The England women’s Ashes series has been a mix of innovation and the type of cricket that has worked well for both teams in the past.
Despite such a strong showing in the test match, particularly the bowling, Australia have stuttered their way through the remainder of the tour. Meg Lanning has been the backbone of the line-up, the only one to make any impact. At Durham, it was a tired looking team that took to the field. England were hardly storming through the line-up, the wicket was slow but not offering huge amounts of turn and Australia just crumbled. It was the performance of a team that looked shattered. After the leisurely start to the series, a four day game in picturesque surroundings, the ODI and T20’s seemed to be crammed together at the end.
The advantage of having the double headers with the men is clear; increased media interest, crowds turning up early to watch two games and the women get a chance to increase their exposure. The scheduling, however, is simply unfair. The second T20 at Southampton ended with a plane, train and automobile trip across the length of the UK to get to Durham early on Friday morning. Then to training, back to the hotel, then an early start on the day of the game – 10am slightly undermines the concept of encouraging more people to watch – would be exhausting for anyone. Even traipsing off the bus to start the game, the tourists looked, quite simply, knackered.
The format of the series has worked reasonably well. The weighting of the points is intended to reflect the importance of test cricket. In retrospect, it encouraged a draw. Neither team wanted to risk losing maximum points by gambling the state of the game. So they, to all intents and purpose, blocked it out. That aside, the rest of the series has worked well. The women have been allowed to play the two games that they play the most, and games that have the most appeal to the crowd. More test cricket would of course be preferable but realistically, when do they get the chance to play? England and Australia play the most tests, and the last time they met was in Australia in 2011. More test cricket is, at the moment, not feasible.
It is a format that could be used in future women’s series, as well as for associate countries. The sense is, however, that not all nations want to play test cricket. Let’s face it, one day cricket is more exciting, and crucially it is more financially beneficial for the players. England and Australia are the rare countries who still play tests – and even then it’s only once every two years.
England have not played without fault. The batting collapse at Lords was truly awful. An innings built around the captain Charlotte Edwards crumbled as soon as she went. The batting never truly fired throughout the limited overs series. Their innings relied on cameos. Lydia Greenway at Southampton, Sarah Taylor at Chelsmford; they played the biggest part in the T20 victories. England’s bowling, particularly the openers, has been consistently good throughout the series. The back-up seamers are a worry. Arran Brindle in particular as dispatched to all areas during the test match. The spin bowling is developing well. Laura Marsh is starting to control her length a little better, improving throughout the test. Danni Wyatt can follow up a brilliant delivery with a rank long-hop but control is something that comes with experience.
The better team won. Despite Australia claiming victory in the T20 and 50 over World Cups, they haven’t played anywhere near to the standard they are capable of. Australia ruled the test match for the majority of the game but in the limited overs, it is England who have worn the trousers.