SYDNEY: When a calf injury ended Beth Mooney’s Women’s Premier League campaign after just three balls, her mind went straight to one thing:
“Shit, is it going to be right for the Ashes?”
While losing their captain was disastrous for the Gujarat Giants, thankfully for Australia the repercussions were far less severe.
Almost three months on, Mooney’s left calf is back to full capacity with the prolific left-hander currently part of Australia’s pre-Ashes camp in Brisbane.
With a hat-trick of T20 World Cup titles to her name (2018, 2020 and 2023) and an ODI World Cup as well (2022), Mooney admits she has a burning desire to do well in the Test arena, where she hasn’t yet been able to match the stellar returns of the white-ball formats.
Mooney has played four Tests and although he’s passed fifty on two occasions with a highest score of 63; her average of 26.28 is half of what she produces in ODIs (52.45).
Unusually, Australia have three Tests in the next nine months with red-ball matches against India (away) and South Africa (at home) to follow and Mooney knows she’ll have no better opportunity to nail the big score that has eluded her in the longest format.
“That’s been a bit of a demon on my shoulder in the last few (Tests), I haven’t quite conquered that yet,” Mooney told cricket.com.au.
“It’s going to be really tough conditions to be able to do that (in England).
“But being able to play a couple of Test matches over summer will be really helpful with working out the plan … because obviously it’s pretty different to the white-ball formats.
“It’s something that all the batters want to do for sure, but first and foremost, it’s how can I get the team into a position where we can win the Test.”
Her new captain Healy also has a modest record in Test cricket.
Healy’s six Tests have brought her one half-century at an average of 23.60, and she echoed Mooney’s thoughts about wanting to make a mark in the upcoming Test outings.
“Having a hundred in all three formats is definitely a driving force,” Healy told cricket.com.au.
“I only really got a crack every two years, so to have three opportunities in the next six months is really exciting.
“It’s not top of my priority list – if I retire and that doesn’t happen – that’s completely fine.
“Whatever opportunities come in this Test match it will be good to just go out there and play Test cricket with the Dukes ball. I mean, that’s awesome.”
Australia’s top order, especially in the Test arena, will look different with the absence of Meg Lanning due to a ‘medical issue’ and Healy flagging a slide down the order.
Mooney, who has batted right throughout the order in her four Tests, took the No.3 position in Australia’s most recent Test match against England in January 2022.
Where she lines up this time around though doesn’t faze the 29-year-old.
“I’m happy to bat wherever I fit in,” Mooney said.
“I’ve been lucky to bat in a number of different positions in the team across the last few years and there’s not one in particular that I hate or one in particular I love.
“I enjoy being the person that they can ask, ‘can you bat here or here?’
“There will be a couple of spots up the top (of the order) which will be really exciting and challenging at the same time. But I’m pretty lucky and grateful that I can probably cope anywhere at the moment.”
Healy will consider giving away opening position too, having held a spot at the top of Australia’s order for the previous three Tests.
The wicketkeeper was dismissed for a pair in her last outing against England in 2022, and coach Shelley Nitschke is open to switching the role of the destructive right hander.
“It’s a big workload to keep in a Test match, and then expect her to head out there and open up the batting as well,” Nitschke told reporters on Monday.
“To be physically and mentally able to do that, it’s a tough call. So that’s a decision and discussion that we’ll have … but it’s certainly one that I’m open to because I understand it’s pretty big ask to do what she does in Test match cricket.”
The potential changes have 20-year-old Phoebe Litchfield firming for her Test debut after the opener impressed in her maiden ODI series against Pakistan in January, scoring two unbeaten half-centuries.
Australia squad: Alyssa Healy (c), Tahlia McGrath (vc), Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Grace Harris, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham