Women's Ashes ODIs
Gardner targets her biggest Test
Ashleigh Gardner has her sights set on a Baggy Green, and she thinks she might know the path to one
28 May 2019, 08:38 AM AEST
Selection in any Australian XI is a cut-throat business at the best of times.
But when your chance comes around just once every two years and there's a Baggy Green on the line, there's even more at stake.
Ashleigh Gardner was on the cusp of a Test debut in late 2017 when the historic day-night women's Test was staged at North Sydney Oval, only to be squeezed of the final XI on the eve of the match, when Australia opted to field an extra seam bowler.
The close call is something the allrounder has spent plenty of time mulling over in the 18 months since.
Now, she's plotting how to ensure there's a different outcome this July, when Australia meet England in a Test at Somerset's County Ground – and she thinks she's figured out how best she can slot into Australia's Test XI.
"I've had plenty of time to think about what I could have done better to have debuted," Gardner told cricket.com.au.
"Speaking to coaches and things like that, hopefully I'm not too far away from being in that Test match team (this time).
"It only comes around once every two years and only eleven people can play which is quite hard but it's a professional sport at the end of the day.
"You have to prove to the people that select these teams that I can do it and I am willing to adapt the way that I play to be in that team."
In her short career to date, Gardner has forged a reputation as one of the game's most exhilarating power-hitters in limited-overs cricket, while she's made an impact with the ball through her off-spin.
She fits into the top-order of Australia's T20 XI and currently comes in down the order in the ODI side – and it's the latter she can see also working in the Test arena, albeit with slightly more patience.
"If I want to play every format, it's about learning how to bat for longer periods because my main goal would be to get a Baggy Green and be able to play a Test match," she said.
"It's about being able to prove to the coaches that I can bat time and it's not all about trying to find the boundaries, that I can play a couple of different roles.
"I can never shy away from what I naturally do, and I think that's one thing that the coaches have always told me, to not shy away from that.
"But rather than doing it straight away, it's just picking the right time to do it and in between balls that I can be attacking on, being conservative and playing the right shots.
"If I had to pick somewhere that I would like to bat in a Test match, it would probably be around number seven, where I don't think my role would change a hell of a lot from a one-day innings.
"Obviously that depends on the situation of the game, if we're at 250 or 300, I think my role would be to play that attacking role and score as many runs as I can, and try to be that attacking off-spinner with the ball in the team as well."
Australia and England are the only women's teams that currently play Test cricket – with one red-ball match included in each multi-format Ashes series – so opportunities to earn a Baggy Green are scarce.
Ellyse Perry, Australia's most experienced player, has been part of just seven in her 11-year career.
Gardner stands to become just the third Indigenous player, and the second female, to wear the Baggy Green if she is selected for the Test match this July.
"Receiving a Baggy Green would be a dream come true," she said. "Playing for your country is one dream I've been successful in doing, but receiving my Baggy Green would just be the cherry on top and it's something that I would cherish forever."
Long term, Gardner is eyeing a move up the order in Australia's one-day team, something she hopes greater opportunities with the bat for NSW following the departure of Perry to Victoria can help accomplish.
"If I want to bat higher up the order I need to be able to bat longer periods of time, that's something that I really want to try and focus on over the next year or two, on cementing my spot in that (ODI) team and trying to bat as high as I can.
"I think there's a really good opportunity for me to be able to bat hopefully in the top four (at NSW) and score as many runs as I can while I'm there."
The Australian squad for the Ashes will be revealed next month, with the touring party to arrive in the UK in late June ahead of the opening ODI on July 2 at Leicester's Grace Road Oval.
CommBank Ashes Tour of England
First ODI Grace Road, Leicester, July 2
Second ODI Grace Road, Leicester, July 4
Third ODI St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury, July 7
First T20 County Ground, Chelmsford, July 26
Second T20 The County Ground, Hove, July 28
Third T20 Bristol County Ground, Bristol, July 31
A Test victory is worth four points (two each for a draw), two points are awarded for ODI and T20 wins