Sunday, 29 October 2017

Third Ashes ODI - Talking Points

England have their first Ashes' points and their first ICCWC points on the board, after a 20 run (D/L) victory over Australia in the third ODI.

Using the same pitch as used for the second ODI, it was almost inevitable that whoever won the toss would opt to bat, and would expect to score around 300. Heather Knight called right, and after the early loss of Winfield, and some early gasp-inducing high jinks from Sarah Taylor, a serious score always looked on the cards for England - in fact their final 284/8 might have been a slight disappointment to them.

Winfield's form in 2017 is quite troubling, but to be honest England have no-one sitting in the wings to replace her at the top of the order. Her scores in 2017 have been - 26, 24, 1, 11, 11, 20, 24, 48, 2, and 0. That is 167 runs in 10 innings - an average of 16.7. Her overall career average is 23.42 in 35 innings. I am not convinced that her batting style suits the opener's role, but with whom do you replace her? I have always been a fan of Amy Jones's batting, and the enigma that is Danni Wyatt. Building towards the T20 World Cup perhaps it is time to look at some other options at the top of the order, if not on this tour, then pretty soon.

Sarah Taylor is, well....Sarah Taylor. She is like the naughty child, who sits in the middle of a messy room and smiles innocently at her exasperated parents. Quite why she thought stepping across her stumps to try and ramp the third ball of her innings when England were on 2/1 was a good idea was beyond the rest of us, but it made sense to her. She missed it, but she didn't get out and she went on to dominate a 122 run stand with Tammy Beaumont that put England in a great position at the half-way stage. Her exit to a tame half-tracker leg cutter from Megan Schutt, who seems to find ways to take wickets even when she doesn't deserve to, was another deep sigh moment, but we still love her. The unnecessary and inappropriate send-off from Schutt was less endearing.

As they neared 200 England wobbled losing Beaumont, Sciver and Wilson (another no DRS victim!). In days of yore it would have been the start of an England collapse. But Heather Knight, who played beautifully, steered the lower middle order through the last 12 overs accumulating 83 runs with Brunt, Gunn, Shrubsole and Ecclestone (who scored just 29 of them). It was the difference between England reaching 284 and them reaching 240. It was a winning knock.

But it looked iffy for a while. Fran Wilson will have been mighty relieved that England got over the line, as her drop of Alyssa Healy on 4 cost England another 67 runs and allowed Australia to put on 118 for the first wicket at a decent rate. [follow this link to watch - sorry Fran!]

Healy has relished the chance to open the batting, and England have failed to negate her up-tempo batting style. She might not get the job in the Test Match, but she undoubtedly will in the T20s, so England will need to find a plan for her at the top of the order - perhaps spin is the answer? Her demise brought Perry to the wicket, who had bowled all 10 of her overs on a hot morning, and fielded at deep mid-wicket on both sides of the square, where she did another great job, but will have taken a lot out of herself. She looked tired with the bat and with Nicole Bolton also unable to break the shackles, England started to exert some pressure. Bolton, Perry and Villani all holed out going straight and with Australia needing 104 off 15 overs - the rate was up to almost 7. It never got lower as Sciver, Shrubsole, Hartley and Gunn squeezed the life out of the Aussie innings. Australia continue to ask an awful lot of Perry.

And so the focus changes now to the four day day/night pink ball Test (starts 9th November). The Aussies lead the series 4-2, so if they win the Test then the Ashes will be theirs. England will want to win and take the four points on offer, but they would take a draw, although that would still leave them needing to win all three T20Is!

It should be a great Test. Let's hope the wicket is a bit better and quicker than the last Test between the two sides at Canterbury. I expect both sides to play positive cricket - ie not traditional Test cricket. That is not a game that suits either side. After all they hardly ever play multi-day games. It should be fascinating, but, Aussie or England supporter, prepare to be both entertained and exasperated all in good measure.


