Cheatle keeps faith to eye long-awaited injury return

After a frustrating extended run with injuries, 21-year-old left-arm quick is desperate to make an impact for the Sydney Sixers this season

After two operations and almost 14 months on the sidelines, Lauren Cheatle is targeting a long-awaited return to play during the upcoming Rebel WBBL.

The left-arm quick played just two matches for New South Wales during the 2019-20 summer before a serious shoulder injury meant she took no part in the Sydney Sixers' WBBL|05 campaign, instead watching on in frustration as they missed finals for the first time.

She underwent a left shoulder reconstruction last November, and then in June, when her recovery was not tracking as planned, a second more minor procedure was required.

Image Id: 0BBAAE1E5E5E4EC18E043C9F9BBA3806 Image Caption: It was an injury plagued 2019-20 summer for Cheatle // Getty

Now, the 21-year-old is back bowling off her long run and is hopeful of being available for the Sixers during the latter part of the regular season.

"It's progressing really well, it was a bit a hiccup to have another operation but since having that I've spent a lot of time in the gym and back running," Cheatle told cricket.com.au.

"This is the first time in a year I've come off a long run, and it all went well so I'm rapt about that."

It was an innocuous mishap at training that forced Cheatle to undergo what was her second reconstruction on the joint.

She dislocated her shoulder throwing a ball from the boundary in September last year but was able to recover in time for the opening round the 50-over Women's National Cricket League.

She played just two matches before falling awkwardly on the joint, dislocating it again – and this time, a reconstruction was required.

"Then that didn't heal properly, so I needed another bicep operation in June," Cheatle explained.

"I was still in pain when I was throwing and bowling and it wasn't on the right track for where we wanted it to be, so for me to be able to play ASAP we need another little clean up.

"They took the bicep attachment out of my shoulder and moved it further down my arm so it wasn't pulling on that tear again ... it wasn't planned but had to be done so I could get the range (of movement) back.

"It was quite frustrating because I felt like I was doing all the right things and wasn't getting the results, so to have a scan and find out there was another issue and get that fixed as soon as we did was quite relieving."

It seems like a lifetime ago that a fresh-faced Cheatle burst into the Australian team aged 17 in 2016, playing in a T20 World Cup.

Get to know Lauren Cheatle

The years since have seen the Bowral product spend more than her share of time in the recovery ward.

She was sidelined for much of the 2016-17 WBBL season due to illness, then suffered a shoulder injury while training for a T20I series against New Zealand in early 2017.

Cheatle returned to make her ODI debut in Auckland in February 2017 and earned a place in Australia's preliminary World Cup squad for that year, only to be ruled out of the tournament when she required a shoulder reconstruction.

Cheatle action similar to Starc

The quick began bowling again in August of that year and was pushing for a place in Australia's Women Ashes XI in late 2017, before a stress fracture in her back ruled her out of the remainder of that season.

Her fortunes turned in 2018-19 as she played every game for the Sixers in WBBL|04 and earned herself a recall to the Australia ODI squad thanks to an impressive WNCL campaign, playing two matches against New Zealand.

Then, injury struck again.

A closer look at Lauren Cheatle, the girl from Bowral

"It was quite frustrating having to watch all of last season and missing the start of this season, but if it's going to set me up in the long run, I'm glad I got it out of the way," Cheatle said.

"Fingers crossed it'll be the last one and I can do everything right from here on out and play cricket for as long as I want.

"For some reason I love this game so much that I keep coming back and playing.

"I don't think anything could stop me playing, so having that drive to play again is definitely still there and I don't think it's going away any time soon.

"It made it easier to get through this year, I can't wait to play again."

A full 59-game WBBL season will be played entirely in Sydney this year, with all eight teams housed at the 'Village' at Sydney Olympic Park.

Cheatle will be joining her Sixers teammates when they enter the bio-secure bubble this week ahead of the season start on October 25.

Following the news fans will be allowed to attend some matches at Showground Stadium, North Sydney Oval and Black International Sports Park, she hopes her family will be able to make the trip from Bowral if she does make that long-awaited return.

"It's been a long time since able to watch me play and they've been right there with me throughout this rehab, so it'll be just as rewarding for them as for me to watch me play again," she said.