Uncapped duo Ashleigh Gardner and Molly Strano are in line to make their international debuts after being included in the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars limited-overs squad to take on New Zealand next month.
But Australia have been dealt a significant blow, with superstar allrounder Ellyse Perry ruled out of the three-match Twenty20 International series against the White Ferns due to the hamstring injury she suffered on the eve of the Rebel Women’s Big Bash finals.
Australia will host the New Zealand in T20s in Melbourne, Geelong and Adelaide in February – all double-headers with the KFC T20INTL series between Australia’s men and Sri Lanka - before crossing the Tasman for the three-match Rose Bowl one-day international series, with selectors hopeful Perry will recover in time for the ODIs.
NSW allrounder Gardner and Victorian off-spinner Strano have both been included in the 13-player T20 squad after outstanding summers in both the WBBL and Women’s National Cricket League, while Gardner also features in the 14-player ODI touring party.
Gardner dominated at No.3 with the bat for the Sixers during WBBL|02, scoring 414 runs at 27.60 while also picking up 10 wickets with her off-spinners.
Her call-up continues an outstanding 12 months for the 19-year-old, who captained the first Indigenous Australian women’s cricket team on their tour to India in May and was a member of the Governor-General’s XI that defeated South Africa in November.
Should she make her Australian debut, she will become the first Indigenous woman to do so since Faith Thomas in 1958.
Strano, 24, topped the wicket table in the WNCL with 13 wickets in six matches and carried that outstanding form into WBBL|02, where she took 21 scalps at 14.80 for the Melbourne Renegades.
"The National Selection Panel has been really impressed with the performances and consistency shown by both Ashleigh and Molly in the last six months and look forward to seeing what they can do on the big stage," National Selector Shawn Flegler said.
Teenage speedster Lauren Cheatle makes a return to the Australian squad for the first time since last year’s World T20 in India, having missed last year’s matches against Sri Lanka and South Africa while she completed Year 12.
She’s in line for an ODI debut against the White Ferns, having been included in Australia’s 50-over squad for the first time, while South Australian leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington, who made her ODI debut in November in Coffs Harbour, could earn her maiden T20 cap.
Joining Perry on the injury list is fast bowler Holly Ferling, who underwent elbow surgery last Friday, while allrounder Grace Harris has been omitted from the squad which took on South Africa late last year.
The series against a strong New Zealand line-up, featuring WBBL stars Suzie Bates, Amy Satterthwaite, Rachel Priest, Lea Tahuhu and Sophie Devine, will be a crucial opportunity for Australia to prepare for their 50-over World Cup title defence in England in June.
"Everyone involved in these squads had an impact for their various clubs in the WBBL and it’s pleasing to see them competing as such a high level," Flegler said.
"With the ICC Women’s World Cup taking place in England in June, this is a really important series as we finalise preparations for one of the biggest challenges in world cricket."
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell, Nicole Bolton (ODI only), Lauren Cheatle, Rene Farrell, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry (ODI only, pending fitness), Megan Schutt, Molly Strano (T20 only), Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington
Australia v New Zealand T20s
17 February: MCG, Melbourne, 2.05pm AEDT
19 February: Kardinia Park, Geelong, 2.35pm AEDT
22 February: Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, 2.05pm AEDT
Australia v New Zealand ODIs
26 February: Eden Park No.2, Auckland, 9am AEDT
2 March: Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, 9am AEDT
5 March: Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, 9am AEDT