Thursday, 26 October 2017

Second Ashes ODI - Talking points

The Aussies are 2-0 up in the ODI series, and already 4-0 up in the Ashes Series overall, after a resounding victory in the second ODI at Coff's Harbour. Set initially 297 to win, England never looked like getting there, and they ended 76 runs short of the D/L score of 285, after four overs were lost to rain early in England's innings.

For Australia there were half-centuries for Bolton, Healy, Perry and Haynes, but it was Rachael Haynes' knock of 89* off 56 balls which took the Aussie total beyond 275, which looked to be the par score on a good track. I hold up my hand and say I misjudged Haynes' abilities. I did not think she had a knock like that in her. She found the boundary 12 times in her innings, including three maximums. True she was badly dropped on the boundary by Tammy Beaumont on 60, but in truth the damage was already done by then. It was a sensational knock.

Things actually started to go wrong for England at the toss - they won it! With thunderstorms scheduled later in the evening it made sense to bowl first so that if targets were adjusted, as the side batting second, you knew what you needed. As it turned out most of the rain fell in the innings break and England suffered with a much slower outfield, and the fact that they are not good chasers. Had they batted first, which they undoubtedly would have done in normal circumstances, then who knows what might have happened. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.

England included 18 year old Sophie Ecclestone for her first Ashes' outing, replacing Marsh, and Australia were without Ash Gardner, who was suffering with concussion, having been hit on the head whilst batting in the first ODI - Beams took her place. Ecclestone bowled her 10 overs and took the wicket of Healy with her "arm ball". Her 1/49 was the most economical spell. In contrast Alex Hartley looked ragged in her first spell, although she improved in her second. Having said that I'd guess that Ecclestone's name is first on the team sheet out of the two of them now.

England never really recovered from being 20/2 with Winfield and Beaumont both lbw to Schutt's induckers playing across the line to full balls. Taylor then gave Tahlia McGrath her first international wicket, nicking behind (only bowling as Perry was mistakenly withdrawn from the attack by the umpires for bowling two balls over waist height - the second was not dangerous, which it needed to be under the ICCWC Playing Conditions); Sciver slapped Jonassen to mid-on before she had even got going; and Knight was adjudged lbw sweeping at Wellington. Replays showed she had edged the ball, but there is no DRS available for this series, despite the cameras and the obvious availability of hotspot technology. England were 91/5 and the game was gone.

Katherine Brunt scored her maiden ODI 50 at a run-a-ball, but the rate kept climbing and England simply ran out of batting.

At 4-0 down they are in a hole. The Aussies only need 4 more points. A win on Sunday is going to be essential, but it will take all of Mark Robinson's and Heather Knight's collective self-belief to get them there. I'd still push Sciver up to 4, and I think Robinson might look at playing Danni Hazell, perhaps instead of Hartley, to try and trouble the lefthanders outside their off-stump. But if the batting line-up can't find some runs, then who bowls is actually going to be irrelevant.


Monday, 23 October 2017

First Ashes ODI - talking points

So first blood to the Aussies in the Ashes Series, and the three ICCWC ODIs.

First thing to say is well done to the ground staff at Allan Border Field for getting the game on at all. It had hardly stopped raining in Brisbane for the past week, and with no reserve days now for ICCWC games (a retrograde step in my view) it would have been a shame if there had been no contest.

As for the "sell-out" crowd....well it wasn't. CA had limited initial ticket sales to 2,000 and then conjured up a new temporary stand for another 500 tickets, which you could still get the day before the game. Quite why the limit was 2,500 when the ground clearly holds more is a mystery. No doubt health and safety reasons. The crowds at women's games can get very rowdy!! Still 2,000 is a big improvement on previous crowds in Australia, so perhaps things are heading in the right direction.

And they saw a good game. England were probably 30/40 runs short of a decent total, and the Aussies made a bit of a meal of chasing it down, but got there in the end. England's top order will have been annoyed that none of them went on to make a significant score. Lauren Winfield rode her luck, but looked to have found some touch when she was run out by some poor running with Sarah Taylor, who herself made a decent looking 30-odd (how many times have we said that?). Heather Knight and Nat Sciver looked a bit scratchy, but Fran Wilson was her busy self, before giving her wicket away. From there down though England were poor. Brunt, Gunn and Marsh were almost trying too hard.

