Australia’s next crop of national female talent have plied their trade across Sri Lanka in a limited-overs tri-series against England and the host island nation.
Playing six 50-over matches and two Twenty20 contests on the spin-friendly Test wickets of Sri Lanka, the Commonwealth Bank Shooting Stars – the national second XI side – claimed victory in five of the eight tour games with some future stars emerging with astonishing individual performances.
Sydney Sixers WBBL star Ashleigh Gardner struck the only century of the tour, plundering a match-winning 117 against the hosts in the first match of the three-week circuit.
The 18-year-old allrounder has had a solid run of cricket, starting in the inaugural Rebel Women’s Big Bash League before playing in the National Indigenous Cricket Championships ahead of a May tour to India with the Indigenous Blackcaps XI.
Recent Under 18 National Championships player of the tournament and Melbourne Renegades allrounder Sophie Molineux was a standout with both bat and ball, claiming two wickets on two occasions and storming past Sri Lanka with a crafty 69 from 89 balls.
Her Victorian teammate, 18-year-old quick Hayleigh Brennan, appears to be one to watch in the coming months, using her pace and bounce to snare a number of wickets on the subcontinent, including a spell of 4-22 against the England side in a loss.
Recent Southern Stars debutant Naomi Stalenberg was also impressive against both sides, scoring an unbeaten 71 to see her side home against England and 40 from just 32 balls only two days later against the Sri Lankans.
After a positive WBBL campaign, 21-year-old batter Bridget Patterson impressed the judges, a mainstay at the top of the order throughout, averaging 32 for the tournament featuring 96 runs in her first three matches.
Patterson’s Strikers teammate Tahlia McGrath also showed her skill on the tricky wickets, with scores of 42 and 34 and wickets in each game.
The 13-player squad was led by former Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars coach Cathryn Fitzpatrick and former batter Leah Poulton.
Women's National Selection Panel Chairman Shawn Flegler said the Sri Lanka tri-series was an opportunity for players to push their case for international selection, with the Southern Stars set to tour the nation in September.
"We’ve identified these players as having the potential to play for Australia in the future," Flegler said.
"These players have all impressed at different stages this summer … we’re keen to see the continued development of these promising and exciting players.”
Out of the 13-player squad, all but one featured in the inaugural season of the WBBL, while five were named in the history-making Governor General's XI which met India in a washed-out clash in Sydney at the start of the year.
Shooting Stars squad: Megan Banting (WA, Scorchers), Ashleigh Gardner (NSW, Sixers), Heather Graham (WA, Scorchers), Nicola Hancock (Vic, Renegades), Alex Price (SA, Strikers), Amanda-Jade Wellington (SA, Strikers), Bridget Patterson (SA, Strikers), Sophie Molineux (Vic, Renegades), Lauren Smith (NSW, Sixers), Tahlia McGrath (SA, Strikers), Naomi Stalenberg (NSW, Thunder), Hayleigh Brennan (Vic), Belinda Vakarewa (NSW, Thunder)