England hope Villiers can spark fightback at ‘Fortress Chelmsford’
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.