Australia eye Bangladesh tour for pre-World Cup intel

Jess Jonassen had Nat Sciver-Brunt out reverse-sweeping PA Images/Getty

Australia have a focus on their first bilateral tour of Bangladesh as a valuable intelligence-gathering mission ahead of the T20 World Cup later in the year amid what shapes as a squeeze for spin-bowling spots.

They will face South Africa in a multi-format series starting at home in late January, with those T20Is also providing valuable preparation for the World Cup in September, but it's the first-hand experience over in Bangladesh that could be especially important. The ODI and T20I tour will take place at the end of March following the WPL.

"We've got a couple of venues in Bangladesh that the World Cup will be played at so that will be part of the investigating during the tour, about how wickets are going to play," Shawn Flegler, the national selector, said.

Australia's only previous trip to Bangladesh was when they won the 2014 T20 World Cup. Four members of the squad remain: Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry, Beth Mooney and Jess Jonassen.

There will be an open mind as to how conditions will play, but whatever combination Australia take into the final squad there will be no shortage of spin options. Ashleigh Gardner, Georgia Wareham and Jonassen are the three in the T20I squad to face South Africa with Alana King unable to find a space in that group but will return for the ODIs.

Adding to the depth has been the return from injury of left-arm spinner and allrounder Sophie Molineux, who will captain the Governor General's XI against South Africa. She lost her central contract in 2022 and has recently returned from a year-long layoff with an ACL injury. With an all-round skillset that the selectors admire, there is a chance she could put herself back in the reckoning.

"She's been highly-rated by the Australian set-up for a long time and just great to have her back playing," Flegler said. "It's pretty clear having a left-arm orthodox spinner playing international cricket is pretty good. We've been blessed with the amount of spin options we've had; we've had a left-arm spinner either Jess Jonassen or Soph involved in our World Cups over the last seven campaigns, so we'll see that continuing, I'm sure. It's going to be a tight squeeze over the next few series, but really blessed to have those options available to us."

Jonassen, meanwhile, has lost her position as a first-choice pick in Australia's white-ball sides having been dropped from the T20Is after Hayley Matthews' onslaught at North Sydney Oval late last year and not playing ODIs since the tour of Ireland after the Ashes, with Gardner taking on the mantle of senior spinner.

"Ash's performances over the last 12, 18, 24 months have been outstanding and she's taken on the senior spinner role and Georgia Wareham has come back into the team. Thought she bowled better and better as the tour went on in India," Flegler said. "[Georgia] also adds a pretty powerful lower-order batting option and is outstanding in the field.

"I've said a few times, we value those three skillsets really highly and if you can do all three that certainly gives you a leg up selection and that's where Georgia and Ash have got the nod at the moment. Jess is certainly still in discussions and in the squad."

Further highlighting the depth in Australia's spin stocks is that legspinner Amanda-Jade Wellington continues to be overlooked despite her regular domestic T20 success, which continued with a pivotal role in Adelaide Strikers' back-to-back WBBL titles.

After that tournament, Wellington said she was at peace with where she stood, but revealed that she could apply for a British passport and had not ruled out looking to play for England.

"It is in the back on my mind but making that decision would be really hard because there are some risks - for instance, it would make me an international player for the Big Bash," she told ABC Sport. "Technically the door is still open…I just haven't really explored it that much."

Flegler said the selectors had been in regular communication with Wellington and that she could continue to push for Australia honours.

"It's a personal decision for Amanda what she wants to do," he said. "But we certainly haven't said she'll never play for Australia again. Can imagine it's really frustrating for Amanda. If that's something she does want to pursue, then that's up to her."

Flegler also indicated he was hopeful of Australia arranging some extra fixtures before the T20 World Cup. Currently, after the tour of Bangladesh they have nothing on their calendar until the tournament.