A Saturday afternoon fitness test is all that stands in the way of allrounder Ashleigh Gardner from returning to Australia’s XI for tomorrow’s third Women’s Ashes ODI, according to captain Rachael Haynes.
Gardner missed Thursday’s second Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes one-day international after failing to recover from a concussion she suffered in the series opener last Sunday.
The 20-year-old developed symptoms of concussion in the wake of Australia’s thrilling two-wicket win over England at Allan Border Field, and after resting and training lightly in the lead-up to Thursday’s ODI in Coffs Harbour, she was ruled out the morning of the match.
But after training strongly with the entire squad under brilliant sunshine on match eve, Haynes expects the star allrounder to return for Sunday’s fixture at Coffs International Sports Stadium.
"She (Gardner) got through training today so I think she just has to be cleared by our medical staff later this afternoon back at the hotel, but if that all goes through I think she’ll come back into the XI,” Haynes said today.
"Just a couple of boxes that she needs to tick, so to speak, but we expect her to come back in."
While veteran Alex Blackwell was named Player of the Match in Brisbane for her unbeaten 67, it was Gardner’s 27-run cameo that turned the match in the hosts’ favour in the tense closing stages.
Gardner clocked two fours and as many sixes in her 18-ball stay at the crease to put Australia within touching distance of victory when she departed in the 48th over.
Couple that innings with the 3-47 she claimed with her off-spin and you can see why the dynamic youngster is a key player for the Australians.
"She’s an exciting talent with both the bat and the ball, so she really adds that all-round element to our team,” Haynes said.
"She’s got a little bit of momentum there from the first game. I think you saw a glimpse of what she’s capable of, so it’s exciting that she’ll come back in (if passed fit)."
Leg-spinner Kristen Beams replaced Gardner on Thursday and is the likely candidate to drop out of the XI should the allrounder be cleared to play.
Both sides made one change for the second ODI, with England subbing out Laura Marsh for left-arm orthodox spinner Sophie Ecclestone, who took 1-49 from 10 overs.
England were handsomely beaten on Thursday, losing by 75 runs (DLS method) having conceded 6-296 after electing to bowl, their second-highest ODI total against Australia.
Despite the heavy defeat, England captain Heather Knight expects a similar playing group to take the field on Sunday.
"Sophie Ecclestone came in and once she settled into her spell she bowled very nicely," Knight said.
"She’s been one that has really pushed the door down and did very well in only her second or third ODI the other day.
"But we always look at all the other options outside the team.
"We have got a really strong 15 (players) to pick from and they are always making selection tricky, so we’ll make a call before tomorrow."
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
Australia lead England 4-0
Australia squad (ODI and Test): Rachael Haynes (C), Alex Blackwell (VC), Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa (Test only), Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.
First ODI Australia won by two wickets
Second ODI Australia won by 75 runs (DLS method)
Third ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 29
Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12
First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17
North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation
Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19
Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21
Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT