Shepparton News

Upping pace on Test push



If ever there was a case for Cricket Australia to introduce four-day women’s cricket at a domestic level, the example is Hannah Darlington.

Darlington is a chance to make her Test debut for Australia against India tomorrow, helping spearhead a new-look pace attack.

Incredibly, Darlington’s last game of cricket that went for more than a day was in January 2016, playing for the St Clair Hawks with the boys in under-15s at Penrith.

It’s hardly the ideal preparatio­n for a Test debut.

But Australia’s players insist they won’t come into tomorrow’s Gold Coast Test underdone.

They’ve trained with a pink ball in the nets, and NSW-based players have spent a winter preparing for it in locked-down Sydney.

‘‘We’ve been having net sessions dedicated with the whole Breakers team to four-day cricket,’’ Darlington said.

‘‘So once a week the net session would become a four-day cricket net.

‘‘You’d bowl as if you were setting up a batter.

‘‘You’d bat as if you were you know trying to save the day or batting up the top of the order putting the bad balls away.’’

Darlington is also yet to play with a pink ball in an official match, but she has trained under lights.

And without domestic long-form cricket, Australia’s red-ball experience is also limited to training, ahead of an Ashes Test in February.

‘‘It would be the dream to play for my state in multi-format cricket,’’ Darlington said.

‘‘And to have that opportunit­y to learn how to play the game a bit better in those types of formats.

‘‘But saying that in terms of the pre-season and the scheduling we’ve got at the moment, it’s really tricky to try and fit that in.’’

It comes as long-form cricket remains one of the key questions around Cricket Australia’s annual Press for Progress report.

COVID-19 caused a drop in female participat­ion, but numbers increased at the entry-level blast program where one-in-five participan­ts are now female.

At an elite level, CA chief executive Nick Hockley yesterday pushed for parity across all formats, with a clear shift at head office towards more Test cricket for women.

WA Cricket boss Christina Matthews also backed that cause, claiming four Tests through as many multi-format series a year would be ideal for female players.

But she is aware a balance must be struck at domestic level, needing to prepare players for red-ball cricket amid difficulti­es with ground bookings and a calendar logjam.

‘‘I know the girls when they get to an Australia level they want to play it,’’ Matthews said.

‘‘But you talk to young girls they want to play T20s. So you’ve got this balance that you’ve got to get with it.’’

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