Australia coach Matthew Mott says the bitter taste left at the end of the most recent women’s Ashes campaign is driving his team to be ruthless.
Australia retained the prized trophy on home soil in 2017, but the multi-format series ended on a somewhat sour note for the hosts. Having already ensured they would keep their hands on the trophy with two matches remaining, they then dropped those final games to see the series finish level on eight points apiece.
That failure to properly finish off their opponents has driven Mott’s team through the 18 months since, a period in which they’ve claimed ODI series whitewashes against India, New Zealand and Pakistan, and T20I series sweeps against New Zealand and Pakistan, while also winning the T20 World Cup.
Now they plan to continue that momentum when the first ODI gets underway in Leicester on July 2.
“It’s a huge factor, everyone in that team felt a bitter taste at the end of that series,” Mott said from Loughborough on Monday.
“We’d done the hard work and just took the foot off the throat. We talk a bit about finishing teams off and it really has been a motivating factor for the last while in how we’ve played the game and in all the series we’ve played since.
“We want the intensity on the last day of the series to be as good as the first.
“It has been a huge factor in our minds and one of the themes here is unfinished business. It was good to hold on to the Ashes but we want to come over here and win the Ashes this time.”
“They own the one-day World Cup and we’ve got the T20 World Cup, so this is probably the defining (series) to seeing which is the best team,” Mott said.
“We really hold that (Ashes) trophy up in high esteem because it shows consistency over a period of time in different conditions.
“So I think it’s got a real context and relevance for us.
“As we’ve found, we’ve been on the bad end of World Cups where you can have an off hour or two but the best team will win this Ashes series.
“You’ve got nowhere to hide, you’ve got seven games, you’ve got a Test match in the middle – you can’t say you’re unlucky if you don’t win because there’s an opportunity to have a bad window, but the best team will definitely win this series.
“We obviously want to be that team, and we’ve got plenty of motivation to do that so it’s an exciting time.
“It’s an easy trap to fall into that we’ve got a massive nine months coming up, but from the players point of view they’re really focused on making sure this Ashes is our first port of call.”
The Ashes also mark the start of Australia’s busiest-ever year, with the series in England to be followed by a limited-overs tour of the Caribbean in September ahead of a home series against Sri Lanka later the same month.
The first standalone Rebel WBBL and a T20I tri-series against India and England will follow before the biggest event of them all: the T20 World Cup, to be played in Australia in February-March next year.
“One of the things we’ve spoken a lot about is lowering our eyes and just making sure that we treat each series in isolation,” Mott said.
“I think the danger is that you look at that schedule and think ‘gees, there’s a lot of cricket’.
“And obviously from a commercial point of view there’s a huge focus on the T20 World Cup, but I think we did that really well on this (Brisbane) camp.
“We just lowered our eyes and said ‘let’s just keep looking at what’s in front of us, and the Ashes is the only thing that we’ve really spoken about in any depth.”
Mott believes 20-year-old Victorian leg-spinner Georgia Wareham could prove the key to thwarting England’s powerful – and entirely right-handed – top seven, which includes captain Heather Knight, star ‘keeper-batter Sarah Taylor, in-form openers Amy Jones and Tammy Beaumont, allrounder Natalie Sciver and the ever-threatening Danni Wyatt and Katherine Brunt.
“I think she’s going to be a key player over here on these wickets,” Mott said in Loughborough on Monday.
“I think she could be a real menace for the English batters and all our stats say that as well.
“It’s exciting to be able to unleash her on England.
“She turns the ball away and she asks the question both sides of the bat, which is what we’ve asked for.
“In all three formats I think she asks some really strong questions of the batters all the time, she doesn’t really bowl a bad ball and she just gets into her work and is a pretty no-fuss cricketer who gets the job done.”
Another youngster hoping to impress will be right-arm quick Tayla Vlaeminck, who bowled with impressive pace in her first hit-out on English soil on Monday.
The 20-year-old forced her way into the Ashes squad through her form at training camps in Brisbane across the last month, having recovered from the knee injury that prematurely ended her 2018-19 summer.
“She really smashed it in the preseason at the NCC and just put a case together that we couldn’t deny,” Mott said.
“(The warm-ups) will be a big couple of days for a couple of players.”
Another player out to make a statement in the two practice matches will be one-day opener Nicole Bolton, who has returned to the Australian ranks after sitting out the one-day series against New Zealand earlier this year for person reasons.
Mott said, “I was really pleased for Nic Bolton that she came out in that second innings and got some runs, she’s been out of the team for a little while and got a first baller in the first game, so like any batter you start to question your preparation.
“But she batted really well in that game … her record over a long period of time is outstanding, she’s a match-winner and she’s scored hundreds and she’s really evolved over the last couple of years.
“All the things we’ve asked for her to do she’s done and getting 70 the other day, that’ll give her confidence getting back in amongst the group.”
Tuesday will also mark the arrival of the Australian women’s ‘A’ squad in Loughborough.
“An Ashes over there, especially with both men’s and women’s ‘A’ teams being over there as well and with a World Cup and Ashes for the men, it’s going to be cricket central really,” Mott said.
“It’s sort of like cricket Mecca at the moment.”