The allrounder could have a vital role to play if Australia’s injury situation doesn’t improve
The pink ball won’t prompt Ashleigh Gardner to go back into her shell this week, when Australia’s clean-striking allrounder plays her first Test on home soil.
Gardner, 24, made her Test debut on the 2019 Ashes tour but the day-night clash with India, beginning at Metricon Stadium on Thursday, shapes as her first chance to don the baggy green in Australia.
She has been regarded as one of the sport’s most damaging batters since 2017, when she belted a then-record WBBL ton in just 47 balls.
Gardner, fresh from Sunday’s knock of 67 that was the highest score of her ODI career and featured 10 boundaries, won’t overcomplicate things as she quickly switch formats.
“It’s about still sticking to my strengths. Not going into my shell is the biggest thing,” Gardner told AAP. “That’s what the coaches have said to me the whole time – no matter the format, my game doesn’t really change.
“I have that freedom within this side that I can still play naturally and not shy away from my strengths. Putting the bad balls away and respecting the balls between. Build an innings and don’t have that over-restraint … it’s not a huge difference to one-day cricket.
“It’ll be a special occasion for everybody. We don’t get to play many Test matches.”
Gardner, whose offspin will also be crucial in the contest that could settle the multi-format series decided via a points system, batted at No. 9 against England in her only Test.
But, with 86 international matches to her name and several team-mates in doubt because of injuries, an elevation up the order could soon be on the cards.
Australia will train at Metricon Stadium on Tuesday, when legspinner Georgia Wareham (quad) and star batters Rachael Haynes (hamstring) and Beth Mooney (hamstring) will seek to prove their fitness.
Hannah Darlington, who last week became the third Indigenous woman to play for Australia, is one of several youngsters in the mix to make Test debuts as the hosts regroup from a defeat that snapped their 26-game ODI winning streak.
Gardner, a proud Muruwari woman and Aboriginal role model whose aunt Doris Shillingsworth addressed the squad last year, presented 19-year-old Darlington with her cap prior to the series-opening ODI.
“It was an absolute honour and privilege,” Gardner said. She’s shown throughout her short career that she is confident in her abilities. I know if she gets the chance to play Test cricket or in the T20s, she’ll do her best and put in 100 per cent.”