Before yesterday’s match, Syd and I discussed how England would approach what was a completely dead rubber. Afterwards, Heather Knight provided the answer:
“We talked after the second game about trying to draw a line in the sand after the series and try and treat today as Day One of us getting back to where we need to be.”
It was an approach that seemed to pay dividends: England bowled better lengths than they had all series, while Lauren Winfield took advantage of a final opportunity to prove to Mark Robinson that she deserves her spot on the plane to Australia next February.
After the match, Australia even looked momentarily downcast, having fallen at the last hurdle in their goal of going unbeaten through the tour. Alyssa Healy actually had to gather the team together and remind them that nothing should be allowed to spoil their celebrations: “There was great leadership from Alyssa Healy at the end there – she brought everyone in together and said ‘lets remember how great this tour’s been’,” Matthew Mott told the media.
Of course it’s easier to play good cricket when the series has already been and gone, but last night – likely to be the last international T20 cricket England play until their tri-series ahead of the World T20 in Australia – was important in showcasing that they can at least be competitive in that tournament.
“We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us to try and catch up with the Australians, to go back to where we need to be and where we want to go,” Knight said.
“That World T20 is going to be a big focus for us now over the next 8 months. The performance we put in is a sign of what we can do.”
It was also a chance to showcase that, far from the cupboard in England being bare, there are young talents emerging: 20-year-old Mady Villiers, who only joined the Academy in November, had a game to remember, taking the crucial wickets of Healy and Ash Gardner on debut.
“Mady was outstanding,” Knight said of the newest addition to her team. “You could see from the look in her eyes, she absolutely loved it out there. That’s what you want to see – you want someone desperate to go out and perform well and she really took the opportunity with both hands.”
All the talk over the past few weeks has been about the disparities between the English and Australian domestic set-ups. Even with the ECB’s proposed changes, the worry remains that England will move further behind Australia before they can even begin to think about catching up, as the new system takes time to bed down and only moves slowly towards becoming fully professional.
With that in mind, the question becomes: When might England next win an Ashes series – 2025? 2027?
A depressing thought. But as a great philosopher once said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. England took that step last night.
The first 13 overs of the England Innings were as frustrating as ever but the big shift in momentum came from Brunt and Winfield playing to their strengths not trying to make something happen.
The Bowling was far more consistent and I’m certain Villiers was an ‘unknown’ to the Aussies and took them out of the comfort zone batting against familiar foes, Ecclestone apart.
MRs post match comment of not exposing Lions players was fair enough but now they should be hardened for ‘easier’ opposition.
What is the solution? Well it doesn’t need a huge review
1. Wrap Brunt in bubble wrap while you find the next Brunt
2. Challenge our best batters (not rest them)
3. Retire gratefully a few World Cup stalwarts (sorry) – make them mentors & ambassadors do not lose their knowledge & experience
4. Promote youth through next Ashes cycle – Viliers is a start
5. Fielding – new coach, you can always be fitter
To give a complete picture of England v Australia at the moment one should perhaps throw in the ‘A’ series played between England Academy and Australia ‘A’ over the past month. Australia won the 50 overs games 3-0 and they won the T20 2-0 (scorecards available on the fantastic Cricket Australia website).
As you note; a long journey ahead.
Honestly, I thought England were good last night. Not perfect, but good. Considering all that has gone on up to this point, I’ll settle for that, and so would most of the (very impressive, under the circumstances) crowd around us. This was how I would like the series to have been all along – not just England winning, but a decent competition between the teams, with both capable of beating the other on their day.
I know we were light on boundaries throughout most of the innings, certainly until the last four overs, but I felt genuine intent was always there, just stymied by the Aussie bowlers much of the time. But we were much improved when it came to rotating the strike, and the result was confirmation enough that if you can somehow get “a score” then you have something to defend.
There’s not a lot left that hasn’t been said about Brunt (Syd/Raf – when/if she eventually hangs up her boots, you’ll have a contribution from me within minutes!). Wouldn’t you always want her in your team?!