For the Aussies leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington came on in the 13th over and immediately found a good line, good dip and plenty of spin. She will be a threat throughout this series, but the fact that she does not seem to have a googly or any other significant variations, means that England really should be able to find a way of coping with her. Better use of the feet and the sweep shot are two areas they might work on. Wellington did not get the wickets she perhaps deserved, but she allowed Ash Gardner to take the glory at the other end, as England looked for release shots.

Gardner had a good day, with her late contribution with the bat (27 off 18 balls), taking all the pressure off player of the match Alex Blackwell, who was the backbone of a rather fragile Aussie batting effort. Who knows what might have happened had Alex Hartley snaffled an easy caught and bowled chance when Blackwell was on 35?
Hartley had worked hard to create the chance, and the ball to get rid of Perry was a beauty, but her fielding off her own bowling is a concern.

Still the Aussies almost contrived to give England the game, as Tahlia McGrath was inexplicably sent in ahead of Ash Gardner. Her 7 off 26 balls meant the Aussie run rate gradually climbed, and despite her encouraging words after the game, Alex Blackwell must have been quite relieved when she holed out off Brunt. I am not sure that McGrath solves the Aussies' sixth bowler problem, but then I don't think they have a solution - Cheatle (in current form) and Vakarewa are no solution either. It is an area England will hope to expose.

I doubt Australia will change the team for game number two at Coff's Harbour on Thursday, unless the pitch looks like a bunsen*, but for England I think they have to find a spot for Sophie Ecclestone. She could be a straight swap for Marsh or take the place of Jenny Gunn. Either will weaken the England batting line-up, but only slightly. Ecclestone is no worse a bat than Gunn or Marsh, if truth be told.

The only other change I would make would be to move Nat Sciver to 4 and Knight down to 5. Sciver is a game changer and the fact that she rarely gets in before half the overs have been used up seems to be a waste to me. Ultimately I'd like to see her at 3, perhaps shifting Taylor to 5 to give her more freedom later in the innings. But it is not up to me. It is down to Mark Robinson, who has not done too much wrong over the last two years he has been in charge.

Set you alarm clocks for 4.40am on Thursday for Round Two!!


* bunsen burner - cricket rhyming slang for a turner

Friday, 20 October 2017

England Academy Squads - Ins & Outs

England have announced their Academy squads for the winter, but not their main squad. Here is the movement in the Academy squads from last year's announcements as far as we can tell.

England Women's Senior Academy
Head Coach - John Stanworth
New Asst Coaches - Tom Smith & Gareth Breese

Georgia Adams - deselected
Hollie Armitage - retained 
Georgie Boyce - retained
Thea Brookes - deselected
Ellen Burt - retained
Alice Davidson-Richards - retained
Freya Davies - retained
Sophia Dunkley - retained
Sophie Ecclestone - presume promoted to main squad
Katie George - retained
Georgia Hennessy - deselected
Evelyn Jones - deselected
Hannah Jones - deselected
Emma Lamb - retained
Sophie Luff - deselected
Paige Scholfield -  deselected
Bryony Smith - retained
Linsey Smith - retained
Eleanor Threlkeld - retained

New faces (all promoted from EWA)
Lauren Bell - Berks
Izzy Cloke - Kent
Charlie Dean - Hants

England Women's Academy
Head Coach - Salliann Briggs - resigned (both Academies now under John Stanworth)

Maia Bouchier - deselected
Alice Dyson - retained
Emily Edgcombe - retained
Danielle Gibson - retained
Sarah Glenn - retained

Amy Gordon - retained
Eva Gray - retained
Lucy Higham - deselected
Anna Nicholls - deselected
Tara Norris - deselected
Millie Pope - deselected

Rhianna Southby - retained
Alex Travers - retained
Katie Wolfe - retained

New faces
None have been added at this time


Aussies under pressure

Saturday night here in the UK (well Sunday morning technically - 12:15am to be precise) sees the start of the 22nd Ashes Series between England and Australia. So far it is the Aussies who hold the advantage with eight series wins under their belts. England have six, and there have been seven drawn series.

