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.