To be brutally honest, I haven’t had any desire to write about The Ashes. It’s been thoroughly depressing, not just because England lost, but because of the abject way in which they did so. Australia have been an impressive unit, but such a one sided series does not make for compulsive viewing. Apart from Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes, not a single England player came out of the series with much credit.
All is not lost, however, and I’m not just talking about the upcoming One Day and T20 matches. This Friday sees the start of the Women’s Ashes, with a Test Match at the WACA in Perth. Like the men’s team, the women go to Australia as the Ashes holders, but they will be hoping for a very different outcome.
This series will follow the same format as we saw in England last summer, with one test match, 3 ODIs and 3 T20 matches. The winner is decided by a points system; 6 points for winning the Test match (2 for a draw), and 2 points awarded to the winner of each of the shorter format matches. England won the series in England by 12 points to 4; after drawing the sole test match, they dominated the limited overs matches, winning the ODIs 2-1 and the T20s 3-0.
The format is novel, and the reaction from the players has been positive. It makes for a good contest where almost every match should have some importance and it forces the teams to adjust their line up, tactics and playing style to the various formats over quite a short period. Hopefully, it will also provide a way of saving Women’s Test cricket, which is, sadly, now only played regularly between England and Australia.
Back to back Ashes series for the men have felt like too much of a good thing (particularly for England fans), but for the Women, the more concentrated burst of high profile matches should provide a useful boost. The last 10 years have seen big strides being taken in the level of support given to women’s cricket, and the level of media coverage has also improved greatly, but there are a myriad of challenges still to negotiate.
Cricket Australia have led the way in offering full time contracts to a number of its senior players, the ECB offer their players a basic level of remuneration, plus opportunities for various forms of coaching work within the ECB and through the Chance to Shine charity, but many still have to hold down other jobs. This is a limiting factor at the moment, but hopefully as time goes on and the level of attention, and more importantly, sponsorship increases, this should improve.
Though the series in England last summer was perhaps closer than the final points tally suggests, it was an impressive comeback for England after they had lost both their World Cup and World T20 titles to Australia during the previous 12 months. England’s women will have the advantage of watching the mistakes that their male counterparts made, and they have focussed extensively on training for what awaits them. This included spending a month at Loughborough using bowling machines to replicate the pace and hot conditions they will encounter in Australia.
They are led by Charlotte Edwards, who took over the captaincy in 2005 and is one of the most experienced and successful women ever to play for England. Opening the batting with Edwards in the test match is likely to be Heather Knight, who hit a match saving 157 in the test match at Wormsley in 2013 and has started this tour well, scoring 123 in the warm up game against Australia A.
England will look for big runs from their wicket-keeper/batsman Sarah Taylor, who is a very classy player, reliable behind the stumps and with a stylish, positive batting style. The experienced Lydia Greenway also showed that she is coming into this series with good form after scoring 76 in the warm up game in Perth.
Their bowling line up will be lead by Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, both of who have recently returned from injuries. Both are powerful pace bowlers and each have said they are particularly looking forward to bowling at the WACA. It will also be interesting to see whether Kate Cross, who impressed during the tour of the West Indies, can make an impact in this series. One of the benefits of such as varied programme is that both teams will have to be clever in how vary their selections to suit the various formats and conditions they will experience and to deal with any injuries.
England’s spin options are less convincing, especially with the recent decision by Holly Colvin to take an extended break from cricket. That leaves the two Danielle’s, Wyatt and Hazell, who will face a tough challenge trying to get the ball to come alive on the Australian pitches.
As reigning World Cup and World T20 holders, Australia have a very strong squad, which, as well as being more comfortable in the conditions, will also have played a lot more competitive cricket in the lead up to the series. Like England, they have a very experienced captain in Jodie Fields, who will also keep wicket.
Much is expected of their young, newly appointed vice-captain Meg Lanning, who is likely to be their main run scoring threat, but they have runs right down the batting order, from the likes of Jess Cameron, Alex Blackwell, Jodie Fields and even Ellyse Perry.
Perry, who has also played international football for Australia, will lead the pace attack and is likely to be a big threat to England’s hopes. Other dangers will include seamer, Rene Farell and spinner, Erin Osbourne. The young, but precociously talented Holly Ferling will almost certainly get a chance at some point in the series, but only time will tell how good she can be.
All in all, it is set up to be a closely fought battle between the two best teams in women’s cricket. The sole test match in Perth will be crucial as a win there will set that team up with a very useful 6-0 series lead. Personally, I think Australia might just edge it this time around.
A big thank you to Don Miles for allowing me to use some of his images in this arcticle. Those wanting to know more about the women’s game are well advised to check out his site www.womenscricket.net
Friday 10 to Monday 13 January – Women’s Ashes Test, WACA, Perth
Sunday 19 January – 1st ODI, MCG, Melbourne
Thursday 23 January – 2nd ODI, MCG Melbourne
Sunday 26 January – 3rd ODI, Bellerive Oval, Hobart
Wednesday 29 January – 1st T20, Bellerive Oval, Hobart
Friday 31 January – 2nd T20, MCG, Melbourne
Sunday 2 February – 3rd T20, Stadium Australia, Sydney
BBC Radio 5 Live Extra will have live coverage of most of the series, switching to online only coverage when it clashes with other events.
Sky Sports will show live coverage of the 3 T20 matches.
England Test and ODI Squad: C Edwards (Captain, Kent), A Brindle (Sussex), K Brunt (Yorkshire), K Cross (Lancashire), G Elwiss (Sussex), L Greenway (Kent), J Gunn (Nottinghamshire), D Hazell (Yorkshire), A Jones (Warwickshire), H Knight (Berkshire), N Sciver (Surrey), A Shrubsole (Somerset), S Taylor (Sussex), L Winfield (Yorkshire), D Wyatt (Nottinghamshire).
England T20 Squad: C Edwards (Captain, Kent), A Brindle (Sussex), K Brunt (Yorkshire), G Elwiss (Sussex), N Farrant (Kent), L Greenway (Kent), J Gunn (Nottinghamshire), D Hazell (Yorkshire), A Jones (Warwickshire), H Knight (Berkshire), N Sciver (Surrey), A Shrubsole (Somerset), S Taylor (Sussex), L Winfield (Yorkshire), D Wyatt (Nottinghamshire).
Australian Test Squad: J Fields (Captain, QLD), M Lanning (VIC), A Blackwell (NSW), N Bolton (WA), J Cameron (VIC), S Coyte (NSW), S Elliott (VIC), R Farrell (ACT), H Ferling (QLD), R Haynes (NSW), E Osborne (NSW), E Perry (NSW), M Schutt (SA), E Villani (VIC)
Australian ODI Squad: J Fields (Captain, QLD), M Lanning (VIC), A Blackwell (NSW), N Bolton (WA), J Cameron (VIC), S Coyte (NSW), R Farrell (ACT), H Ferling (QLD), R Haynes (NSW), J Jonassen (QLD) E Osborne (NSW), E Perry (NSW), M Schutt (SA), E Villani (VIC)
Australian T20 Squad: J Fields (Captain, QLD), M Lanning (VIC), A Blackwell (NSW), J Cameron (VIC), S Coyte (NSW), R Farrell (ACT, H Ferling (QLD), A Healy (NSW), J Jonassen (QLD), E Osborne (NSW), E Perry (NSW), M Schutt (SA), E Villani (VIC)