Of course the Women's Ashes used to be just a Test Match series, but in 2013 it was decided that it should become a multi-format series with one Test, three ODIs and three T20s. Frankly the series being decided by just one Test Match, as they had been in 2008, 2009 and 2011 had become a bit of a nonsense.

There have now been three multi-format Ashes series with England claiming the first two (when the Test was worth a whopping 6 points!) and the Aussies the last one, in England in 2015, when the Test win was reduced to just four points. It is still the crux of the series, but, with each limited over game worth two points (so there are 12 more points on offer), it is not the be all and end all.

I'm not a big fan of previews and forecasts. They are just one person's view, and we all have our favourites and our not-so favourites. As outsiders we don't know all the details on players in form, players with injuries, players in a "good place", nor even who the starting XIs are going to be for the first match, let alone the Test and the T20 series.

From my perspective it looks like the Aussies are the team under pressure. They no longer hold a World title - they lost to the West Indies in the 2016 WWT20 Final and to India in the 2017 WWC semi-final. They are not used to losing and they seem to be a team in a bit of a muddle at the moment, not helped by the loss of their talismanic captain Meg Lanning, who is recovering from shoulder surgery.

Even without her their batting line-up still looks pretty decent - Bolton, Mooney, Perry, Villani, Blackwell, Healy, Gardner. Perry is now the rock in the Aussie batting - since the end of the 2013 Ashes series she has scored 22 50s in her last 32 innings. She has turned herself into one of the best ODI batsmen in the world (currently third in the ODI batting rankings). But without Lanning there is significantly more pressure on her to perform with the bat. We will come on to her performance with the ball shortly, but first we need to look at Rachael Haynes.

Haynes has been parachuted back into the squad after nearly four years in the wilderness specifically to captain in Meg Lanning's absence. Had Lanning been fit she would not be in Australia's starting XI, and, most likely, not even in the squad. It is an interesting decision. If the Aussies win the series then it will have been the right one, but should they lose then questions will be asked. It means there is a great deal riding on this series for Aussie coach Matthew Mott. Haynes will probably slip into the batting order at four or five, but she has a very poor record against England. She ended her previous international career against them with two ducks and averages just 11.28 in nine ODIs against England with a top score of 26, back in 2009. Seven years on the pressure will be on her to perform with the bat, as well as on the field as captain.

And so finally to the Aussie bowling attack. The same bowling attack that was taken to the cleaners by Chamari Attapatu (178*) and Harmanpreet Kaur (171*) in the WWC 2017. The bowling additions to the Aussie squad at the World Cup are seamers Lauren Cheatle and Tahlia MacGrath, both very young, inexperienced and only just back from injury. If one of them is going to play, then who do the Aussies drop? More pressure then on Perry to lead the bowling attack, as well as the batting. It is a lot to ask of one player.

England too will have their demons, but mentally they are in good shape, particularly after unexpectedly being crowned 50 over World Champions. Their coach, Mark Robinson, always said that that tournament was just the first step in the journey of his young, re-fashioned team, post the 2015 Ashes defeat and a disappointing WWT20 in 2016. Its a step that they took with some swagger. This Ashes series is another step on that journey.

80% of cricket is played in the mind. England may just be coming into this series with sufficient confidence in their own abilities, and the abilities of their team-mates, to take the Ashes back to England.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

No surprises in Aussie Ashes' Squads

There were no real surprises in the Ashes ODI and Test squads named by Australia earlier today. With so few players at elite level, even in Australia, there is very little room for a surprise inclusion.

