England and Australia hold the 50-over World Cup and the World T20 respectively but the one trophy they both want their hands on is the Ashes. Australia currently holds that honour. When both these teams met in Australia in 2017 the series was tied. That meant Australia retained the wooden ball.
The multi-format series offers different challenges for both teams. Players will be put to the test over the course of the next month.
It all starts in Leicester on Tuesday. The city famous for the ‘king under the carpark’ will again see a battle with the same intensity. Both sides know how important it is to win this series – it is more than a matter of pride.
Katherine Brunt spoke about ‘revenge’ before the previous Ashes, while Alyssa Healy is not shy in giving her opinion.
All this even before we talk about the world-class talent that fills both teams.
Players to watch
The big-hitting allrounder known for her innovative shots will need to fire with both bat and ball. Leicester is a good hunting ground for Sciver having scored 137 against Pakistan in the 2017 ICC World Cup. It was with the ball at the 2018 World T20 that the right-arm seamer stepped up and proved her effectiveness. She adds a great balance to the squad with her all-round ability.
The opener is an integral part of the England side. When she scores runs England win more than they lose. Beaumont has struck up a good opening partnership with Amy Jones who has had a good 12 months at the international level. With that solidity at the top of the order, they can put Australia off their stride.
Like Sciver, Gardner can hit the ball a long way. Concussions have slowed down the progress of the allrounder but on her day is one of the most destructive batters in the women’s game. The fact that Australia has players of the calibre of Healy and Ellyse Perry takes some of the pressure off Gardner. That allows her to go out and play her game. Add her off-spin to the mix and you have a player that can take the series by storm.
A double hundred in the last Test match between these two sides and you can tell just how serious a talent Perry is. Having started off as a fast bowler Perry has really progressed with her batting over the last few years. She is now arguably one of the best allrounder in the women’s game. That kind of versatility means she is rarely out of the game or the spotlight, and that is something that seems to make her play better.
For both these sides there is nothing more important than winning an Ashes series. It will serve as a justification for how both teams are approaching the ever increasing levels of professionalism. If Australia wins their bottom-up approach of widening the talent pool will seem like the only real course of action.
On the other hand, England have, over the last ten years, favoured a core group of players while the rest in the domestic game have been virtually amateur. Although this hasn’t hampered England at the top level yet, there has been a realisation that it needs to change. This change starts next year and with details still not known, how they do that is up for debate.
England are on a winning streak of 14 games (across both ODIs and T20Is) going into this series. They will be keen to keep that run going for as long as possible and have chosen grounds that suite them. Australia however, is a different proposition to the West Indies and Sri Lanka. There is no doubt that that winning streak will come to an end over the course of the series.
Australia grew in confidence during their ODI series with New Zealand in February and March. The first game was a close one but then Australia found their groove and were too good for the Kiwis. Although they have had a four month break from international cricket, they put up solid performances in the warm-up matches against England Academy and looked primed for the series.
Heather Knight (captain), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone, Jenny Gunn, Amy Jones, Laura Marsh, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danni Wyatt.
Meg Lanning (captain), Rachael Haynes, Nicole Bolton, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham.