‘Next level’: Teen phenom gets big shot as Aussie women’s Ashes squad revealed

Australia v Pakistan - ODI Series: Game 1
Phoebe Litchfield is in the Ashes squad. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Teenage batting sensation Phoebe Litchfield has inched closer to a Test debut after being named in Australia’s squad for an Ashes showdown with England in June.

Selectors largely backed the T20 World Cup winning side to attempt to retain the Ashes for a fifth consecutive series after naming a 15-player squad to face England this winter.

Litchfield, 19, smashed back-to-back half-centuries in her first two ODIs against Pakistan in January having also made her T20 debut for Australia in India.

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She comes in as the sole change to the squad from Australia’s South African triumph, replacing all-rounder Heather Graham, who has instead been named in the Australia A squad that will tour alongside the Ashes group.

That group also includes forgotten tearaway quick Tayla Vlaeminck, who was named in an Australia A squad.

Vlaeminck is closing in on full fitness and a key part of the national side’s plans, national selector Shawn Flegler said.

Beth Mooney has been backed to overcome the calf injury that ruled her out of the entire Women’s Premier League in India, while one of the tournament’s form players, Grace Harris, will be available for selection in all formats.

Flegler said Litchfield was an exciting addition to the group that won the World Cup.

“We’ve been fortunate to have a consistent side across all formats over the past couple of years, and as a result we have selected a similar group to the squad which won the T20 World Cup in February,” Flegler said.

“Phoebe Litchfield has taken her game to the next level in the past 12 months. We view her as a long-term player for Australia and it’s pleasing to reward her progress with selection in an Ashes squad.”

The reserve side will play England A in a concurrent series featuring three T20 matches and three one-day games as well as a warm-up match against England before the Ashes Test match.

WNCL Player of the Year Courtney Webb has been named in the A squad along with Scorpions teammates Amanda-Jade Wellington and Kate Peterson, while Vlaeminck and NSW left-arm quick Lauren Cheatle will lead the pace division.

Flegler said the A squad was designed to have a strong blend of youth and experience, while he left the door open for players to be promoted into the senior squad with strong performances on the tour.

“The Australia A squad contains experienced performers in domestic cricket along with several emerging players who we believe have exciting futures ahead of them,” he said.

“It’s hugely beneficial to have an Australia A component to the tour and provide an opportunity for our developing players to test themselves in conditions they may not experience in Australia.

“The nature of concurrent tours also offers flexibility and allows players to be available for and cross over into both squads, whether it be from a preparation perspective or to provide an opportunity at international level.”

Australia‘s Ashes squad: Meg Lanning (c), Alyssa Healy (vc), Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Grace Harris, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham

Australia A Squad: Maitlan Brown, Lauren Cheatle, Maddy Darke, Heather Graham, Nicole Faltum, Tess Flintoff, Charli Knott, Kate Peterson, Courtney Sippel, Tayla Vlaeminck, Courtney Webb, Amanda-Jade Wellington, Tahlia Wilson.