A 14 player squad was named for the three match ODI series :-

Rachel Haynes, Alex Blackwell, Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ash Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani and Amanda-Jade Wellington.

Both Cheatle and McGrath are coming back from injuries, and only played one of the two WNCL games for their respective states last weekend. Both are pace bowlers, but their preparation for an Ashes series looks underdone. Their selection is as the expense of Sarah Aley and Belinda Vakarewa from the WWC squad, and as back-ups to Perry and Schutt.

The same 14 names are included in the 15 player Ashes Test squad. The only addition is the reinstatement of Vakarewa, who also only played one game out of two in the WNCL at the weekend.

Cricket Australia have also named their team (CAXI) to play in two warm-up games against England prior to the first ODI. It is effectively the Australia Academy team. Whereas England chose to load their Academy warm-up team against Australia before the 2015 Ashes series with contracted players (seven of them), Australia have not been so obliging. There are no contracted players in the CAXI thirteen, who are :-

Hayleigh Brennan, Nicola Carey, Piepa Cleary, Heather Graham, Alana King, Katie Mack, Sophie Molineux, Georgia Redmayne, Naomi Stalenberg, Molly Strano (c), Rachel Trenaman, Belinda Vakarewa, Tayla Vlaeminck.


Sunday, 8 October 2017

Aussie international form

The first seven games of the WNCL have been played and New South Wales, ACT and Western Fury have all won both their games. These three look like the strongest outfits in the competition.

Queensland, Vic Spirit and Tasmania have all lost theirs, and Tasmania and Vic Spirit in particular look to be struggling. South Australia picked up one win against Tasmania having lost their opening fixture to Western Fury.

Here is how the Aussie contracted players and some of the hopefuls got on this weekend. Some decent form with the bat, but the form of the pace bowlers in particular must still be a great concern. The Aussie Ashes squad is due to be announced next week.


Nicole Bolton (WA) 
125* & 6-0-47-0 (v SA);
3-0-12-1 & 93* (v TAS)
Not sure she could have made a better start, but maybe leave the bowling to others? SA and TAS not the strongest two teams in the WNCL this year. November fixtures (NSW & ACT) will be tougher, but the Ashes will be done by then.

Elyse Villani (WA) 
139 (v SA);
10 (v TAS)
Good runs for Villani too against South Australia, but missed out against Tasmania, which kind of sums her up - inconsistent.

Rachael Haynes (NSW) 
103 (v QLD);
83 (v VIC)
Won't have done her confidence any harm at all, but an opening attacks of Johnson & Hill for QLD and Vlaeminck & Brennan for VIC are not desperately intimidating.

Amanda Jade Wellington (SA) 
5-0-50-1 & 116 (v WA);
8-1-43-2 & 0* (v TAS)
Poor day with the ball against WA, but made up for it with her maiden WNCL 100, albeit in a losing cause. Picked up a couple of late wickets v a poor TAS side.


Molly Strano (VIC) 
10-1-39-3 & 36* (v ACT);
10-1-39-3 & 5 (v NSW)
Identical figures with the ball on both days against two decent sides. Got Haynes, Perry and Stalenberg v NSW, so decent wickets. Batted very slowly against ACT (36 off 64 balls), which made no sense chasing only 203. VIC lost by 30 runs?

Beth Mooney (QLD) 
73 (v NSW);
1 (v ACT)
Nice start against NSW, but then out to her eight ball v ACT to Sam Bates caught behind. Nervy times for her in first ODI.

Ellyse Perry (NSW) 
9-1-37-3 & 17 (v QLD);
30 & 7-0-23-1 (v VIC)
Steady stuff from Perry, but Aussies will need more from her. Perhaps she was saving herself for England?

Alex Blackwell (NSW) 
6 (v QLD);
77 (v VIC)
Got some runs under her belt v VIC which will have been pleasing, including three 6s (two off Sophie Molineux).

Alyssa Healy (NSW) 
5 (v QLD);
68 (v VIC)
As with Blackwell, she put a score on the board against VIC, opening the batting. Probably would have liked to go on and make it a big one though.

