In retrospect, it was Canterbury that was the beginning of the end: a top-order batting collapse led to a convincing Ashes defeat; and within a year, both coach and captain were gone.
The year was 2015, and England were led by coach Paul Shaw and captain Charlotte Edwards – two figures from the amateur era, struggling to keep-pace with Australia in an increasingly professionalised game.
Four years later – another coach; another captain; another Ashes – but the same old city of Canterbury… and the same old problem!
England had hoped that Australia’s thumping victory in last year’s World Twenty20 final was a one-off; but after 3 shell-shocking ODI defeats in the space of a week, culminating in yesterday’s humiliation at Canterbury, it is apparent that it was no aberration.
England were abject.
It started at the toss, which was perhaps a bad one to win, given that Meg Lanning said she’d have bowled too; but in retrospect it is difficult to justify putting Australia in.
With Katherine Brunt out and Sarah Taylor back, England had chosen to make a straight swap, in effect replacing a strike bowler with a batsman, in a situation where they needed to take wickets in order to seize the game by the scruff.
Brunt’s absence, and Heather Knight’s reluctance to bowl herself, meant that Nat Sciver had to bowl almost a full quota of overs, and while they did eventually buy the wickets of Alyssa Healy and Meg Lanning, they came at some cost – Sciver going at well over 6 an over, where Brunt had gone at under 4 in the first two ODIs, as the Aussies took command.
It’s true that Australia didn’t reach the 300-plus total which at one point looked on the cards; but in reality it always felt like 250 could well have been enough anyway, so 269 was 20 better than par… and ultimately 194 better than they actually needed.
Because of course this was Canterbury – where England Ashes collapses seem to come around like pilgrims – every one with a tale to tell!
This time that tale belonged to Ellyse Perry, whose 7-22 were the best figures ever returned by an Australian in a Women’s ODI. With her second Player of the Match performance of the series, Perry ripped England’s top order to pieces, punishing equally lose strokes across the line (Jones and Beaumont) and lazy prods outside off stump (Knight and Taylor) – and from 18-5, with Schutt having also sent Nat Sciver home for a duck, there was no way back from there.
So what’s answer? Force out the coach? Again? Fire the captain? Again?
No, because it won’t make a devil of a difference – it isn’t the coach or the captain – it is that Australian women’s cricket is quite simply operating on a different level right now. With the WBBL going from strength to strength, and professional contracts for an entire cohort of domestic players in the WNCL, the Southern Stars are just the tip of a cricketing iceberg; and while England can cruise past the West Indies as they did this summer, or South Africa and New Zealand as they did the last, when it comes to the Australian iceberg… they are cruising aboard the Titanic!