It is Saturday 27th August 2005 – Tony Blair is the Prime Minister, McFly are Top of The Pops [Yay! Ed.], and men’s Tests are still being shown live on free-to-air TV.
In the second Women’s Ashes Test at Worcester, England are looking decidedly shaky at 39-4, with Cathryn Fitzpatrick having removed both Charlotte Edwards and Clare Connor. But with Katherine Brunt having taking 9-111 across both Australian innings, England are still in the game – they need 75 to win the match, the series and the Women’s Ashes – the latter for the first time in nearly 50 years. There are no further alarms – Arran Brindle and Lydia Greenway take their time but they get there in the end and England regain the Ashes.
It was the start of a mini resurgence for England – they won the Ashes again in Australia in 2008, and retained them in 2009; but they could only hold the Aussies to a draw at Worcester in ’09; and 2005 remains the last time England won a Test at home.
Since ’05, England have played 7 home Tests, recording no wins, 4 draws and 3 losses – having lost to India in 2006 and 2014, and to Australia in 2015.
Of those, 2014 was the big shock result. England had just turned professional, and were playing a young, inexperienced and largely amateur India side. Everyone expected England to win easily at Wormsley; but pride comes before a fall, with Niranjana Nagarajan taking 4 wickets as England were bowled out for 92, then top-scoring as India posted a first-innings lead. England made a better job of their second innings, passing 200, but India chased the runs with 6 wickets to spare, with Mithali Raj and the then-unknown Smriti Mandhana making 50s.
Now, eight years on, both England and India will meet in the Test arena once again in 2021 – at Bristol this time. Both sides are fully professional now, and no one will be underestimating India on this occasion.
With India having just been handed some humble pie of their own, with a brace of white-ball series losses to South Africa (albeit losses that perhaps look worse on the scorecard than they actually were), the Indians will be pumped to show that they can still lay claim to being the second-best team in the world.
Meanwhile England are palpably excited at the prospect of this match, even if it is a bit of a one-off, with Heather Knight telling us in an interview late last week:
“I remember [the Test at Wormsley] being a real occasion and I think it’s going to be the same this time – playing Test match cricket feels very special and it’s definitely rated very highly amongst the players.”
“There’s been loads of chat about the Test match here at Loughborough this week – all the girls are trying to get their heads around how they’re going to prepare for that Test match – how they’re going to be ready, and what skills they need to work on.”
It should be a good game – there will be plenty of runs on offer at Bristol, but there will be chances for the bowlers too. Perhaps we’ll see one last great hurrah from Mithali Raj or Katherine Brunt? Or a stunning Test debut from Shafali Verma (who has yet to play an ODI, but surely has to be on the card?) or Freya Davies?
Whatever it will be… we can’t wait to find out!