By Michael Stafford-Jones

  • Australia retain the Women’s Ashes trophy after gaining an 8-4 lead from the first five matches
  • England fight back to tie the series 8-8 after winning the final two T20s
  • Ellyse Perry, Beth Mooney and Megan Schutt lead the way as the Southern Stars shine
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – Australia retain the Women’s Ashes in front of impressive crowds after a closely-fought series ends 8-8, but England’s T20 performances restore some much-needed pride.

 

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England’s slow start cost them dearly

Excellent performances in the final two matches of the Women’s Ashes earned England a commendable 8-8 draw in the multi-format series. However, they found their form too late as Australia had already ensured they would retain the trophy before those games took place.

England’s task was always going to be enormous after they lost the first two matches of the series – two ODIs – as they then had to win at least four of the five remaining clashes to regain the Ashes. Led by captain Heather Knights superb batting, England won the Third ODI and drew the only Test to give themselves a chance. But a fired-up Australian team quickly ended their hopes in the First T20 as they skittled the tourists’ batting line-up to reduce them to 132/9, then knocked off the runs in just 15.5 overs to maintain their grip on the trophy.

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England preparations ahead of the series were badly affected when one of their tour matches was completely wiped out by heavy rain and the other was reduced to just 18 overs. This meant the players began the First ODI without any meaningful practice under their belts, and unfortunately it showed in their performances: the batters looked rusty, the fielding was sloppy and the bowlers were good at times and lacklustre at others.

Taking the interrupted preparation into account, perhaps England’s loss in the First ODI can be excused. However, it is reasonable to expect to see an improvement in the Second ODI, and the tourists failed to produce one. England found their form in the Third ODI, and showed how good they are at times during the rest of the series, but the damage was done in the first two ODIs – they really needed to find a way to win one of them to be successful in their bid to regain the Women’s Ashes.

 

Australia’s leading lights outperformed England’s

Ellyse Perry produced one outstanding innings and made several other useful contributions with bat and ball, Rachael Haynes led well in Meg Lanning’s absence and scored runs in most matches, Megan Schutt took seven more wickets than any other player on either team, Jess Jonassen was economical throughout the series and took crucial wickets, and Beth Mooney shone in the T20s.

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For England, Knight led the way with four fifties, Georgia Elwiss batted well in the Test and Danielle Wyatt was superb in the T20s. However, all the rest of the batters averaged less than 30 in the Women’s Ashes, which is considerably below the level of performance required to win a series as challenging as this.

To make matters worse for the tourists, Anya Shrubsole only took three wickets in six matches and Katherine Brunt toiled hard but was not as effective as the Australian seamers. The only area where England outperformed their hosts was in the spin department, as Alex Hartley, Sophie Ecclestone, Laura Marsh and Danielle Hazell took a total of 21 wickets compared to the 19 taken by the Australian spinners.

However, Natalie Sciver was arguably the biggest disappointment of all. She scored just 139 runs in seven matches at an average of 19.85 and only took two wickets in the 43 overs she bowled. The all-rounder also took six catches in the series and pulled off two smart run-outs in the opening match, but her performances as a whole fell a long way short of the standards she set in the 2017 World Cup. It would be harsh to pin England’s failure to regain the Women’s Ashes on Sciver, but the tourists needed her to step up and she was unable to, which put more pressure on everyone else.

It was a very encouraging series for Women’s Cricket

As The Guardian reported, the last time the Women’s Ashes was held in Australia in 2013/14, a few hundred attended the only Test and the grounds were largely empty for the T20s. This time around, 12,600 people attended the Test match over the course of the four days and each of the three T20s brought in around 4,000 spectators.

What a massive difference that is, and it demonstrates the extent to which the popularity of women’s cricket has exploded in the space of four years. The Women’s Big Bash helped enormously, the Kia Super League continued its excellent work and the 2017 World Cup was a stunning success which provided the perfect platform for the Women’s Ashes to build on.

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Happily, the series delivered in style. Although England started slowly and some of their players underperformed, four of the seven matches were very closely contested, there were some truly outstanding individual performances and there was loads of other entertaining cricket for the ever-increasing crowds to enjoy.

There were highlights throughout the Women’s Ashes. After England posted a below-par total in the First ODI, their bowlers stepped up and almost snatched an unlikely victory. Then Nicole Bolton, Alyssa Healy, Perry and Haynes produced a one-day batting masterclass to propel Australia to 296/6 in the second ODI. Next to step up and show her quality was Knight, as she delivered a composed 88 to guide her team to their first victory of the series.

Perry’s magnificent double-century in the Test will live long in the memory even if the match itself will not, and Mooney took Australia to the decisive eight-point mark in style with her blistering 86 from 56 balls in the First T20. Then England found the collective excellence they had been searching for all tour during their win in the Second T20. But perhaps the best match of all was saved for last, as Mooney made a brilliant 117 to power Australia to 178/2, only to watch in horror as Wyatt scored a century at a quicker rate than her to take England to victory.

 

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The next Women’s Ashes is due to take place in England in 2019.

 

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