer which has ruled her out of the rest of the season.

“Really tough, devastating, and the WACA probably would’ve suited her more than the India Test match, as well,” Flegler said of Cheatle. “Obviously our thoughts are with her, she just needs to concentrate on her health and hopefully she comes back and gets herself right again and gets herself back in contention.

“When she’s swinging it and bowling with some pace, she’s a threat. There’s not too many left-arm pace bowlers in the world like her. She just needs to focus on getting healthy.”

The experienced Megan Schutt has been included among the frontline pace options despite being open in her belief that Test cricket is now behind her. Barring injury to another option, she would appear unlikely to make the starting XI.

It will be Australia’s third Test in nine months following the Ashes clash against England and the match against India in December.

The squad has tried to cover as many permutations as possible with some uncertainty over what conditions will be on offer and a forecast of hot weather.

“The WACA has spun this season as well,” Flegler said. “It’s going to be hot early next week, 39 on the first day as well, so we’ll have to see what the wicket looks like when we turn up. It could be a pace-bowling wicket, traditionally the WACA has been, but we’ve got all bases covered.”

Meanwhile, the selectors have also named two squads for a ‘Green vs Gold’ three-day red-ball fixture which is part of an expanded Australia A programme to enable players to get more multi-day experience. CA are also working on locking in reciprocal A tours with India to go alongside their agreement with England.

The match will take place at Karen Rolton Oval from March 5-7. Players involved in the WPL were not considered but a number of Australia names will be involved.

Georgia Redmayne was not available due to attending a wedding while young quick Chloe Ainsworth has an ankle problem which will be assessed at the end of what has been a breakout season for her.

Australia Test squad vs South Africa

Alyssa Healy (capt), Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham

Green squad

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

Gold squad

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

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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