This article was first written for and published by The Roar.
In an unbelievable performance, England has defeated Australia by four wickets in the final T20 in Manuka, levelling the women’s Ashes series 8-8.
The Southern Stars retain the Ashes, as they won the last series, but this will be little consolation for an Australian team that was looking to win outright.
England will be confident and proud to have fought back so well, particularly considering that the urn was won by the conclusion of the first T20 – and at one point, the home side led the series 4-0.
For the home side, it’s a disappointing end to a special tournament.
This will always be remembered as the series where Ellyse Perry made 213* and where the Richies lit up Day 2 at North Sydney Oval.
It will go down in history as the first women’s Ashes series televised on Channel Nine and to which the Australian public could buy tickets.
It’s hard to fathom how Australia lost this match, particularly after posting a score of 178 in an opening innings where only two wickets fell – Alyssa Healy caught by Katherine Brunt on 19, and Elyse Villani bowled by Sophie Eccelstone on 16.
The shining light was Beth Mooney’s 117* off 70 balls – an immense strike rate of 167.14 – hitting 19 fours and 1 six. What’s more, her fifty was the second she’s scored this T20 series, and her ton was only the second by an Australian woman in an international T20 (the other belongs to Meg Lanning).
Australia must have been feeling confident when England came in to bat, and even more so after snatching early wickets.
Tammy Beaumont was caught by Ashleigh Gardner on 1, Sarah Taylor was caught by Rachael Haynes on 5, and Natalie Sciver was run out by Elyse Villani on 7.
But then things started to go horribly wrong, with fielding once again the culprit.
On several occasions throughout these Ashes, captain Rachael Haynes has said her team prides itself on its fielding. Throughout the ODI series and the Test that was a claim I could believe. But then something changed for the shortest format.
In the first T20, Australia dropped at least five catches. In the second, another three were dropped. By the third, Australia put down four and played England right back into the match.
You could see how disappointed both Molly Strano and Alyssa Healy were when they put down two catches each and rightly so.
I’m struggling to understand how this can happen given fielding is such a fundamental skill in all formats. Why such a tremendous difference between fielding in the Test and ODI compared to T20?
Could it be because the pressure in T20s to field tightly is more intense and the Aussies struggle to maintain it? If that’s the case, this is a major concern for many of these players heading into the WBBL.
Whatever the reason, it simply is not good enough at an international level.
England’s performance with the bat overshadowed what should have been Beth Mooney’s night.
The star of their performance was Dani Wyatt, who scored 100 runs off 57 balls. She was closely followed by captain Heather Knight, who rectified her last three innings – consisting of 4, 0 and 0 – with 51 off 37 balls.
It was a disappointing end for the Aussies, who have not managed to win a bilateral T20 series since 2015, and is a major concern ahead of the 2018 ICC Women’s World Twenty20.
But let’s finish on the positives.
If you are a fan of women’s cricket, the summer is just getting started.
Now that the Ashes are complete, each member of the Australian team will fly home to their respective states to compete in Round 2 of the Women’s National Cricket League, which takes place this weekend.
Following completion of that round, the countdown is well and truly on to the WBBL, which kicks off on 9 December with a two-day festival planned for opening weekend at North Sydney Oval. I encourage everyone to make the effort to get along!