Seventh heaven: The day Perry destroyed England
Australia assistant coach Ben Sawyer reveals the groundwork behind Ellyse Perry's historic 2019 Ashes haul in Canterbury
7 July 2020, 02:34 PM AEST
The best-ever ODI spell produced by an Australian woman was the culmination of months of planning combined with the tireless worth ethic of the game’s greatest allrounder – and its most relentless perfectionist.
In 10 devastating overs on July 7 last year, Ellyse Perry left England shell shocked as she bagged 7-22 on a sunny afternoon in Canterbury, sealing a victory that would lay the foundation for Australia’s most convincing series win since the introduction of the multi-format women’s Ashes.
When Perry dismissed England opener Amy Jones for a duck with her third ball of the day, Australian assistant coach Ben Sawyer had an inkling his star allrounder might be in for a day out.
Even he could not have predicted the carnage that would follow.
Perry tore through England at St Lawrence Ground, putting on a ruthless clinic that saw the hosts bowled out for a paltry 75 and eclipsing her country’s previous best one-day figures of 7-24, held by legendary allrounder Shelley Nitschke.
It was a dream outcome for a plan Sawyer, Perry and the Australian brains trust had hatched at Brisbane’s Bupa National Cricket Centre in the months leading up to the Ashes campaign.
"Before we left for the Ashes, the big one for the fast bowlers was that we were really going to try and swing the ball and use the conditions over there to do that," Sawyer explained to cricket.com.au this week.
"The cool part for Pez was that she was one of the ones who really adopted that plan and worked really hard prior to try and swing the ball as much as possible, and the majority of her wickets came from that shape, so that was the most pleasing part.
"We’d come up with a plan, she’d worked really hard on it and she was able to execute it on the day."
Having studied what had worked for Australian quicks – male and female – on previous UK tours, and observing the tactics employed so successfully by the likes of English spearhead Anya Shrubsole, one thing was clear to the Australian camp: swing would be king if they wanted to retain the coveted Ashes trophy.
While Perry has long possessed a lethal out-swinger, she left nothing to chance while preparing for the Ashes campaign in Brisbane and upon arrival in the UK, to ensure she could achieve maximum movement against England’s strong batting line-up.
And with a new-ball combination that matched Perry with Megan Schutt’s in-swingers, Australia had the perfect attack to beat the English at their own game, on their own turf.
"I’d definitely seen signs of Pez swinging the ball earlier in the tour, not necessarily during the first two ODIs in Leicester but at times she’d been shaping the ball in practice," Sawyer said.
"I remember that day (in Canterbury) and the first over or so, the ball was swinging and I was hoping all those plans would come together for her."
Perry took just three balls to claim her first victim, fooling Jones with late away swing to remove the opener for the third time in as many innings.
"In the first couple of overs she got Amy Jones really cheaply again … and you knew it was going to swing," Sawyer said.
"I thought she’d have a decent day out and a very good opening spell while the ball was swinging ... but I never thought she’d get seven-for."
Perry thought she had English captain Heather Knight the very next delivery, only for her shout for caught behind to be turned down.
She didn’t have to wait long for another, however, striking the front pad of Tammy Beaumont in her second over, and following up with a brilliant out-swinger next delivery to catch the edge of star batter Sarah Taylor’s blade.
Perry capped a stunning opening spell with another two wickets, Knight also falling to her late swing before Danni Wyatt was trapped lbw.
Having triggered the collapse, Perry returned in the 19th over to continue the torment, bowling Anya Shrubsole before collecting her seventh scalp, Sophie Ecclestone, in her final over.
"It turned into something pretty special," Sawyer said.
It comes as no surprise that Sawyer ranks Perry’s performance among the best he’s ever seen.
It’s not just the quality of the bowling that stands out, but the context in which Perry produced the best one-day spell of her career.
Australia had gone into that match with a 4-0 lead in the multi-format, points-based Ashes, having won both of the first two one-dayers in Leicester.
Winning that third and final ODI made it 6-0, and left England needing to win the one-off Test and all three T20Is to claim back the Ashes that Australia have held since 2015.
"The Ashes were going to be really hard to lose after that," Sawyer said.
"To do it when it really counted, that was the cool part.
"The Ashes were on the line, it wasn’t a dead rubber … that made it an even better performance."
Perry is currently on the rehabilitation trail after suffering the worst injury of her 13-year international career at the worst possible moment in March.
She tore her hamstring off the bone in Australia’s final World Cup group game in Melbourne, a shock setback that meant the world’s premier player could only watch from the sidelines as her teammates took out the trophy in front of a record 86,174 fans at the MCG.
Last month, the 29-year-old said she would not rush back from the injury and would be willing to miss some games at the start of the international season in order to be back to her absolute best.
Australia’s summer begins with a home campaign against New Zealand in late September.
When she does finally return to the green and gold, Sawyer predicts his star allrounder and close confidante will find yet another level with the ball.
"The thing I can never say enough about her, she knows exactly what she wants to do," he said.
"She’s got big plans for her bowling and new things she wants to achieve and a new ball she wants to bowl.
"She drives most of it, I just try and help to facilitate it.
"She’s got new plans for this year, things she wants to attack and I’ve got no doubt that at the end of this season, she’ll probably have achieved those as well.
"She’s said it to me herself, she sees this injury as not just getting back, but getting back even better … so to me, that means she’ll be as strong as she’s ever been and I know for a fact it means she’ll be even better with her skills."