One Test spot up for grabs: Sthalekar

North Sydney Oval pitch to determine which of three allrounders wins final spot in Australia's XI, says ex-skipper

Former Australia captain Lisa Sthalekar believes there is only one spot up for grabs in Australia's XI for the historic day-night Women's Ashes Test and that it will be the pitch that determines who of the three contenders will play.

With Australia's batting order firing and the three specialist bowlers in the 13-player squad set to play, Sthalekar says the No.8 spot looks to be the position in question with allrounders Ashleigh Gardner, Jess Jonassen and Tahlia McGrath all posing strong cases for selection. 

Should the North Sydney Oval pitch be green and deemed helpful for seam bowling, McGrath's right-arm medium pacers could be an asset, as shown when she picked up the wickets of Elyse Villani, Rachael Haynes and Ellyse Perry in the space of four balls playing for an ACT Invitational XI against Australia in a three-day pink-ball practice match in Canberra last weekend.

If the wicket looks set to take turn, the right-arm off-spin of Gardner and her explosive batting would go up against Jonassen's left-arm orthodox and Test match experience. 

Jonassen made 99 at Canterbury the last time Australia and England squared off in a Test match and with the visitors boasting a team stacked with right-handed batters, another spinner taking the ball away could prove handy.

Jonassen's memorable 99 on Test debut

Australia will train at the Test venue one last time today, with captain Rachael Haynes and coach Matthew Mott scheduled to front the media but the hosts are unlikely to name a playing XI until the toss on Thursday.

By that time captain, coach and the selectors on deck in Sydney will have had a good look at the crucial piece of the puzzle; the wicket, says Sthalekar. 

"I think if there's more grass and green and it's going to be a more seam-friendly wicket I think they might go with Tahlia McGrath, because I think she's already shown in the one-day format she's effective and if the ball's swinging and nipping around she's going to be quite difficult to handle," Sthalekar said on this week's episode of The Unplayable Podcast

"And if she does play they've still got a Nicole Bolton who can bowl a few little offies if you want.

"You've got your big leg-spinner in Wellington and then potentially Bolton to tie up another end. 

"If there's not a lot of grass on the wicket then I think they'll go with Ash Gardner. 

"The fact that Amanda Wellington takes the ball away from the right-hander, they want someone who takes the ball in. 

"Jess Jonassen hasn't performed as well as she would have liked and everybody else who knows her over the three ODIs. 

"And it's really hard because the last Test match she scored a 99. 

"People will be going 'Why would you drop someone who nearly scored a Test-match hundred?' but that was two years ago in England. 

"It's a long time ago, the last Test, so it's very hard to base it one last performances in this format. "They're the two options, McGrath or Gardner. But if Jess Jonassen comes in I'm not complaining."

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

Gillette T20 INTL Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21