Winfield needs some praise, though. Largely – and probably justifiably – off the radar to an extent since 2017 (I would have had Wilson in for her at the start of this part of the Ashes), she’s quietly gone about having a decent T20 series coming in down the order in three difficult situations. Last night I thought she played it perfectly.
One small thing with Australia – why didn’t they bring Perry back on as soon as Jones came in? It seems to be their MO to give her two overs up top, then nothing more (it was the same at Hove). Maybe it’s just a case of sticking to their plans, but it allowed Jones and Knight to build a little partnership that possibly prevented the innings collapsing in a heap.
In the field, there was a very different feel to England. Whether that came from the “reset” Knight talked about, I don’t know. But fielding errors are like a virus. Once somebody goes down with it it spreads like wildfire. England just didn’t allow that to happen.
Ecclestone was as impressive as ever – the way she largely prevented Perry getting the ball away towards the end was the work of a veteran. Villiers was a revelation, not so much for her figures but for her sheer temperament. She showed no signs of nerves, got through her action well and really it was her first three over spell that put the match beyond Australia’s reach. I thought giving her a third over was a risk but she proved me wrong, and she should have got away with better figures but for Ecclestone diving over one that went for four.
All is not rosy, of course it isn’t. There needs to be a full review of the series from an England perspective, and beyond that the ECB need to be challenged aggressively on their commitment to women’s cricket. I don’t just mean the £20m they’re throwing at the game, I mean the “top down” attitude that we see in Australia, where the CA Board is behind growing the women’s game. I know Clare Connor gets some grief, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that she’s fighting the ECB rather than them working with her a lot of the time. That needs to change.
Was able to go last night as I got out of work early. Gutsy performance from England. Sensible batting to start with taking the quick singles when on offer and then taking the chance to hit the Australian bowling when given it. Especially impressive from Brunt and Winfield, the latter is quitely making a case for the number 6 slot. Twice she’s batted in calm, unfussy manner when England needed her to.
The bowling was especially impressive. Australia may have an impressive batting lineup but when that run rate starts to climb, it’s always difficult to stay in the game and as impressive as Elysse Perry was last night, even she was struggling to get the ball away at times.
What a debut from Mady Villiers. having to bowl at Alyssa Healey and Perry is difficult enough anyway but she could have easily let that dropped catch play on her mind but she didn’t and getting those two wickets was probably what won England the game.
A word for Sophie Ecclestone who has been England’s best player throughout the series. She was fantastic again last night and for someone so young, has such a good temperament.
Australia were a bit off. It was probably the wrong decision to bowl first while Megan Schutt and Ellyse Perry were slightly wayward. I wonder if the batting suffered because they haven’t been under real pressure this series and in case of Rachel Haynes downwards, haven’t batted much at all.
Finally, it was another fantastic crowd which surprised me because it was a Wednesday and England were largely written off before this game. I’m definitely glad I went!
Well done to the England team for a big upturn in performance and a very good win. If only they could have produced this type of showing earlier on, we might have seen a closer series. Because at their best, they still can challenge Australia on any given day. The Aussies don’t get put under real pressure too often so can crumble sometimes when they are.
I was impressed by the way the Yorkies batted together at the end – lots of intent but sensible shots. And Villiers was a revelation. Brunt and Eccles also excellent.
But it can’t hide the bare fact that this was very much a below par series from England, who looked lost for long periods of most matches. I strongly suspect we won’t have much chance to get the Ashes back for at least 3 if not 4 campaigns.
Meanwhile, it’s a great chance to bring in some more of the next generation, like Villiers who looks at home in international cricket already. There are 3 or 4 of the currently contracted players who haven’t contributed a great deal to performances since 2017, and who to be brutally honest might not feature too many more times on the international stage.
We might not find a direct replacement for Brunt but as long as the attack as a whole has the variety and skill, whatever it takes, that is what we should aim for. From what I’ve seen of the academy bowlers, they have a good chance.
Really looking forward to the final KSL now. Shame to scrap what’s turned out to be a pretty good competition, next year in favour of this unknown Hundred thing.