There is no doubt in our mind as to who should have been Player of the Series in this Women’s Ashes instead of Heather Knight. Not that Knight had a BAD series, of course – she scored four fifties, and played two particularly crucial innings – batting out for the draw in the Test and backing up centurion Danni Wyatt in the remarkable last T20.
But for us, the outstanding performer over the series was Aussie quick Megan Schutt, with 18 wickets – a full third of the “bowling” wickets taken by Australia across the 7 games – in conditions where England’s celebrated pace duopoly of Shrubsole and Brunt could muster just 10 wickets between them.
England’s leading bowler was Sophie Ecclestone, with 9 wickets at an Economy Rate of 4.35. Jenny Gunn took more wickets (11) but was the most expensive front-line bowler on either side over the course of the series – going for 6.37 an over.
Ellyse Perry underlined her status as the world’s leading all-rounder, coming in 3rd in the bowling rankings in addition to her 4th-place in the batting rankings.
The only other player to make both “Top 10s” is Katherine Brunt, who is looking like an increasingly key player in England’s line-up. It is difficult to see Brunt carrying on to the next World Cup, when she’ll be 36, but maybe it is possible if England can manage her more as a batting than a bowling all-rounder going forwards, hints of which emerged when she came on 1st change in the 2nd and 3rd T20s. (She opened in the 1st, but presumably only because Anya Shrubsole wasn’t playing.)
|1. Megan Schutt||7||18||3.6|
|2. Jess Jonassen||7||10||3.2|
|3. Ellyse Perry||7||10||3.9|
|4. Sophie Ecclestone||6||9||4.4|
|5. Jenny Gunn||6||11||6.4|
|6. Katherine Brunt||7||7||4.5|
|7. Tahlia McGrath||4||4||2.9|
|8. Alex Hartley||4||7||5.3|
|9. Laura Marsh||2||3||2.8|
|10. Amanda Wellington||6||3||3.4|
Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy
No surprise at all to see Schutt at the top of this list. Far and away the most consistent bowler on either side – at least until Wyatt and Knight went after her in the final match.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of the series was the “battle” between Ecclestone and Hartley, which seems to have gone Ecclestone’s way. It’s interesting given Hartley’s reputation in the WWC for taking the big scalps, and the fact that she doesn’t seem to have done a lot wrong – her figures in the ODIs were no better or worse than Ecclestone’s for my money, before Ecclestone got the nod for the Test and was then favoured for the last two T20s. Perhaps it’s just that MR favours Ecclestone as a slightly more economical T20 bowler.
On the subject to the PotS, I was surprised Schutt didn’t get it. You would usually expect it to go to a player from the winning side, and although there was no “winner” from the series that honour sort of fell to Australia given they retained the Ashes and were the dominant side up until that issue was decided.
However, Knight was probably the single biggest influence on the series ending level. Her 88 in the 3rd ODI set up an England win from a shaky position, she laid a base with Beaumont in the 1st innings of the Test, and was crucial in saving it, and for all Wyatt’s explosiveness in the final T20 she needed somebody to hang in at the other end, and if Knight hadn’t done it I don’t see who else could have. Arguably, without her significant contributions (at least one of them in each format, too) Australia may well have run out 14-2 winners.