Excitement builds as attention shifts to Test cricket

A more experienced Australian Test side will need to be on their game as South Africa captain Laura Wolvaardt declares, she is "very excited" to return to the format

With the white-ball formats done and dusted, Australia and South Africa have just three days to switch into red-ball mode ahead of this week’s historic Test at the WACA Ground.  

Australia will go into the four-day game holding an 8-4 advantage in the multi-format, points-based series having won four of the six limited-overs matches. 

Alyssa Healy’s team also go in with the advantage of having played two Tests in the past seven months, while every member of the 14-player squad is already in possession of a Baggy Green. 

South Africa meanwhile have played just one Test in the past nine years, against England in mid-2022, and have six potential debutants in their ranks. 

Australia coach Shelley Nitschke said while the rapid turnaround would be challenging for both teams, it was part and parcel of playing multi-format tours. 

"I really like the multi-format series … I think they work really well," Nitschke told reporters in Sydney following the third ODI.  

"They present some challenges in preparation but that's part of it, both teams go through it." 

Australia’s last two multi-format tours started with the Test. 

In England last June, they focused the bulk of their preparation on red-ball cricket, both at home in the month leading up to their departure and upon their arrival in the United Kingdom, where they played a three-day warm-up. 

It paid off with an 89-run win in the Test at Trent Bridge, but left the tourists on the back foot heading into the white-ball formats as they struggled to adapt. 

Aussie attention quickly switches to Test, says Nitschke

That was less of an issue against India in December, when the Test at Wankhede was preceded by a white-ball series against West Indies, several rounds of WNCL and the entire WBBL season. 

However, a short period of red-ball preparation including a one-day warm-up game provided only limited preparation for the Test, where Australia suffering an eight-wicket defeat in challenging and unfamiliar conditions. 

They then went on to win five of the six white-ball matches. 

"It's actually a really difficult one when we don't play a lot of Tests," Nitschke said of switching between the three formats. 

"When we went to England we spent a lot of time focusing on the red-ball format and done really well in the Test match over there but then didn't quite hit our straps in the white ball and we were out of season at that point.  

"I think we're learning each time. 

"We're going to get over to Perth and get the red balls out and get the conditions. I think every time we play a Test we're learning, and learning to be able to flick to another format is hopefully becoming easier to do. 

"But I think there is still a challenge when you're going across three formats with pretty much the same squad." 

While Australia will have just two training sessions to prepare for the WACA Test, they do have recent red-ball games and home conditions in their favour. 

The challenge facing South Africa is even greater, given the Proteas will not have the benefit of a practice match, and only some of their squad have WBBL experience at the Perth ground. 

Their last Test, at Taunton in June 2022, ended in a rain-affected draw, with Marizanne Kapp’s 150 the highlight for the Proteas. 

Captain Laura Wolvaardt said the group did have an intense red-ball focus during a training camp prior to their departure for Australia, but conceded they would need to learn quickly upon their arrival in Perth. 

The 24-year-old will lead her country in a Test for the first time in just her second game in the format. 

"It's obviously difficult playing a Test match without playing much domestic red-ball stuff," Wolvaardt said.  

"I think we're going to do a crash course in the next few days. 

"I love Test cricket - it's the purest form of the game and something that I think would suit my game as well and that I haven't really gotten the chance to play a lot of.  

'We lost our way with the bat': Wolvaardt

"I'm personally very, very excited for it and hope to play more of it in the future." 

South Africa cannot win the multi-format series outright, but Wolvaardt said they would be driven by the chance to lock it up at eight points apiece if they can win the Test. 

Rookie Proteas quicks Ayanda Hlubi and Eliz-Mari Marx were instrumental in South Africa’s historic first win over Australia in the second ODI – and Wolvaardt is eager to see what they can do on the WACA pitch. 

"(They bring) just a very cool young energy and I think they're bowling nice and quick as well, getting good carry out there today," she said.  

"Very exciting - I think they'll definitely be options for the Test match, I think we'll definitely be looking into that. 

"I've played (at the WACA) once or twice, (it’s been) pretty bouncy when I've been there.  

"But we have a very exciting pace attack so hopefully we can use that to our advantage as well." 

Women's CommBank T20I Series v South Africa

First T20: Australia won by eight wickets

Second T20: South Africa won by six wickets

Third T20: Australia win by five wickets

Women's CommBank ODI Series v South Africa

First ODI: Australia won by eight wickets

February 7: South Africa won by 84 runs

February 10: Australia won by 110 runs (DLS method)

Australia squad: Alyssa Healy (c), Darcie Brown, Heather Graham, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Grace Harris*, Jess Jonassen, Alana King**, Phoebe Litchfield, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham *T20s only | **ODIs only

South Africa squad (T20Is & ODIs): Laura Wolvaardt (c), Anneke Bosch, Tazmin Brits, Nadine de Klerk, Mieke de Ridder (wk), Ayanda Hlubi, Sinalo Jafta (wk), Marizanne Kapp, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Suné Luus, Eliz-Mari Marx, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Chloe Tryon, Delmi Tucker

Women's CommBank Test Match v South Africa

February 15-18: Only Test, WACA Ground, Perth 11.00am