Race for the Baggy Green heats up

Women's CricZone Staff
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Australia team celebrating a wicket. ©Cricket Australia

The Ashes Test match is just a few hours away and Australia are yet to settle on their final XI for the clash in Taunton. The contenders in line to earn their first Baggy Greens are Sophie Molineux and Ashleigh Gardner, the spin bowling allrounders, Georgia Wareham, the leg spinner, and Tayla Vlaeminck, the young tearaway quick. With Molineux and Vlaeminck having put in impressive performances in the three-day tour game against England Academy they look to have pretty much sealed their spots in the team, leaving Wareham, Gardner and Delissa Kimmince fighting for the remaining place.

Australia originally named a 15-member squad for the Test out of which two players, Elyse Villani and Nicola Carey, were released to join Australia A for their 20-over match against the England Academy on Wednesday (July 17). Therefore, they are now left with 13 players, and three potential debutantes.

With the batting line up looking pretty settled, it is the selection of the bowlers that is causing headaches. A used pitch and spin-friendly conditions in Taunton suggest that the extra spinner may come into play, but Meg Lanning said Australia were would assess the pitch in the morning before finalising their XI.

"We’ve got some thoughts, but I think the pitch might look a little different again tomorrow morning, so we’re going to have to wait until we see that until we can name a team," Meg Lanning said on Wednesday. “We've got 15 players here who could  easily play a role within our squad so we will leave that to the last minute till we see what the pitch looks like tomorrow morning.”

While Wareham and Gardner are likely to be front-runners for the final spot, it is hard to discount Kimmince who could be effective on a slow surface with her cutters and changes of pace. With Test match cricket coming around only once in two years, the players are certainly excited about the opportunity to earn a Baggy Green— a chance not everyone gets.

"It’d be incredible, the opportunity to be able to put on the Baggy Green is pretty surreal, it’s what you dream of as a kid," Wareham told cricket.com.au ealier in the week. "If the opportunity comes, I’ll take it with both hands. But (I’m) just happy to be here regardless."

England on the other hand, have a couple of selection conundrums of their own. They will most certainly hand out one cap to Amy Jones, the opening batter, while Kirstie Gordon, the left-arm spinner who picked up eight wickets in the warm-up match against Australia, has an outside chance of playing on Thursday.

"Kirstie’s done very well in the warm-up game against the Australians and it’s put her in contention,” said England captain Heather Knight. “We’ll make a final decision (later) and that’ll be announced at the toss. We will consider all of the 13 and try and work out what our best combination is to take 20 wickets which we have to do to win this Test match.”

Australia lead the multi format series by six points after having swept the ODI-series 3-0. They need only two points to retain the Ashes— a draw at Taunton will do the trick.