By Michael Stafford-Jones

  • England Women are in Brisbane ready for the start of the Women’s Ashes
  • They come into the series on a high after their World Cup triumph this summer
  • Australia hope to retain the Ashes after winning the last series in England in 2015
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – Fresh from World Cup success in the summer, Heather Knight leads her talented England side into battle against the Australians on their own turf to try and win back the Women’s Ashes.

 

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On July 23, England Captain Heather Knight lifted the World Cup trophy while her teammates celebrated and the capacity crowd at Lord’s cheered enthusiastically. Now Knight and the rest of the squad will attempt to follow that momentous triumph by claiming back the Ashes from holders Australia, who won the last series in England in 2015.

 

Format and Recent History

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Since 2013, Women’s Ashes series have been decided by a points system based on the results of seven matches across three different formats. As in previous editions, the 2017 series will consist of three One-Day Internationals

(ODIs), three Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) and one Test match. For each of the ODIs and the T20Is, two points will be awarded for a win and one for a draw; and for the Test match, four points are on offer for a win and two for a draw.

In the 2013 series, England won five of the seven matches to record an emphatic 12-4 final scoreline. A few months later, hosts Australia won four of the seven matches but lost the Ashes 10-8 because six points were awarded to England for winning the only Test. After this apparent injustice, the rules were changed so that the winner of the Test match would subsequently only receive four points. With this new rule in place, Australia finally won a multi-format Ashes series when they travelled to England in the summer of 2015 and beat their hosts 10-6.

 

Women’s Ashes 2017 Schedule

22 October – 1st ODI, Brisbane (12.15am)

26 October – 2nd ODI, Coffs Harbour (4.40am)

29 October – 3rd ODI, Coffs Harbour (12.15am)

9-12 November – Test, North Sydney Oval (3.30am)

17 November – 1st T20I, North Sydney Oval (8.10am)

19 November – 2nd T20I, Canberra (3.35am)

21 November – 3rd T20I, Canberra (8.10am)

 

England squad to tour Australia 2017

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Heather Knight (captain), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor (w/k), Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danni Wyatt.

 

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Can England’s World Cup stars shine again in the Ashes?

Everyone in the England team contributed to the World Cup-winning campaign, but the performances of four players – Tammy Beaumont, Natalie Sciver, Sarah Taylor and Anya Shrubsole –really stood out.

Opening batter Beaumont was voted Player of the Tournament for her outstanding batting as she scored 410 runs at an average of 45.55, with one hundred and one fifty along the way. The Kent-born opener impressed everyone with her boundary-hitting and her consistency and maturity at the crease, and England will be hoping she can continue where she left off when the Ashes series begins.

Beaumont has only played five times against Australia and has never been a key player in an Ashes squad before, but her impressive performances since scoring her first international fifty in June 2016 (she has made three ODI hundreds and three ODI fifties) strongly indicate she will rise to the challenge.

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While Beaumont is relatively inexperienced, fellow batter Taylor is anything but. She is England Women’s third most-capped cricketer of all time (behind Charlotte Edwards and Jenny Gunn) and is set to play her 200th match for her country in the First ODI.

On her return to the team after some time out to deal with anxiety issues, Taylor quickly adjusted to international cricket again and had a superb World Cup. The highlight was her brilliant 147 during her England record ODI partnership of 275 with Beaumont against South Africa.

Happily for England, Taylor also has a good record against Australia: in 25 ODIs, she has scored 856 runs at an average of 34.24, with two hundreds and four fifties; and in 18 T20Is, she has notched up 428 runs and made four fifties. England may need her to be near her best to win the Ashes.

All-rounder Sciver was outstanding with the bat and good with the ball during the World Cup, scoring 369 runs (including two hundreds and a fifty) and taking seven wickets (including 3/3 against West Indies). Her powerful ball-striking meant she could take away matches away from the opposition in a manner reminiscent of Kevin Pietersen or Ben Stokes and enabled her to maintain a higher strike rate than any of the other top 10 run scorers in the tournament.

If Sciver performs at a level close to her best in the Ashes, Australia will find themselves in a lot of trouble. She is undoubtedly one of England’s most important players and seems to relish the big occasions.

Shrubsole is another player who appears to thrive under intense pressure, and her spell of 6/46 that propelled England to victory over India in the World Cup Final will never be forgotten. The most impressive aspect of her bowling is her control because it enables to land the ball exactly where she wants to most of the time. And when that control is combined with her calm temperament, it can be a lethal combination – as India discovered. If Shrubsole bowls, England will gain the upper hand in the Ashes.

 

Who are Australia’s most dangerous players?

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One of Australia’s best players is their regular captain Meg Lanning. It is a huge blow to the Wallabies’ chances that she will miss the entire series while she recovers from shoulder surgery. Lanning’s absence will increase the pressure on Australia’s other experienced players: Ellyse Perry, Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell, Nicole Bolton, Alyssa Healy, Elyse Villani and Jess Jonassen.

Of those names, Perry is the most eye-catching as she is arguably the best all-rounder in Women’s Cricket. Twice in the World Cup, she starred with ball and bat: against India in the group stage, she took 2-37 and scored 60 not out, and against South Africa, she took 2-47 and scored 55.  Most impressively of all, she also scored three other fifties in the tournament – including 70 against England – to end it with 404 runs at an average of 80.80. Like Sciver, Perry’s performances could swing the Ashes in her team’s favour.

Australia’s chief run-scorers apart from Lanning and Perry are typically Bolton and the vastly experienced Blackwell. Bolton has made a mightily impressive start to her ODI career and averages 43.54 in the 38 matches she has played so far, so England must find effective methods for dismissing her during the series. Blackwell, 35, has maintained a healthy average of 35.57 in her 141 ODIs and is a very important part of Australia’s middle-order.

In terms of bowling, Australia rely heavily on their two best spin options: Beams and Jonassen. Beams had an excellent World Cup, taking 12 wickets at an average of 22.16, while Jonassen took 9 wickets at 30.66. Expect both players to cause England’s batsmen plenty of problems in the Ashes.

 

So who will win the Women’s Ashes?

Both teams have some superb cricketers at their disposal, so expect the series to be tight. However, after their outstanding summer, and with Lanning missing for Australia, England should be considered slight favourites.

In terms of who has the advantage in each format, England have the edge in ODIs so will have to make sure they earn lead from those three matches as they are up first. Australia convincingly won the last Test match between the teams so they will be heavily fancied to repeat that success. And both teams are strong in T20Is so those three matches are arguably too close to call. It promises to be a fantastic month of action.

 

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