Evergreen NSW quick Sarah Aley has capped a remarkable late-career surge to win selection in the Southern Stars World Cup squad.
The 32-year-old international rookie was the leading wicket-taker in the Sydney Sixers’ Women’s Big Bash League winning season and is one of seven NSW players in the team, joining youngsters Ashleigh Gardner and Belinda Vakarewa along with regulars Alex Blackwell, Alyssa Healy, Rachael Haynes and Ellyse Perry.
The squad has been chiselled down following a three-week training camp in Brisbane, and the final 15 will head into another camp on Monday for a fortnight to fine-tune their World Cup preparations.
Aley received the news on Saturday and admitted her first call-up to the Australian 50-over team came as a huge shock.
“It was a pretty exciting phone call, I was a little bit gobsmacked really because it’s not something that I was really expecting,” Aley said.
“After the camp I felt like I’d put in a really good showing up there in terms of what I could bring to the team and it was a good reward.”
Aley, who describes herself as a fine bottle of wine who gets better with age, felt an international career had passed her by until a stunning WBBL over the summer where she snared 28 wickets to spearhead the Sixers’ title charge.
That led to selection in Australia’s T20 squad, at which point Aley realised her international dream could still become a reality.
“Even though I didn’t get a game during that series, it gave me a bit of an idea that it was something that could happen,” Aley said.
“Knowing that the World Cup was only a few months away, it was something I could try and achieve and give myself every chance to try and be selected.
“That was probably the point where it became a bit more of a realistic idea. Twelve months ago it was definitely something that wasn’t in my sights.”
Should Aley play in the World Cup, she’ll become the oldest Southern Stars 50-over debutant in almost 45 years.
Fellow pace bowler Vakarewa is at the other end of the age spectrum and is the other bolter in the side after impressive performances for the Shooting Stars.
“Belinda Vakarewa is an exciting young talent who has made the most of her opportunities that have come her way with the Shooting Stars and more recently during the three-week camp held in Brisbane,” national selector Shawn Flegler said.
“She adds some extra firepower with her pace and we’re excited to see what she can do.
“Sarah Aley will also add some extra depth to our bowling attack and brings an incredible amount of experience to the group, which is invaluable in a tournament like this.
“Ashleigh Gardner is another young player that has really impressed and alongside Kristen Beams, Jess Jonassen and Amanda-Jade Wellington, will form a strong spin attack that provides a range of options with the ball.
“We’re pleased to have Rachael Haynes back in the squad after suffering an ankle injury earlier in the year and she too brings a wealth of experience having played in world cups and in English conditions.
“This is going to be one of the most tightly contested world cups in recent times and we have chosen 15 players that we believe are capable of leading Australia to victory.”
The Women’s World Cup begins on June 24 in England, with the final to be played at Lords on July 23.
Southern Stars Women’s World Cup final squad Sarah Aley NSW, 32 Kristen Beams VIC, 32 Alex Blackwell NSW, 33 Nicole Bolton WA, 28 Ashleigh Gardner NSW, 20 Rachael Haynes NSW, 30 Alyssa Healy NSW, 27 Jess Jonassen QLD, 24 Meg Lanning VIC, 25 Beth Mooney QLD, 23 Ellyse Perry NSW, 26 Megan Schutt SA, 24 Belinda Vakarewa NSW, 19 Elyse Villani WA, 27 Amanda-Jade Wellington SA, 19