Teenage quick Lauren Cheatle is on track to make her cricket return in New South Wales’ first match of the domestic season in September after recovering from a back injury.
Cheatle, 19, was ruled out mid-way through the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes last summer after scans confirmed she’d sustained a back stress fracture.
It meant she missed out on the remainder of the domestic summer, consigned to carrying drinks through what was meant to have been her first season in the Sydney Sixers magenta.
But in exciting news for Australian cricket, the left-arm quick has resumed bowling off her full run and now has her sight set on playing an uninterrupted season for NSW in the 50-over Women’s National Cricket League, and for Sydney Sixers in the Rebel WBBL.
“I’m really happy with how it’s going,” Cheatle told cricket.com.au.
“It was probably the smartest thing to do, to (pull out of the Ashes and) start rehab straight away and then have a full pre-season with the National Performance Squad and the Breakers.
“I’m five or six overs at a time which is really exciting – it felt really strange coming off my full run a couple of weeks ago after an eight-month break, which is the longest I’ve been away from cricket.
“I feel really good so I’m hoping it’ll hold up for the whole season ahead.”
The injury was also another incredibly frustrating setback in what’s been a horror run with injury for Cheatle since she burst onto the international stage aged 17 in 2016.
She was sidelined for much of the 2016-17 Rebel WBBL season due to illness, before she suffered a shoulder injury while training for a T20I series against New Zealand in early 2017.
Cheatle returned to make her ODI debut in Auckland in February 2017 and earned a place in Australia’s preliminary 2017 World Cup squad, only to be ruled out of the tournament when it was determined she required a shoulder reconstruction.
Undergoing that surgery in May 2017, she began bowling again last August and was pushing for a place in Australia’s XI during the Women’s Ashes last summer when the stress fractures were discovered.
Cheatle then missed out on an Australian contract for 2017-18, but was instead handed a spot in the women’s National Performance Squad and has spent the majority of the last two months at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane living, training and learning alongside her 12 fellow squad members.
“It’s the ideal place to be (in Brisbane) when you’re rehabbing, it’s a world-class facility,” Cheatle said.
“To have my recovery overseen by the Australian physio and (strength and conditioning coach) was really good, to come back with a bit more bounce in my step rather than being a bit flat.”
Australia have a busy summer approaching, with a three-match home T20I series to be played against New Zealand from September 29 before an away tour against Pakistan.
From there, Australia travel to the Caribbean for the World T20 in November before turning home for the WBBL|04 Opening Weekend on December 1-2.
While Australia would dearly love to have a fully-fit, in-form Cheatle at their disposal this summer, the NSW quick just wants to get back onto the park – and she’s penciling in the Breakers’ opening WNCL game against Queensland on September 21.
“Hopefully I’ll get a full season on the park,” she said. “I’m striving to get into the Breakers side for that first match on the Gold Coast and hopefully I can play every game for them this year.
“I’m also really looking forward to the Big Bash and playing for the Sixers for the first time.
“And everyone who plays cricket really wants to play for Australia, so obviously that’s a major goal this year and every year, but for now I’d be really happy to stay on the park for the Breakers and Sixers.”
Even if Cheatle can’t force her way into Australia’s World T20 squad, there’s also the opportunity to travel to India with Australia A in October.
“That would be a fantastic opportunity if it arises, hopefully a lot of the NPS girls will be in that squad.”
Commonwealth Bank T20I series v NZ
September 29: First T20I, North Sydney Oval, Sydney
October 1: Second T20I, Allan Border Field, Brisbane
October 5: Third T20I, Manuka Oval, Canberra
Commonwealth Bank ODI series v NZ
February 22: First ODI, WACA Ground, Perth
February 24: Second ODI, Karen Rolton Oval, Adelaide
March 3: Third ODI, Junction Oval, Melbourne