Victorian off-spinner Molly Strano hopes to build on a promising start to her international career by helping Australia reclaim the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes this summer.
Strano made her Twenty20 International debut in front of her home crowd at the MCG against New Zealand in February and didn’t take long to make an impact, claiming 5-10 – the best figures in Australian T20I history, male or female – in her second outing at Geelong’s Kardinia Park.
The Victorian wasn’t part of Australia’s squad for the 50-over World Cup in June-July, but she remains very much in the running for the Women’s Ashes, having travelled to Brisbane this week as part of a 16-player group of internationals who have congregated for a seven-day training camp at the Bupa National Cricket Centre.
There, Strano hopes to push her case for inclusion in not only the T20I component of the multi-format Ashes, but also for consideration in the three one-dayers and in the inaugural women’s day-night Test, to be played at North Sydney Oval from November 9.
“You obviously dream about it, I’d love to take part in the Ashes in any way, shape or form,” Strano told cricket.com.au.
“I loved being in the set-up, it was awesome to play alongside people from Victoria like Meg (Lanning) and Beamsy (Kristen Beams) and other people I’ve never played with like Alyssa Healy.
“Playing on the biggest stage as well, I’ve had a little taste of it now and that’s definitely inspired me over the pre-season to work really hard and try and get myself up there again.
“I had a tough pre-season, I really tested myself and worked really hard so I’m in the best shape possible and the best nick I can be, so I’ve done the best I can to put my name forward to get selected.
“If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t, and I have a massive domestic summer ahead, but I’d love to put my hat in the ring and play a game or two.”
While she wasn’t involved in the Women’s World Cup, Strano spent a fair few late nights watching the tournament from back home in Melbourne.
She’s hoping her long-distance surveillance of England will pay off, should she get her opportunity against them this summer.
“I loved watching the Aussie girls play, especially now I’ve played alongside some of them.
“I loved watching England’s games too, during the Big Bash we play a lot of those girls, so I like to keep tabs on how they’re tracking.
“They look full of confidence at the moment, they’ll be tough to beat over the summer so it should be a good contest.
“I was impressed with Nat Sciver, she was hitting the ball really cleanly and she’s a good bowler as well. Tammy Beaumont looked like she’s improved a lot over the last couple of years … she’s unorthodox but she gets the job done.”
And while competition between Australia’s spinner’s is tight at the moment, with Strano to be competing with the likes of leg-spinners Kristen Beams and Amanda-Jade Wellington, off-spinner Ashleigh Gardner and left-armer Jess Jonassen for spots during the Ashes, Strano believes the selectors’ willingness to field spin-heavy attacks is a positive sign.
“Spin is playing a big part in women’s cricket … I imagine it playing a role in the Ashes especially with the quality of spinners Australia have at their disposal.
“Even though there’s a big contingent of spinners (in the Australian camp) it’s refreshing to know I’m still at the back of the selectors’ minds and to know they’re willing to play a number of spinners.
“We all bowl spin, but we’re all quite different in the way we go about our business.”
As well as adding some new tricks to her repertoire with the ball during the pre-season, Strano revealed she’d been working hard on her batting with an eye to taking on more of an allrounder role at domestic level this season.
It’s perfect timing for the Spirit, who will be without injured captain Meg Lanning this Women’s National Cricket League season, while they’ve also lost the services of Jess Cameron – who has opted to only play Big Bash cricket alongside her football commitments this summer – and the retired Sarah Elliot.
“I am hoping to play more of a role with the bat this season,” Strano said.
“I’m trying to evolve with my bowling as well, I’m always trying to find ways to better myself.
“I’m working on a few tricks, while I’ve ticked off a few PBs in the gym and running as well, so I’m happy with where I’m sitting at this point.”
Closer to home, Strano is also relishing the added responsibility of being one of the more senior players in a new-look the Commonwealth Bank VicSpirit squad.
She has been named Victorian vice-captain for the upcoming Women’s National Cricket League season, serving under new captain Kristen Beams, who is filling in for the injured Lanning.
“I was really honoured to be asked to be vice-captain. I’m close friends with Beamsy too, so it’ll be good to work alongside her.
“She’s been a mentor of mine and she’ll lead us superbly. She’s so generous with her time and knowledge, so us girls will learn a lot from her.
“The average age of the squad is about twenty-and-a-half, which makes me feel like a veteran at the ripe old age of 25.”
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
First ODI Allan Border Field, October 22
Brisbane Charity Partner: Lord Mayor's Charitable Trust
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
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