Kristen Beams (VIC) 
10-0-32-0 & 17* (v ACT);
10-0-52-5 & 1* (v NSW)
Rescued her weekend with four late wickets v NSW as they tried to accelerate from 273/2, but will be looking over her shoulder at Wellington's performance with ball AND bat. Skippered her team to two disappointing defeats.

Sophie Molineux (VIC) 
10-2-33-1 & 50 (v ACT);
10-0-64-0 & 62 (v NSW)
Decent time opening the batting for VIC against both ACT and NSW, but not much to write home about with the ball. Could be pushing for Ashes squad selection and could even oust Jonassen as the left arm spin option?


Jess Jonassen (QLD)
15 & 8.1-0-42-0 (v NSW);
10-1-40-2 & 8 (v ACT)
Jonassen's batting seems to have nosedived over the last year or so. She was once regarded as decent middle order but now seems to be struggling. Picked up Dane van Niekerk v ACT, but she already had 61 by then and ACT over 200. Under pressure from Molineux.

Ash Gardner (SA) 
9-1-44-0 & 34 (v WA);
10-1-24-1 & 7* v (TAS)
Has moved to SA for this season. Struggled with the ball against a decent WA batting line up, but did better against a weak TAS team. Batting - jury is still out!

Megan Schutt (SA) 
10-1-76-0 & 5 (v WA);
7-1-17-1 (v TAS)
Has not looked the swing bowler she used to be, but the Aussies will almost certainly have to play her. Could be a key Ashes' battle.


Belinda Vakarewa (NSW) 
9-0-38-1 (v QLD);
did not play v VIC
Aussies have put a lot of resources into Vakarewa, but are yet to see the reward. Not selected for NSW's second game of the weekend. Not ideal as far as Australia are concerned.

Lauren Cheatle (NSW) 
did not play v QLD;
7-0-31-0 (v VIC)
Did not play in NSW's first game and came up wicketless in the second. Not sure if she is ready to be thrown back onto the international stage, but the Aussies may have no other choice.

Sarah Aley (NSW) 
4-0-28-0 (v QLD);
7-0-40-0 (v VIC)
Struggled. Cannot really be in the selectors' minds for the Ashes series.


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Who will win the Ashes?

The 15 woman England squad fly out to Australia at the end of this week, and play their first warm-up game in just 12 days time.

The Ashes Series starts for real with the first of three ODIs at Allan Border Field in Queensland on 22nd October. It will end on 21st November with the last of the three T20Is. In between will be the lone four day day/night Test Match. There are two points for each of the ODIs and T20s, and four points for the Test Match. With Australia currently holding the Ashes this means that England must get at least 9 points to win the Ashes back. If the teams are tied on eight points each at the end of the series then the Ashes will remain with Australia.

Effectively then if England were to lose the Test Match they would have to win five of the six ODIs and T20Is. If they were to win the Test then they would only need to win three more games. The Test could, of course, be drawn, in which case each team would get two points each. England would then need to win four of the other games.

England are, of course, the current holders of the 50 over World Cup, which they picked up in July, defeating India in the final. Australia had already lost to India in the semi-final stage of the competition. England also beat Australia (albeit only by three runs) in the league stage of the same competition. The advantage you would say therefore was with England then. Add to this the fact that Meg Lanning, the premier batsmen in women's cricket at the moment, will miss the entire series for Australia as she recovers from shoulder surgery, and England have to be favourites, you'd think.

But, with so much riding on the four points from the first ever day/night, pink ball Test Match; new ODI regulations to be used for the first time in women's cricket (two white balls); and with the series being played in Australia, both sides look pretty even to me.

Here are some of the key areas for both sides as they head into the series.

* Some of the England batsmen found some decent form in the WWC.  Nat Sciver (2), Tammy Beaumont, Sarah Taylor and Heather Knight all hit centuries during the tournament, with Beaumont being the leading run scorer and named Player of the Tournament. Only Nicole Bolton and the missing Lanning scored centuries for Australia.

