CommBank ODI Series v NZ
Long path back pays off for Cheatle
A return to Aussie colours against New Zealand would be just reward for Lauren Cheatle after a torrid run of injuries
13 February 2019, 05:03 PM AEST
The road back to the Australian squad has been a long and frustrating one for Lauren Cheatle, but all the setbacks and the toil are paying off with the left-arm quick on the verge of an international return.
Given everything she's been through since debuting for Australia in early 2016, it's hardly surprising Cheatle found herself a little emotional after her ODI recall for this month's Commonwealth Bank one-day series against New Zealand.
Cheatle on Wednesday was named in Australia's 13-player squad for the three-match series, having last represented her country in March 2017.
"I got the call a couple of days ago, it was a complete surprise," Cheatle said.
"I'm over the moon. I called my mum first and she was in tears and whenever my mum cries, I cry, so I was all over the shop.
"But I'm over the moon and completely rapt for the opportunity."
Since making her Australian debut aged 17 in early 2016 – shortly after helping the Thunder take out the first ever Rebel WBBL title – Cheatle has been hit by a succession of frustrating setbacks.
She was sidelined for much of the 2016-17 Rebel WBBL season due to illness, then suffered a shoulder injury while training for a T20I series against New Zealand in early 2017.
Cheatle returned to make her ODI debut in Auckland in February 2017 and earned a place in Australia's preliminary World Cup squad for that year, only to be ruled out of the tournament and in need of a shoulder reconstruction.
She began bowling again in August of that year and was pushing for a place in Australia's Women Ashes XI last summer when a stress fracture in her back ruled her out of the remainder of that season.
But after a full preseason with the NSW Breakers and the National Performance Squad in Brisbane, Cheatle finally had herself fit and ready for the 2018-19 summer.
The Bowral product conceded the thought of returning to Australian colours hadn't crossed her mind during her WBBL and WNCL campaigns for the Sydney Sixers and NSW, with the 20-year-old simply looking to make it through the summer unscathed.
"My main goal this season was to get a full season on the park without injury and I managed to do that successfully this year, so I'm really happy about that.
"I wasn't looking for Aussie selection at all but to get it now is really exciting."
Cheatle played every game for the Sixers in WBBL|04, building up her workload as the season progressed.
She hit her straps in the final three matches of the 50-over WNCL season, taking seven wickets at 12.28 as the Breakers claimed another title.
"It was at the start of the season I was thinking about (the possibility of another injury) every time I got to the bowling crease but having a summer without an injury has really given me confidence in my body and it's really exciting," she said.
A big year is looming for the Australian team, including an away Ashes series in the UK and a home T20 World Cup in early 2020.
But Cheatle is refusing to get ahead of herself, instead focusing on simply breaking into the ODI XI against New Zealand.
"I'm really rapt to be in the squad at the moment and to get a game would be incredible," she said.
"To cement my spot in the XI is an amazing opportunity for this tour. I really hope (to play Ashes) but I'm not getting too far ahead of myself.
"I know a few players are injured at the moment so I'll put my best foot forward if I get the opportunity and see what happens."
Sixers captain Ellyse Perry has seen firsthand the strides Cheatle has taken this summer and can see the advantages of including the left-armer in Australia's attack.
"She swings the new ball and being a left-armer gives us a point of difference as well," Perry said on Wednesday.
"She's bowled with some good pace as well and had some really good strategies bowling towards the end of an innings too.
"She's very passionate … she's even had some challenges heading into this season as well with some little injuries and just getting some confidence back about her own ability and her ability to stand up physically as well.
"Now she's got that and been able to play a number of games back to back, her ability and class has shone through."
CommBank ODIs v NZ
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Nicola Carey, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani, Georgia Wareham
New Zealand squad: Amy Satterthwaite (c), Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Hayley Jensen, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu
February 22: First ODI, WACA Ground, Perth
February 24: Second ODI, Karen Rolton Oval, Adelaide
March 3: Third ODI, Junction Oval, Melbourne