NOT THE ‘OTHER’ ASHES

Inside Sport - - ONE ON ONE WITH... -

The Aus­tralian women’s cricket team (don’t call us the South­ern Stars any­more) could set the tone for a huge Ashes sum­mer. The women’s ver­sion of the old ri­valry is played over all three for­mats: three ODIs, the first in Bris­bane on Oc­to­ber 22, the one day-night Test to be held at North Syd­ney Oval, and three T20s, fin­ish­ing up in Can­berra on Novem­ber 21.

A lot has changed since the last series in 2015, when the Aussies were vic­to­ri­ous. Eng­land beat Australia in the re­cent World Cup for the first time since 1993, and then went on to win the World Cup in front of a packed home crowd at Lord's.

To re­tain the Ashes, Australia is go­ing to have to change the mo­men­tum that the English play­ers have re­cently gained, and that cer­tainly isn’t go­ing to be an easy feat. Aussie cap­tain Meg Lan­ning will be miss­ing; as a group, the Aussies have been quite vo­cal around the fact that they are a side that doesn’t rely on one or two play­ers. With the best bat­ter on the side­lines, the proof will be in their per­for­mances.

You can ex­pect the usual bril­liance from Ell­yse Perry, whose record with the bat since 2014 has been out­stand­ing. Also ex­pect a huge series for new cap­tain Rachel Haynes. Her resur­gence back into in­ter­na­tional cricket is a timely one, as she now has an op­por­tu­nity to se­cure her spot for fu­ture tours and po­ten­tially win an Ashes series as cap­tain.

The mid­dle order of El­yse Vil­lani, Alex Black­well and Alyssa Healy will be the key to Australia post­ing or chas­ing sub­stan­tial to­tals. But it is the bowl­ing depart­ment that the Aus­tralians need to sort out be­fore the first de­liv­ery is bowled. Twice dur­ing the World Cup, the at­tack was chal­lenged and didn’t have the an­swers – in the end, Har­man­preet Kaur’s 171 for In­dia in the semi-fi­nal was what ended their cam­paign.

The Aussies will need to find a way to squeeze in an­other bowler, most likely a seamer, given the con­sis­tency of spin­ners Jess Jonassen and Kris­ten Beams. The tricky ques­tion is how – ex­pect a bat­ter to miss out.

Eng­land is on cloud nine and rightly so. Un­der the calm guid­ance of Heather Knight, who has an abil­ity to get the best out of her play­ers, the en­tire English team was able to per­form un­der im­mense pres­sure dur­ing the World Cup.

Tammy Beau­mont en­joyed a break­out per­for­mance, fin­ish­ing as the lead­ing-run scorer and even­tu­ally be­ing named player of the tour­na­ment. Anya Shrub­sole’s spell of 6/46 in the fi­nal was the defin­ing moment that swung the game in favour of Eng­land. And let’s not for­get that Sarah Tay­lor, Eng­land’s no.3 and wicket-keeper, made a re­turn to in­ter­na­tional cricket af­ter a year out of the game and performed ad­mirably. The scary thing is that ev­ery­one knows that she has an­other gear to go in terms of her bat­ting.

The big­gest chal­lenge for this team is a han­gover from the World Cup. The first game of this points-based series is cru­cial. Just like a tour­na­ment, mo­men­tum for each team is vi­tal and both teams will be want­ing to ex­ert their as­cen­dancy from the out­set.

An­other de­cid­ing fac­tor will be the fans. The early-round match in the World Cup be­tween these two sides was sold out, and when it came down to the wire, the crowd in Bris­tol rode ev­ery ball. Eng­land even­tu­ally won by only four runs.

The Aus­tralian fans seemed to have re­ceived the mes­sage – the first ODI in Bris­bane sold out Al­lan Bor­der Field a month in ad­vance. Maybe it’s the fans want­ing to get their Ashes fix early, but it will also re­mind the Poms that they are in Australia, and it isn’t go­ing to be an easy ride.

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