When England arrived in Australia, nearly two months ago, the critics and knowledge pundits alike, put their money on England as favorites to retain the urn full of Ashes. Cricket specialists, who sided with critics, included Ian Chappell, Geoffrey Boycott and others. These guys were circumspect about the ability of the Australian cricketers to put up any credible resistance against the English side, which had overwhelmed the Aussies in the last English summer.
Much has happened in the intervening period since then. Not only has the urn remained in Australia, the pitiful performance of the English team has been a subject of many juicy stories in all types of media. Graeme Swann announced his retirement, mid-way through the series and top England players failed to show their true worth. The abject surrender by the Alastair Cook led team left English cricket fans shell-shocked.
The gloom in English camp, however, was no deterrent to another group of English cricketers, who are already in Australia for nearly the similar reason. Yes, we are talking about the women’s cricket team from England, which has already begun its own version of Ashes at Perth’s WACA ground from this morning. It was not a great show on the first day, as the tourists were bowled out for 201 in their first innings. But before the close of play on day one, England had struck, as Anya Shrubsole sent back both Australian openers back to the pavilion.
The English women landed in Australia, without the burden of their men, woefully losing the Ashes Series 0-5. The English cricket authorities entrusted their seasoned women cricketers with the responsibility of retaining the women’s version of the Ashes. Unlike the men’s, the women’s Ashes campaign is interestingly different. The result of the ongoing solitary test will be crucial but it will not decide the Ashes on its own. As per the agreed triple-format, England and Australia will play 3 one-day-internationals and 3 T20 games, after the test match is completed. The winner of the test match will collect 6 points and if the match is drawn, the two sides will share 2 points each. For the ODI and T20 matches, winner will get two points, while tied games will result in each side getting 1 point. In the summer of 2013, the England emerged victorious after the women dominated in the shorter formats and the test was drawn.
At the helm of the England team is the veteran Charlotte Edwards, who is playing her 21st test at Perth. Like Australia’s George Bailey, she is considered an ODI specialist. Including all formats of the game, Charlotte Edwards is leading England for the 176th time in a career that started when she was 16. Though she is not as quick on the ground these days, as she once was, she has the fullest support and admiration of her players. Katherine Brunt, arguably the fastest woman bowler in the world, said that Charlotte is brilliant as a team leader and she knows what she is doing. Brunt added further that the campaign is likely to be keenly contested and Australian women will certainly derive inspiration from their men, who are on the seventh heaven after the Ashes win. Other than Brunt, the England team is composed of highly talented cricketers in a mix of experience and novelty. Edwards is the oldest but she has 6 women, who are under 22 years of age.
From the Australian angle, the women’s series has been billed as important as the men’s Ashes. Their captain is the 29-year old Jodie Fields, who is also the wicketkeeper. Australia also recalled their medium-pacer Rene Farrell, who had not played any international match since 2011. This morning at WACA, Ferrell bowled her heart out and scalped 4 England wickets for 43 runs in 18.1 overs. Ferrell is widely acclaimed for her great performance in the 2011 Ashes test, where she took a hat-trick to reduce England from 92/3 to 95/7. That performance won the game for Australia.