Sophie Molineux batting for Australia. ©Cricket Australia

Injury is often the most frustrating part of an athlete’s journey— especially when that injury comes at a time when you are just about cementing your spot in the team. Sitting on the sidelines after surgery, watching as your teammates take the field while your own future appears uncertain, is a difficult pill to swallow. On the flip-side, after a strenuous rehabilitation and recovery program, when an athlete finally takes the field, it is possibly one of the most rewarding feelings.

Sophie Molineux’s recent rise to become one of Australia’s most potent bowlers was rapid, to say the least. Since her international debut in March 2018 against India, the left-arm spinner became a central part of the Australian team— putting in such stellar performances that even Jess Jonassen, once their premier spinner, was kept on the bench. However, soon after a wonderful run for Melbourne Renegades in the Women’s Big Bash League last year, Molineux suffered a shoulder injury for which she required surgery. After a four month layoff, the 21-year old has found herself back on the field— first as part of the Australia A team, and now in Australia’s Test squad for the Ashes series. The last few weeks have been nothing short of a whirlwind for Molineux.

“I’m pretty much, like, just happy to be here again,” said Molineux at stumps on day one of Australia’s three-day practice match against England Academy on Thursday (July 11). “Just to get to England and play with the Aussie A girls— I was really happy about that— and to get here, I feel like that’s a bit of a tick… whatever happens after that happens.”

After narrowly missing the cut as part of Australia’s original touring party, Molineux received a last minute call-up after impressive performances for Australia A in the one-day series against England Academy. She got a call soon after the final match of the series in Loughborough on Monday (July 8) and had to rush to Swindon to catch up with the squad.

“After our last one-dayer against the England A team, Leah (Poulton) told me (about the call up). It was a really nice moment,” she said. “Pretty much the next day we were in the car and joined up with the Aussie girls and got straight into it. (We) had a nice rest day yesterday, and today I was out there in the whites running out with them again. It’s (the comeback) happened quite quickly and unexpectedly, but I can’t complain… It’s been brilliant.”

Sent in at no.7 ahead of Ashleigh Gardner, Molineux had a good outing with the bat, scoring an unbeaten 62-ball 65, including 10 boundaries. She shared a fruitful partnership with Beth Mooney (101) as the pair batted out almost the entire last session before Mooney retired.

“It was just good to get out there and face some balls and spend some time in the middle. Moons was batting really well out there at the other end— the way she batted was brilliant.”

“She (Mooney) had the right pace to her innings throughout the whole time. She started off and got a good look and then she played the shots that we are so used to seeing her play. Hopefully she can take a lot of confidence out of today, and yeah, our whole batting line up can, because everyone looked really good out there today.”

A naturally attacking player, like most others in the Australian line-up, Molineux took to the English attack quite early in her innings. She played some confident shots and was particularly severe on Sophia Dunkley, the leg-spinner, taking her for 24 runs in three overs.
“I think in general, we didn’t want to go too far from our natural games,” said Molineux, of the team’s approach with the bat. “We all had the license to go out there and play our game. That’s the way we’ve gone about it and that’s the way we’re going to get the best out of ourselves as well. (Since) we don’t play too much Test cricket, you don’t really want to go too far from what you know.”

With selection on the line, the left-arm spinner is not too worried about what lies ahead. She is simply looking to enjoy her time back in the Australian squad.

“Obviously to represent your country and play in an Ashes Test match would be pretty special, but I don’t want to get too far ahead. I just want to sort of take it day by day and just enjoy it… Because spending a bit of time on the sidelines hasn’t been the greatest of times, but yeah, getting back’s been brilliant.”

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