Women's Ashes ODIs
How Australia retained the Ashes
How a series of difficult calls, selfless responses and one key appointment saw the hosts keep their hold of the urn
Sam Ferris is a Sydney-based journalist for cricket.com.au. He is the host of The Unplayable Podcast and co-creator of the hit web series In Case You Played And Missed It.
When Australia's Women's Ashes success is broken down, assessed, analysed, reviewed and recapped, it will be a catalogue of tough decisions found at the root of the triumph.
It started at the Women's World Cup when Rachael Haynes, a player whose international career looked done and dusted six months earlier, was made captain over deputy and veteran Alex Blackwell in Meg Lanning's absence.
When Lanning, the world's best batter and inspirational skipper, was ruled out of the Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes Series needing surgery for a chronic shoulder problem, Haynes was installed as captain, a difficult decision given the calibre of leaders in the Australian setup.
Having assembled a squad of 14 for the one-day international leg of the multi-format series, Australia's selectors committed to playing a sixth genuine bowling option to address that glaring issue from the World Cup. It meant one of the established top seven had to go.
It's understood in the lead up to the first ODI the team changed four to five times. A player was going to get an opportunity while another was going to miss out. Eventually, aggressive wicketkeeper-batter Alyssa Healy was promoted to opener, allrounder Tahlia McGrath was installed and Beth Mooney, Australia's consistent top-order batter, was dropped.
Australia won the ODI series 2-1 and Healy made two quick half-centuries and blunted England pace ace Katherine Brunt.
Mooney, from all reports, took the decision on the chin, worked harder in the nets, and did everything she could to be the most supportive teammate possible. You can chuck Kristen Beams in that category too, the veteran leg-spinner who was overlooked for younger leggie Amanda-Jade Wellington.
When it came time for the day-night Test, the squad was expanded to 15, with NSW speedster Belinda Vakarewa joining the group in Canberra.
After a worthwhile three-day practice match under lights was completed, the squad was meant to be culled by two on the night of the third day. It wasn't. The selection call was too hard. More time and information was needed.
Vakarewa and Beams left the group two days later, the Tuesday before Thursday's opening day of the historic pink-ball Test.
Ashleigh Gardner and Lauren Cheatle, two bright superstars on the rise, were expected to make their debuts. They didn't. Australia's selectors instead went the way of experienced campaigner Jess Jonassen, the uncapped McGrath, while Mooney was reinstated following an unbeaten century in a warm-up match in Canberra.
Jonassen bowled 31 overs for 2-52 in England's first innings and scored an up-tempo 24, while McGrath picked up three wickets for the match and scored 47 in a partnership worth 103 with Ellyse Perry. Tough calls, but the right calls.
Three days after the Test finished in a draw, Cheatle was diagnosed with back stress fractures and is expected to miss most, if not all, of the remainder of the summer.
On Friday, Australia left out Alex Blackwell, Australia's most experienced cricketer, a future Hall of Famer, and player who has reinvented herself to keep pace with the evolving women's game.
Like the tough decisions already mentioned, it was the right one. Haynes employed seven bowlers in restricting England to 9-132, a total that was mowed down by Mooney, who made 86 from 56 balls with 11 fours and two sixes.
"That's the nature of the beast of elite cricket, someone has to miss out and unfortunately that was me," Mooney told reporters on Friday night when asked if she had a point to prove after being dropped for the ODI series.
"Whilst that was disappointing, the girls won the series 2-1 and really made a statement, especially after the World Cup semi (loss).
"We were ahead on the points table going into the Test match, so I was just really happy to be given an opportunity and really happy to take it as well.
"It was disappointing but pretty exciting to be part of a winning Ashes campaign."
While she's not a selector, Haynes has a big say in selection.
Her fingerprints are on those tough decisions as much as the head coach and the selectors, which at times difficult can be confronting but on the flip side, when they come off, like they have in this campaign, they are ultimately rewarding.
"At the start of the series we said we wanted to pick our best XI for the conditions and also for the format," Haynes said.
"There has certainly been some tough calls and it's one of the least likable things about this role.
"But to be honest the team has responded really well to it and credit to Beth to come out and do that today.
"She had to be very patient, not playing in the one-dayers and then (playing) the Test match as well.
"So, for her to hold her composure and make sure she's ready in big moments like that I think our whole playing group has responded really well to it.
"It's been tough but it's been great to see how people respond."
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
Australia lead England 4-2
Australia T20 squad: Sarah Aley, Alex Blackwell, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes (c), Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Molly Strano, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.
First ODI Australia won by two wickets
Second ODI Australia won by 75 runs (DLS method)
Third ODI England won by 20 runs (DLS method)
Day-Night Test Match drawn
First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17
North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation
Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19
Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21
Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT