South Australia have secured the services of one of the country’s brightest young talents, announcing Australia allrounder Ashleigh Gardner as one of five additions to the Scorpions’ contract list for the upcoming summer.
Gardner joins the Scorpions from her native New South Wales, where she played a role in helping the Lend Lease Breakers claim the 2016-17 Women’s National Cricket League title.
The 20-year-old became only the second indigenous woman in 59 years to represent Australia when she made her T20 International debut earlier this year, while she played all eight matches for her country at the recent Women’s World Cup.
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She made headlines and secured international selection with her big-hitting antics for Sydney Sixers in the Rebel Women’s Big Bash League last summer, scoring 414 runs batting at No.3.
But it’s been Gardner’s prowess with the ball that has helped her cement a place in the Australian XI.
She captured eight wickets, including 3-28 against Pakistan, with her off-spin during the World Cup. Her opportunities with the bat were more limited, coming in at either No.8 or 9 in a powerful batting line-up, but she impressed with a 13-ball 22 when given an opportunity against Pakistan in Leicester.
After averaging 19.60 batting at No.6 or 7 for the Breakers last WNCL season – in a team boasting international batters Ellyse Perry, Alex Blackwell, Rachael Haynes and Alyssa Healy – the move to South Australia will allow Gardner to take on more responsibility with both bat and ball in the domestic 50-over game.
It will also give her a chance to press her claims for a move up the Australian batting order when the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes get underway in late October.
"There’s a lot of really good young girls coming through. Although I don’t know them personally yet, I think there’s some really good youth coming through in this set-up," Gardner said.
"It’s a really young squad, the oldest isn’t even 30 yet… but we’ve also got a lot of experience. These girls have played together for 5-6 years at state level now, so that’s a really important thing as well.
"It’s going to be an exciting season this year. Hopefully we can win some games and win a premiership."
Gardner’s arrival bolsters a Scorpions squad already boasting Australian-contracted players Megan Schutt and Amanda-Jade Wellington, while allrounder Tahlia McGrath made her international debut last summer and impressed on tour with Australia A in Sri Lanka earlier this year.
"Ash is a terrific player, she had a huge Big Bash last season and then followed on to really cement her spot as a bowler in the Aussie team throughout the World Cup," Scorpions coach Andrea McCauley said.
"It’s great to have an extra spinner in the squad – I always like to have a few spinners around the group.
"Her batting is very dynamic as well – she can certainly hit the ball and is not frightened to have a go. I think she will slot into our middle order pretty easily and offer some excitement."
South Australia have made five additions to their 2017-18 squad, with Gardner joined by Eliza Doddridge, Ellen Falconer, Annie O’Neill and Tabatha Saville – with all four earning their first state contracts.
They replace former international Sarah Coyte, who has retired from cricket, while former England captain Charlotte Edwards will not return this summer.
Alice Springs batter Saville made her WBBL debut for Adelaide Strikers last summer, while Falconer is considered one of the fastest young bowlers in the country.
"Eliza, Ellen and Annie are all graduates of our Under 18’s program, and Tabatha was involved with the Strikers last season, so it’s fantastic to be able to give these girls an opportunity,” McCauley said.
Scorpions contract list: Samantha Betts, Eliza Doddridge, Ellen Falconer, Ashleigh Gardner, Brooke Harris, Sarah Lowe, Tahlia McGrath, Tegan McPharlin, Annie O’Neill, Bridget Patterson, Brittany Perry, Katelyn Pope, Alex Price, Megan Schutt, Amanda-Jade Wellington (both Australian contracted)
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes Series
First ODI Allan Border Field, October 22
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Second ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 26
Third ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 29
Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12
First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17
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