Tall quick bowler Stella Campbell has been called into Australia's Test squad in Canberra for the injured Tayla Vlaeminck as the home side deliberate on the best balance for their attack as they hunt the 20 wickets that could seal the Ashes.
Australia hold a 4-2 lead in the multi-format series following an opening victory and then two washouts in the T20Is in Adelaide. Victory in the Test would come with four points that would mean the Ashes were regained before the ODI series.
Vlaeminck was ruled out of this series and the upcoming ODI World Cup with a stress fracture in her right foot - the same injury which kept her out of the 2020 T20 World Cup - and the selectors have gone for the closest like-for-like replacement in Campbell who made her Test debut against India earlier in the season.
Notably, Campbell took 7 for 25 in a WNCL match at Manuka Oval earlier this month on a surface that was well grassed and there is much interest in what the pitch will be like come Thursday. After the rain in Adelaide there is the chance of further disruption during the four-day Test which would make it a challenge to force a result amid continued calls from players to add a fifth day.
"It's going to be pretty interesting what wicket we have for the first day… think there might be a little bit in it for the bowlers if that 50-over game is anything to go by," allrounder Ashleigh Gardner said. "When we played ACT down here for New South Wales, Stella was almost unplayable and to have her back into the Test squad is really exciting. The confidence she can take out of that match going into this match it's really exciting. Hopefully if she does play she can replicate that."
Rachael Haynes was captain of New South Wales when Campbell took her seven wickets. "Having seen first-hand the damage she did against ACT and the wicket...she'd definitely come into calculations," she said during the T20I series. "Particularly in red-ball cricket, where your ability to take wickets is obviously fundamental to winning."
Australia had a surfeit of bowling options in their Test against India on the Gold Coast in October and while some of those warranted their place as batters, it occasionally looked as though Meg Lanning had too many options to choose from.
The balance of the side for this match is still be confirmed but if Beth Mooney has recovered from her broken jaw (and signs were looking promising on Tuesday) there will likely be an extra batter in this game with Haynes, who missed the India Test through injury, available again. On the flip side, along with the absence of Vlaeminck, Australia will also be without key spinners Georgia Wareham and Sophie Molineux. Legspinner Alana King could be in line for a Test debut depending on conditions.
"Having lots of bowlers there's plenty of variety," Gardner said. "Guess that's the best thing about this team, pretty much everyone can bowl. Sometimes that's a good and bad thing having so many different options for Meg to choose from, potentially sometimes her not knowing who to go to and use those attacking options. [But] having plenty of options is definitely not a bad thing
"You've got play those bowlers and batters who will be matchwinners. Maybe in the past we haven't had bowlers who are really attacking, or bowling those attacking lines for as long as possible. Not playing a lot of Test cricket, it's hard to know how to go into it. All the chats we've had have been about taking those wickets. Sometimes in T20 cricket it's trying to reduce the runs whereas in Tests you need to take 20 wickets."