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Top WBBL wicket-taker Lauren Cheatle eyes Australian Test debut in India

Left-arm quick Lauren Cheatle is within touching distance of an Australian Test debut, named to tour India four years after injuries derailed her international career.

Cheatle was one of two new faces in Australia’s squad for the multi-format series in India, slated to be part of the group for next month’s Test before returning home.

Australia’s selectors on Tuesday opted against naming a captain to replace Meg Lanning following her international retirement last week, with a full-time successor to be finalised before the tour.

Alyssa Healy remains favourite to take on the role and is confident she will overcome a bite from her dog to play in the Test in Mumbai on 21 December before the three ODIs and T20s.

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Lanning’s absence in recent series means there are no significant changes in the batting with Phoebe Litchfield having slotted into the top order and all-rounder Heather Graham recalled to the group.

But there is a reward for Cheatle, who was once New South Wales’ youngest ever contracted player and an Australian debutante at age 17 in 2016.

The 25-year-old has since undergone four separate shoulder reconstructions, battled a stress fracture in her back and dealt with a skin cancer diagnosis.

She last played international cricket in 2019, having been struck down by a spate of injuries since.

Cheatle has rebounded to find fitness and form over the past 12 months though, taking 11 wickets on the Australia A tour of England.

She has since been the equal-leading wicket-taker in the WBBL for the Sydney Sixers with 19 at an average of 13.68, saying last week she was bowling better than ever.

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“I just feel a bit more in rhythm, not just stopping and starting every three or four games,” Cheatle said.

“I think that shows performance wise I feel like I’m bowling with a bit more rhythm and I’m not making silly errors that I may have done in the past. That also comes with experience. I mean, I’m 10 years into my career, hopefully with many more to come. I’m just pumped to be on the park and trying to do my role as best as I can.”

Cheatle’s selection comes ahead of housemate Hannah Darlington, who has also overcome injuries to be in career-best form in the WBBL this year.

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Australia’s litany of spinners means they have not had to add extras for the multi-format series, with Ashleigh Gardner, Alana King, Jess Jonassen and Georgia Wareham all regulars in the squad.

“I think we already picked a squad that suits Indian conditions,” coach Shelley Nitschke said.

Australia will rely on Gardner to perform with the bat as well against India.

“We’ve got sort of someone like Ash Gardner who’s a spinner and also a top-order bat, and we always play a few spinners,” Nitschke said.

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“It’s just a matter of when we get there what it looks like and what we think that the best options are for that particular game.”

Australia squad for India: Darcie Brown, Lauren Cheatle (Test only), Heather Graham, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Grace Harris (white-ball only), Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham.