Perth, Feb 10: Spin-bowling all-rounder Sophie Molineux has clinched a spot in Australia's Test squad to face South Africa at the iconic WACA ground to be played from February 15-18.
Molineux was ruled out of the 2022 Ashes and the 2022 ODI World Cup in New Zealand due to a stress fracture in her foot, and subsequently lost her national contract.
The left-arm spinner returned to play in the WBBL in late 2022, only to rupture her ACL midway through the season.
Molineux finally returned to action for Victoria in the domestic one-day competition in December and immediately struck form, hitting 62 and taking a six-wicket haul in her second game back.
Her inclusion in the 14-player squad, boasting five spin options, marks a triumphant return after battling back from a debilitating ACL injury that sidelined her for a year.
National selector Shawn Flegler hailed Molineux's resilience, emphasizing the emotional journey she undertook to reclaim her spot. "She's been through a lot in the last couple of years," Flegler remarked, acknowledging the challenges Molineux faced in her recovery. "She's put a lot of hard work in...and has probably surprised herself a little bit with how well she's gone."
Molineux's recent stellar performance, including a notable half-century against the South Africans for the Governor-General's XI, reaffirmed her prowess on the field. Despite not holding a central contract, her dedication and stellar form in the WNCL propelled her back into the national spotlight.
However, Molineux faces stiff competition from the experienced Jess Jonassen for a place in the final XI, with Flegler hinting at a possible selection dilemma. "It's unlikely that both left-arm spinners would play in the same side," Flegler admitted, underscoring the tough decisions ahead for the selectors.
From Australia's previous Test squad against India, Lauren Cheatle (unavailable) and Heather Graham are not part of this group. Left-arm seamer Cheatle has recently undergone surgery for skin cancer which has ruled her out of the rest of the season.
The absence of Lauren Cheatle, undergoing surgery for skin cancer, adds a somber note to the squad announcement. Flegler expressed sympathy for Cheatle's situation, emphasizing the need for her to prioritize her health above all else. "She just needs to concentrate on her health," Flegler stated, highlighting Cheatle's potential to bounce back stronger once fully recovered.
The experienced Megan Schutt has been included among the frontline pace options despite being open in her belief that Test cricket is now behind her. Barring injury to another option, she would appear unlikely to make the starting XI.
It will be Australia's third Test in nine months following the Ashes clash against England and the match against India in December.
Australia Test squad: Alyssa Healy (c), Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham
South Africa Test squad: Laura Wolvaardt, Anneke Bosch, Tazmin Brits, Nadine de Klerk, Mieke de Ridder, Ayanda Hlubi, Sinalo Jafta, Marizanne Kapp, Masabata Klaas, Suné Luus, Eliz-Mari Marx, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Chloé Tryon, Delmi Tucker. (IANS)