Australia’s head coach Matthew Mott believes that the wicket at Taunton’s County Ground will assist spinners.
The multi-format Ashes begin with three one-day internationals, but Australia are already planning for the four-day red-ball match in Taunton, scheduled to begin on July 18.
Australia have the flexibility to add an extra member to their current 14-player Ashes squad for the Test. They also have the convenience of having the Australia A party, currently on their own tour of the United Kingdom, close at hand.
“We’ll have a look at the wicket in Taunton, our mail is it could take some spin so there’s always the opportunity to play an extra spinner as well,” Mott told cricket.com.au in Loughborough this week.
“Probably the most important thing is what that Test wicket is going to look like, we don’t have to add someone to the squad, but if there’s flexibility around it and there’s something we need we’ll certainly take that option.
“It’s an added incentive for the A players as well, if they know we’ve got the opportunity to add an extra player in late around the Test match so that 15th player, if someone is knocking the door down in the A team they’ve got the opportunity to come into the squad.”
The leading contenders are left-arm spinner Molineux, who narrowly missed out on a place in the senior Ashes squad as she continues to recover from shoulder surgery in February, and leg-spinner Wellington, who was part of Australia’s most recent Test XI in November 2017.
Molineux slipped seamlessly into the Australian team after making her limited-overs debut in India in March last year, playing a key role in helping the Australians take out the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean last November.
While training with the Victoria team in February, the 21-year-old dislocated her right shoulder and was ruled out of the ODI series against New Zealand before going under the knife.
Molineux has resumed batting and bowling, but narrowly missed Ashes selection when it was decided she needed more time to work her way back from injury before returning to full international cricket.
“Sophie Molineux was incredibly unlucky not to get past her fitness benchmarks, so she’s obviously a key contender,” Mott said.
“I think the one surprise we had was just how quickly (fast bowler) Tayla Vlaeminck got back from her injury, she really smashed it in the preseason at the NCC and just put a case together that we couldn’t deny … but definitely Sophie over the last 12 months has been a really good acquisition for our team and if she gets fit she’ll put a pretty good case together.”
Wellington last played for Australia on that tour of India last March, before being overlooked for Australia’s next engagement – the home T20s against the White Ferns last September – in favour of fellow leggie Georgia Wareham.
The South Australian lost her Cricket Australia contract earlier this year and has since been training with the National Performance Squad in Brisbane.
Wareham, meanwhile, has since cemented her place in the Australian group and is looked upon as a three-format player for this Ashes series, but given England’s batting line-up consists entirely of right-handers, a second leg-spinner could be an option for Taunton if it does indeed look like suiting the slower bowlers.
“All our stats suggest leg-spin is pretty effective against England,” Mott said.
“So that’s always something we’ll look at as it goes along.”
Australia A have been training alongside the Australian squad in Loughborough this week and will meet the senior England team in a 50-over match on Saturday, giving all 13 squad members a chance to state a case for a call-up to the Test squad.
“This has created a really unique opportunity for (Australia and Australia A) to play alongside each other and give our players an opportunity to get back and get some game time as well,” Mott said.
“Leah Poulton is a fantastic coach and we’re going to work together to make sure we maximise game time for everyone, and it gives everyone a chance that rather than sitting on the pine and watching.”