Heading into the World Cup in New Zealand, England would be a bit worried about the form of their openers. The tour started on a positive note with Danielle Wyatt smashing 70 and forming a strong stand with Tammy Beaumont. However, things didn’t go according to plan in the Test and the three one-dayers which followed. Lauren Winfield-Hill got scores of 4, 33, 13 and 24 before she was left out from the final ODI.
Despite having tested Wyatt in the top order last year, England went ahead with Emma Lamb in the final game of the series. The young opener got a duck on debut, making things worse for the England think tank. Beaumont has been a vital cog for the side since the last World Cup, but her returns in this series were underwhelming, despite her fighting 101-ball 50 in the final ODI. In short, England’s opening batting doesn’t look ideal for the upcoming mega event.
Fast bowlers impress but Ecclestone's form a concern
One can make an argument that the England bowlers got some helpful wickets to bowl on, but for the most part in the series, they turned up. From Katherine Brunt’s spell in the Test to Kate Cross’ inswinging deliveries in the ODIs, the bowling side of things looks a lot more sorted. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say, the batters let them down in the ODI series.
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Having said that, England will have to make sure that they are able to manage the workload of their senior bowlers, Anya Shrubsole and Brunt. Heading into the World Cup, they also need to sort out a first-choice attack and their back-ups. On top of that, Sophie Ecclestone, who has been the first-choice spinner for quite some time, didn’t turn up. Now, it could be that the Aussies understood the threat and dealt with it well, but it will be crucial for England to figure out if something is not working right for their premium spinner.
Lack of preparation
Before coming into the Ashes, England did have a camp in Oman. However, upon landing in Australia, they had to serve a quarantine period, deal with changes in schedule and venues, and get transferred from bubble to bubble. In a way, it won’t be wrong to say that they were cooked by the time the ODI series began.
Add the fact that they haven’t played any international game since September, you get why lack of preparation could’ve been a factor, for what turned out to be an underwhelming show in the end. There is no doubt that they met a far superior side, in their home conditions, but England’s overall performance in the Ashes, especially in the ODI series, leaves much to be desired.
Horses for courses
It is not that Australia kept trying different combinations, but whenever England threw a challenge, they turned up with a new hero. Tahlia McGrath started off with an all-round show in the only T20I which was played. Meg Lanning was ca lass apart whenever she got going, Ellyse Perry turned the magic on in one of the ODIs, while Annabel Sutherland matured a step further.
The debut of Alana King was extremely pleasing to watch, while Ashleigh Gardner was in the thick of things with the bat during the Test. Alyssa Healy’s form has been a talking point, but considering her stroke play in the final ODI, it wouldn’t be fair to say she is out of form. Lastly, Rachael Haynes and Beth Mooney continued to be the rescue experts for the Aussies, highlighting why any team coming up against them doesn't just need to get past a few key players.
Remarkable depth of the side
The depth of the Australian cricket team has been proven quite a number of times and it won’t be incorrect to say that they have enough quality players in the pipeline to field two XIs. But this Ashes once again proved the immense depth which Matthew Mott’s team has, in terms of covering all the three facets of the game.
To put it into perspective, Australia’s opening bowler is Ellyse Perry, who also bats at no. 4, while their batting ends with the no. 10. With players like McGrath, Gardner, Jonassen, King, Perry and Sutherland, Australia is well stocked when it comes to the all-rounder’s department. So much so that some people might not even remember Nicola Carey played the second ODI, without bowling or batting. There isn’t a new picture we can paint describing the depth of this Aussie side, but reiterating it always helps in understanding how strong they are.
Australia are beatable
Now, every side that plays cricket is beatable. But, lately, the Australian side has been giving an impression that they aren’t that. Especially, after their run of 26 wins in ODIs, the narrative has grown stronger. However, this summer, they faced possibly their toughest challenges from India and then England.
There were several moments in this series when England were able to push the hosts under pressure, especially in the thrilling Test in Canberra, but their ability to bounce back was impressive.
Add to that the fact that almost every time the Aussies found someone different stepping up and you have the blueprint of a legendary team. But, what this summer has shown is that Australia can be vulnerable when put under pressure. However, against a side like this, being ruthless for half an hour isn’t enough and the teams facing them have to be relentless in their approach throughout the match to break the spirit of this team.