Women's Ashes Test
Whirlwind return begins brilliantly for Molineux
After four months sidelined by a shoulder injury, Sophie Molineux has returned to Australia's Ashes squad in emphatic fashion to pose even more selection questions as the Test draws closer
Laura Jolly at Marlborough College, Marlborough
12 July 2019, 06:34 AM AEST
On Monday, Sophie Molineux was playing for Australia A in Loughborough.
On Tuesday, she bolted into Australia’s squad for the sole Test of the multi-format women’s Ashes.
On Wednesday, she was at Wimbledon, taking in the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on centre court.
And on Thursday, she smashed a 62-ball 65 not out in Australia’s red-ball warm-up to put herself firmly in the frame for a dream Test debut just four months after undergoing shoulder surgery.
The left-arm spinner is one of a host of allrounders vying for limited berths in Australia’s XI for the Test beginning in Taunton next Thursday, and her efforts with the bat in the practice match against England Academy at Marlborough College has done her cause no harm.
The fact she was sent in to bat at No.7 behind Beth Mooney and Rachael Haynes, and ahead of fellow allrounder Ashleigh Gardner, could be also be read as a positive sign of where she sits in selectors’ thoughts.
She’ll have a further chance to push for selection, this time with her left-arm finger spin, on day two of the three-day match on Friday.
Her 65no, combined with a Beth Mooney century, helped the tourists to 5-360(dec) before three quick wickets in the final hour of play had the hosts on the back foot at 3-49 at stumps.
Given Australia’s pledge to play attacking cricket and pursue a Test victory, despite the fact a draw will earn them enough points to retain the multi-format Ashes, proving she’s a wicket-taking threat with the red ball in English conditions will be key.
But for now, Molineux isn’t letting herself be distracted by thoughts of the Baggy Green – she’s just relishing being back around her Australian teammates, after missing the cut for the initial 14-player squad that contested the ODI leg of the Ashes as she continued her recovery from surgery.
"I’m just happy to be here again," Molineux said at stumps on day one of the three-day game.
"Just getting to England and playing for Aussie A, I was really happy about that.
"Whatever happens, happens, to represent my country and play in an Ashes Test match would be really special but I don’t want to get too far ahead.
"I just want to take it day by day and just enjoy it, because spending a bit of time on the sidelines hasn’t been the best of times and getting back is brilliant."
The scheduling of an Australia A tour in the United Kingdom alongside the Ashes series was a blessing for Molineux, who had a second chance to prove form and fitness after missing the original cut.
It was after her third 50-over game with Australia A on Monday that coach Leah Poulton shared the welcome news of her Test call-up and a day later, she was on the road to Swindon to join her teammates.
"To be in whites running out with them again, it all happened quite quickly and unexpectedly, but I can’t complain," Molineux said.
"It was good out there, good to get out there and face some balls and spend some time in the middle.
"(Beth) Mooney was batting beautifully the at the other end and it was good to watch her, the way she batted was brilliant."
With her first day back in the senior ranks a day off for the team, she and Ellyse Perry had the chance to catch a train to London to take in the action at Wimbledon, but it was back to work for the pair on Thursday, with the Australians needing to refamiliarise themselves with a format they play just once every two years before the Test begins on July 18.
For Molineux, who grew up playing men’s red-ball cricket in Bairnsdale, in country Victoria, it’s been a welcome change.
"It was nice to get a red cherry on the toe of my bat today and put the whites on again," she said.
"(They were) beautiful conditions, it’s a pretty picturesque ground and it stayed the same when you were out there in the middle.
"The pitch was nice and it come up with a bit of everything in there, for both batters and bowlers.
"It rewards good bowling and good cricket shots as well, so the next couple of days will be really interesting."The three-day warm-up game against England Academy will continue on Thursday, with the hosts 3-49 in reply to Australia’s 5-360(dec).
CommBank Ashes Tour of England
Australia lead England 6-0
Australia squad: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Nicole Bolton, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham
England ODI squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone, Jenny Gunn, Amy Jones, Laura Marsh, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danni Wyatt
July 2: Australia won by two wickets
July 4: Australia won by four wickets
July 7: Australia won by 194 runs
July 11-13: England Academy v Australia, Marlborough College, Swindon
July 18-21: Only Test, The County Ground, Taunton
July 26: First T20, County Ground, Chelmsford
July 28: Second T20, The County Ground, Hove
A Test victory is worth four points (two each for a draw), two points are awarded for ODI and T20 wins