This article was first written for and published by The Roar.
The Ashes has begun.
With the Australian Women’s team win over the English Women’s team yesterday, Australia take a four-point lead in the multi-format series which will see the two teams take part in a series of ODIs, a Test match and three T20 Internationals.
The series started last Sunday at Allan Border Oval. With more rain in a single week than Brisbane had experienced in the months leading up to the game, we were lucky to have any cricket at all.
On the day before the game, the grounds staff slept during the day and woke up at 6pm to work all through the night to drain the moisture from the ground.
There were a couple of shock selections in the Australian women’s team, most notably the omission of leg-spinner Kristen Beams and former opener Beth Mooney. Alyssa Healy was promoted to top of the order and youngster Amanda-Jade Wellington was introduced into Australia’s bowling attack.
During the England innings, Alyssa Healy spent some time mic-ed up. When she was asked what the Aussies were hoping to restrict the English innings to, she answered “around 280”. You can imagine my confidence when Australia dismissed England for 228 thanks to some clever bowling from Ashleigh Gardner (3/47), Ellyse Perry (2/50) and Amanda-Jade Wellington, who was one of Australia’s most economical bowlers at 3.90.
This bowling was backed up by some magnificent fielding. Megan Schutt took two catches to dismiss opener Tammy Beaumont and Laura Marsh and Elyse Villani danced along the boundary displaying tremendous poise to take a catch to dismiss Natalie Sciver for 36.
However, my confidence turned to nervous energy when Australia’s opening batters of Alyssa Healy (18) and Nicole Bolton (5) were both dismissed cheaply and early.
In the end, there were two players that made the difference.
In England’s innings, the highest score was 48. What lacked from the English innings was a single player who dominated and who managed to score a large total.
For Australia, that batter was Alex Blackwell.
At 34 years old, Alex is the most experienced woman in the Australian line-up. She ended up unbeaten on 67 and her 63-run partnership with fellow Sydney Thunder teammate Rachael Haynes steadied the Australian innings.
Ashleigh Gardner was fearless in her innings as well. Despite only being 20 years old, Ashleigh came in during the closing stages of the game and hit two sixes on her way to scoring 27 runs off 18 balls.
Despite Alex’s exceptional innings, it was Jess Jonassen who scored the winning runs, sending the ball to cover boundary with just five balls to spare.
Then onto yesterday’s second ODI at Coffs Harbour where Australia won by 75 runs.
The Australian Women’s team posted a record total, making 296 in their 50-over innings. Alex Blackwell may have been the stand out in the first ODI, but in this game, four Australians made half-centuries: Alyssa Healy (56), Nicole Bolton (66), Ellyse Perry (67) and Rachael Haynes (89*). In particular, Rachael Haynes led as captain, making her 89* off 56.
This game was also impacted by weather. Unfortunately though, in contrast to Brisbane where rain affected the lead-up, rain affected the game itself, and the Duckworth Lewis rule came into play after rain interrupted the English innings.
Additionally, Ellyse Perry was ruled out of the attack early after bowling two deliveries in a row above waist-height, due to a slippery ball.
Luckily, Australia still had another five bowlers to select from after selecting six in their line-up.
Perry’s ineligibility to bowl potentially gave each of Amanda-Jade Wellington and Tahlia McGrath the opportunity to bowl more. Each of them were able to jag their first wickets for Australia with Amanda-Jade dismissing Heather Knight LBW for 36 and Taylor being dismissed for 26 after being caught by Healy.
That wicket certainly brought plenty of nostalgia with the scorecard reading: c Healy b McGrath.
Other standout moments included some excellent fielding, in particular catches by Ellyse Perry to dismiss Fran Wilson on 37 and Elyse Villani to dismiss Anya Shrubsole for 21.
Katherine Brunt also managed to score her first ODI 50, making 52 off 54 balls.
While England may go into the dressing sheds dejected after a second consecutive loss, there’s more cricket to come, with Australia taking on England in the third ODI on Sunday. Australia are just four points away from sealing an Ashes victory. It’s not over yet.
I’ll also wrap up each game. For a bit of fun, I thought I would award a 3, 2, 1 for each game and see who my player of the series is at the end.
3 – Alex Blackwell
2 – Ashleigh Gardner
1 – Megan Schutt
3 – Rachael Haynes
2 – Megan Schutt
1 – Amanda-Jade Wellington
The 2017/2018 season launched in Sydney on Monday and there has been plenty of movement over the off-season.
Matildas youngster Ellie Carpenter has moved from the Western Sydney Wanderers Women to join Canberra United.
Hayley Raso has moved from Canberra United to the Brisbane Roar Women.
Laura Alleway has moved from the Melbourne City Women to the Melbourne Victory Women.
Newcastle FC’s biggest signing is Emily van Engmond and Lisa de Vanna will be joining the Sydney FC Women.
While Alannah Kennedy’s move from the Melbourne City Women to the Melbourne Victory Women has attracted most of the headlines, Yukari Kinga is also a significant signing. Yukari is a genius in the midfield and will make Alannah and her defensive partner’s job a lot easier.
The W-League begins tonight with two games: the Sydney FC Women will play the Brisbane Roar Women and the Perth Glory Women will play the Melbourne City Women.