* However Ellyse Perry was the third highest run scorer in the tournament with 404 runs - her scores were 5*, 39*, 71, 66, 70, 60*, 55, and 38. It was no surprise really as she has been the most consistent batsman in the world for the last four years. Amazingly she is yet to hit her first century, despite averaging over 50. If there is one criticism that can be made of her, it is that she frequently bats too slowly. Her strike rate during the WWC was 77.5. While she may be the Aussie Rock she puts pressure on others to score more quickly.

* England opener Lauren Winfield has had a hard time of it of late. She missed the opening two games of the WWC and then only scored 117 runs in the seven games she played. Her top score was just 26. Unfortunately she did not fair much better in the KSL. Playing for the Yorkshire Diamonds she scored 135 runs in five innings at an average of 27, including one score of 58. England could do with her finding some form with the bat.

* The Aussies have their own opener problems, with Beth Mooney also struggling to recapture the form that she had when she burst into the Aussie team in New Zealand in 2016. In eight knocks at the WWC she scored a respectable, if unspectacular, 232 runs at an average of 29 and a strike rate of 71. She subsequently pulled out of the KSL citing an ongoing shoulder injury problem. It will be interesting to see how she gets on for Queensland in the opening matches of the WNCL (the Aussie domestic 50 over tournament), which starts this weekend.

* The fast bowling stocks for both sides look rather depleted. England have chosen frontline duo Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, but have no other genuine new ball bowlers in the squad. No doubt Nat Sciver and Jenny Gunn will be called upon to bolster the England seam attack. As for the Aussies they resorted to bowling Elyse Villani at the WWC, a player who hardly bowls for Western Fury, her state team. It was not an experiment that you would think they will want to repeat. They have Ellyse Perry and Megan Schutt as their frontline seamers, who may well be joined by left-armer Lauren Cheatle, coming back from injury. Their back ups are veteran Sarah Aley and youngster Belinda Vakerewa, neither of who they seem too inclined to play. It is an ongoing area of concern for the Aussies.

* Both squads do however have a surfeit of spinners - England have off-spinning stalwarts Dani Hazell and Laura Marsh, plus skipper Heather Knight, and left-armers Alex Hartley and newbie Sophie Ecclestone. Hartley has been the star of the show for England recently taking 27 wickets in her 17 ODIs to date. I think she will keep her place in the ODI format, but may lose it to Ecclestone in the T20Is and even in the Test Match.
For the Aussies they have left-armer Jess Jonassen, who has been their go-to bowler for some time now, leggie Kristen Beams, and newbie off-spinning all-rounder Ash Gardner, who they rate highly. They also have 20 year old leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington on the bench as back-up for the 32 year old Beams. Also on the reserve list is off-spinner Molly Strano, who has been pretty successful in both the WNCL and WBBL with Victoria and the Melbourne Renegades.

* With Meg Lanning sidelined the Aussies have parachuted in 30 year old Rachel Haynes to skipper them, and presumably bat at three or four. When Lanning is available she does not make the team, and only made it back into the squad at the beginning of 2017 (after three and a half years out) due to a number of injuries. It looks an odd decision, and one the Aussies may well come to rue as the series goes on. Her batting style is slow and steady and she may be a burden with the bat. I can see her working her way lower and lower down the order and not batting in the T20Is at all.

* England on the other hand will be led by Heather Knight. It will be her first Ashes as captain, but she has already skippered England through a nail-biting World Cup semi-final and final, and she has just skippered the unfancied Western Storm to a KSL triumph. She is a strong and popular leader of a very united team.

England will feel that they have never had a better chance of taking the Ashes in Australia, provided they can get over their metaphorical World Cup "hangover". Key players for England will be Nat Sciver and Sophie Ecclestone. For the Aussies the pressure is once again all on Ellyse Perry, both with bat and ball. It might just be too much for her.