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Lisa Sthalekar


Women's Ashes tour wrap

04 September 2013 8

So what can we take out of the new multi-format Women's Ashes Series 2013 just held in England?

If we were to look purely at the change in format, from being just about Test matches between the two nations, to now including all three formats, I would have to say it was a GREAT success.

Test cricket is rarely played at the women's international level these days with Australia and England being the last two nations to continue playing the test match format, and since 2009, Australia and England would battle out one test match to secure the historic Ashes trophy. 

During this recent tour, if the two teams had contested the Ashes in the traditional sense, with the Test being drawn at Wormsley, Australia would have regained the Ashes and both teams would have continued to play an ODI and T20 Series with no real meaning or context.

The change in format provided drama and theatre synonymous with the Men's Ashes and arguably for the first time, the women's game created heroes along the way. 

By allowing all three formats to count towards who would win the Ashes meant that teams had to be strategically smart in their selection and it allowed for the general public to be more captivated with the story that was unfolding in front of their eyes.

After each game people were left wondering, would the Commonwealth Bank Southern Stars provide some success for the Australian public, who were desperate for one of their teams to walk away with the Ashes or would the English women sit alongside their Men's team like they did 2005 when both team regained the Ashes?

Those questions and hopes allowed the media to showcase both teams’ stories in papers, online media and coverage on TV, something that certainly hasn't happened in the past when Australia has toured overseas, other than for perhaps World Cup tournaments.

For the Southern Stars it was a disappointing series having lost it 12 - 4 based on the points system and it being a long time since Australia has lost five consecutive matches to the one nation, particularly after having come off such a high from winning both World Cups last season.

So what has changed?

Looking through the statistics, Australia only won one match…..just, that being the first ODI. 

So some might argue that Australia was simply outplayed, but I thought it might be helpful if we were to look closer at the raw statistics of the players throughout the series. 

Interestingly, there isn't too much difference between the top seven players of each team.

In the bowling arena, Southern Stars players Coyte and Osborne not only picked up more wickets than their opposition but they went at a better average than Brunt, Gunn and Hazell. 

The only key difference is that England's main players all contributed at some stage during the series and for the Australian's, their gun, Ellyse Perry only managed to pick up two wickets throughout the seven game series.

Having watched the first ODI at Lord's, Perry struggled to find her line and length, bowling an unusual amount of wides, six in total and from then on she wasn't able to produce her usual excellent performances with the ball. 

After completing two surgeries after the victorious World Cup win in February, that may have played a role in her preparation for the series and therefore effecting her confidence, especially in pressure situations.   

With the bat the Stars weren't too off the mark either compared to the English batters.

For instance Meg Lanning was great for the Stars scoring 298 runs at an average of 37.25 and Knight was the highest run scorer for England with 301 runs at 37.62.

Though on reflection there are two differences between both teams in the batting department. 

Firstly, over the course of the ODI's and T20's there were three different combinations of opening partnerships used by the Stars, I presume as they searched for an opening partnership to generate more than 19 runs, which was in the end the best opening stand compiled throughout the Series, excluding the Test. 

Plus out of the six ODI/T20 matches, in four of the games one of Southern Stars openers went for a duck, thereby serving to give momentum straight away to the opposition.

Secondly, England had a number of individual match winner performances throughout the Series. 

There was Knight who made an impressive 157 runs in the Test match and 69 in the 2nd ODI, Taylor made a crucial 77 off the back of one of the best catches I have seen a keeper take in the first T20 and the all but important Series winning innings of Lydia Greenway in the second T20, who scored an unbeaten 80 to rip the hearts out of the Aussies and secure the Ashes for England.

Although the Southern Stars had individuals who scored some amazing runs, such as super mum, Sarah Elliott scoring her maiden Test hundred, Captain Jodie Fields doing some damage in the Test with an unbeaten 78, there just weren't many other match winning innings throughout the ODI and T20's for the Stars. 

It all seemed to happen in the Test match.

Jess Cameron's solitary 81 in the second ODI and a number of Lanning’s fifties in both shorter formats still weren't enough to tip the balance in Australia's favour. 

They needed more from their top order to fire and fire big if they were going to come away with more wins.

Having been part of an Australian team that beat New Zealand five-nil in a Rosebowl series in 2005/06 it may have looked from an outsiders point of view to be an absolute smashing, but four out of the five games in that series came down to the last over and the experience of the team meant we were able to execute and keep our nerve in crucial moments to win in the end. 

So a lopsided win-loss column doesn’t necessarily mean a team has been completely outplayed or dominated throughout a series.

This leads me to my next point, experience of the teams. 

Yes this Australian team does have experience, having recently won two World Cups. 

Having been played at those type of tournaments myself against different opposition every second day, I can attest to the fact that momentum in the key. 

No matter what people might say, when you move from a World Cup where you are playing different teams, to a tour where you play the same opposition over a period of a month, it is a really different experience for the players, not only being more physically tired, but more importantly, the capacity to become really emotionally drained. 

This is relevant because it is at this point that a few psychological scars (eg getting out to the same bowler or the same way) start to appear and all of sudden makes it a lot harder to come back from back-to-back losses.

Players that are able to come back strongly are the ones that are confident in their own game and who have the capacity to make slight but necessary adjustments on the go. 

It takes times, a lot of time, to get to a point where players can do this and the reality is that some players may never be able to achieve being able to do this.

Looking at the top seven players again in each team I did a little bit of number crunching.

If we were to look at the average amount of games each team has played in ODI's and T20's, England win hands down. 

For ODI's, England's average is a nice even 100 and the Southern Stars is half that, at 50. 

In the T20's it isn't as bad, but put it into context as there hasn't been all that many International T20's and England again comes out on top again with an average of 51 compared to the Stars’ 38.

So what does this mean?

I am certainly not excusing the girls for poor performances because if we look back over the last 12 months we have all seen them perform extremely well in pressure situations, so they are capable of it. 

Nor am I taking anything away from England who played well and was the more consistent team throughout the series.

What I am saying, which is something similar to what Cathryn Fitzpatrick was quoted as saying in a recent article about the players. 

That is that over the course of the last six months England hasn’t necessarily created a talent gap between themselves and Australia, but rather during the Ashes series they found a way to win the key moments in the games whereas Australia didn’t this time around. 

There were times throughout the series, bar the last T20 of the Ashes Series, where Australia had the chance to swing the match into their favour, but poor execution or wrong shot selection allowed England to get back in the game and seal the victory.

I have no doubts that this tour would have been tough on the players, but it will only motivate them all to work even harder on their game so next time, in January 2014, they will be ready to regain the Ashes. 

Not only will the Southern Stars have played a hard fought Women’s National Cricket League with their States and be in the middle of the traditional Australia cricket season, but they will be more prepared and even hungrier to prove that they are the best team in the world.

Until next time.

Southern Stars Correspondent, back at work now…reality, Lisa Sthalekar

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia.
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