Sat. May 28th, 2022

TBlundstone Arena in Hobart was recently the scene of English cricket humiliation, but England Women have happier memories there. In January 2014, Charlotte Edwards hit 92 not-out to inspire her team to a nine-wicket victory in a T20 – an ash-winning blow in the new multi-format era.

Edwards brushed tears from her eyes, lifted the trophy in triumph, and England had a lovely, well-deserved night on the town to celebrate (no police had to be called in to send them to bed either).

For a time, Edwards was the heroine of the time; but cricket is a fickle mistress. Eighteen months later, she handed over the ashes to Meg Landing’s Australia, losing the Canterbury Test by 161 runs, and the media called for her head. By May 2016, she had lost a World T20 semi-final to the old enemy and paid for it dearly, losing the lead and her place in England. As Joe Root knows, English captains can have all that success in the world against other opponents, but they will ultimately be judged on their record against Australia, a saying that applies equally in the women’s game.

No English captain has won a Women’s Ashes series since Edwards won in Hobart in 2014. Edwards’ successor, Heather Knight, is the latest to attempt the feat, in a series beginning on Thursday with three T20s closely followed by one test and three ODIs. Knight has won a World Cup, reached the final in another (2018) and was denied the chance to play in the final in another (2020) due to bad weather, but the success against Australia has consistently avoided her.

Australia is celebrating their success in the 2019 multi-format series.
Australia is celebrating their success in the 2019 multi-format series. Photo: Matthew Childs / Action Images / Reuters

Since becoming captain in 2016, England have won just four out of 11 T20s against Australia – a 36% victory percentage. In ODIs, the percentage is even lower (two won out of seven played). England have managed to hold on to the draws in the Ashes Tests, they have played during the Knight – in Sydney in 2017 and Taunton in 2019 – but Australia dominated both matches. Perhaps it’s the frustration of this bad show that has inspired the Knights’ new approach to “try to strike first and be aggressive … fight fire with fire”.

Will it work? The signs are not good. “I would not say we have started so well, to be completely honest,” English coach Lisa Keightley said on Monday, an early challenger to the understatement of the tour. First, the schedule was rejected on the 11th hour due to Covid, with the T20s advanced, making England’s focus on red ball training during their camp in Oman irrelevant to the first part of the series, leaving them with 10 days to acclimatize after lands in Australia.

Then England’s first outdoor training session in Canberra was conducted in pouring rain. Finally, this weekend they played two warm-up matches in the T20 against the English A-team that has followed them. They both lost, despite Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt getting two chances to strike in the second match.

Quick guide

Australia vs. England: Women’s Ashes matches

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1. T20 Adelaide, 20 January
2. T20 Adelaide, January 22nd
3. T20 Adelaide, 23 January

Test Match Canberra, 27.-30. January

1. T20 Canberra, February 3rd
2. T20 Adelaide, 6 February
3. T20 Adelaide, 8 February

Test Match

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“We need to get the players to hit the ball well and bowl in good areas and sharpen up,” Keightley said. There is not much to do the next three days.

Admittedly, Australia’s preparations have not been free of disruption either. Several Women’s National Cricket League matches had to be canceled due to the rapid spread of Omicron, leaving a number of their best players with little playing time since the WBBL ended in November. While Jess Jonassen (leg injury), Rachael Haynes and Megan Schutt (both on parental leave) return to the side after a long absence, the squad is far from full strength.

Frontline bowlers Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham are out with injuries, and the decision to bring in Alana King as a play-spin cover instead of Amanda-Jade Wellington has raised eyebrows. Alyssa Healy is recovering from an elbow injury and a disastrous loss of form at the back of the WBBL.

Ellyse Perry's arrival in Adelaide was delayed by a positive Covid test.
Ellyse Perry’s arrival in Adelaide was delayed by a positive Covid test. Photo: Mark Brake / Getty Images

The latest, most serious, blow happened on Tuesday: the news came that Beth Mooney, Australia’s most important blow player in form and leading WBBL race scorer, suffered a broken jaw during training and needs surgery. The Australian camp suggests she may still be in shape by the end of the series, but that feels instinctively unlikely given the nature of the injury.

The perpetual threat of a Covid eruption hangs over the series. Both sides have already been affected, despite severe restrictions on socializing: a member of England’s support staff tested positive on Friday. Ellyse Perry’s arrival in Adelaide to join her teammates was also delayed by a Covid scare, although her positive PCR test later turned out to be the result of a previous, asymptomatic infection, and she has been approved to join. the team.

The challenge Covid poses for players’ mental health should not be overlooked either. An Ashes series is always accompanied by extra scrutiny, but the intensity of this tour – which will be immediately followed by a 10-day quarantine in New Zealand before the World Cup – has to take its toll.

“What I’ve learned on this trip with Covid is that everyone’s bucket gets full at different times and you can not pick it,” Keightley said. “One day you think they’s okay and you talk to them two days later and they do not. It’s a challenge to support teams and be an athlete for the last 18 months.” Over the next few weeks, the match is likely to be fought both off and on the field.

This is an excerpt from the Guardian’s weekly cricket email, The Spin. To subscribe and get the full edition, simply visit this page and follow the instructions.

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