Eng­land hope Vil­liers can spark fight­back at ‘Fortress Chelms­ford’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Cricket - By Is­abelle West­bury

Hav­ing watched the way in which Mid­dle­sex’s Tim Murtagh dis­man­tled Eng­land men’s bat­ting line-up on his home ground for Ire­land, Eng­land women’s coach Mark Robin­son might be an­gling for some­thing sim­i­lar. He has se­lected the un­capped Es­sex all-rounder Mady Vil­liers in Eng­land women’s Twenty20 squad to take on Aus­tralia in the fi­nal part of the multi-for­mat Ashes se­ries, which be­gins at Chelms­ford, Es­sex’s home ground, tonight.

Fol­low­ing a draw in the one-off Test at Taun­ton last week, Aus­tralia, as hold­ers, have al­ready re­tained the Ashes af­ter a white­wash of Eng­land in the three pre­ced­ing one-day in­ter­na­tion­als. How­ever, should Eng­land win all three T20IS, they could level the se­ries and re­peat the feat they achieved in Aus­tralia two years ago. They will, nev­er­the­less, have to try and do so with­out ex­pe­ri­enced all-around Jenny Gunn who was ruled out of the se­ries last night with a side strain. The 33-year-old will be­gin treat­ment im­me­di­ately and will not be re­placed in the squad.

“It’s al­most like a one-off T20 se­ries and we need to give it ev­ery­thing across these last three matches,” cap­tain Heather Knight said. “We came back strongly in Aus­tralia in 2017 and it would feel very dif­fer­ent if we ended up at 8-8. That has to be our aim now and we want to fin­ish strongly.”

“We have com­pletely un­fin­ished busi­ness at the mo­ment,” coun­tered Matthew Mott, the Aus­tralia head coach. “That’s the beauty of this se­ries. It’s such a tac­ti­cal game in terms of the se­ries where it’s at. First of all we want to win in Chelms­ford, then the T20 se­ries, but it’s still open. Eng­land will try to draw the se­ries and we know what that felt like last time, so we’re very keen to avoid that.”

Eng­land’s 2017 come­back is ob­vi­ously a moot point for the Aus­tralian con­tin­gent. Pre-se­ries the Aus­tralia seamer and the world’s top-ranked T20 bowler Megan Schutt was quick to high­light this. “My last [Ashes] mem­o­ries are from b----y los­ing a Twenty20 game, de­fend­ing 190 and fail­ing,” laughed Schutt.

An added in­cen­tive for both teams is that this se­ries sig­nals the start of their re­spec­tive prepa­ra­tions for the World Twenty20 next year. “There’s a World Cup in Fe­bru­ary in Aus­tralia,” said Robin­son. “These games are prepa­ra­tion, to get your best for­mu­las and find out who can han­dle pres­sure.”

Eng­land, who have been widely out­played through­out this se­ries, could not have picked a bet­ter venue to start their come­back. Nick­named “Fortress Chelms­ford”, the Es­sex county ground has hosted Eng­land’s women on 14 oc­ca­sions. They have won 14 times. This in­cludes four games against Aus­tralia.

Vil­liers’s in­clu­sion is a nod to the need for Eng­land to strengthen their bat­ting depth. Vil­liers proved her cre­den­tials ear­lier this month when she hit 30 runs from 15 balls bat­ting at No8 in the last Eng­land Academy match against Aus­tralia A.

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