The Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes begins on Sunday when Australia and England meet in the opening one-day international at Brisbane's Allan Border Field.
The world's two best teams will play off in three ODIs, one day-night Test and three T20Is between now and November 21, with the side that earns the most points to walk away with the coveted trophy.
There's no bigger battle in cricket than the Ashes and with Australia determined to bounce back from a disappointing World Cup and retain the Ashes, former Australia star Mel Jones has shared her tips for the series with cricket.com.au.
What does Australia have to nail to win the Ashes?
Mel Jones: “Your big guns have to perform, but I think it will come down to some real basics of the game. One of those is fielding. I don’t think Australia fielded well enough at the World Cup. They were solid enough but I think probably well below the par they would expect of themselves. In an Ashes series against an England side that’s up and about, they’ll need to instil pressure consistently throughout the day.”
What will be the key battle?
Jones: “I think they’re reasonably evenly matched skills wise, so it will be about the ability of teams to stay focused and stick to game plans and back themselves in certain situations. The team who falters there first will find it really tough throughout the series.”
One piece of advice for Australia?
Jones: “Find your inner mongrel. One thing Australia have always prided themselves on is that ruthlessness. They certainly showed bits and pieces of it through the World Cup, but not enough and not consistently enough.”
Who poses the biggest threat in the England XI?
Jones: “Natalie Sciver. We haven’t seen the best of her in Australia yet in the WBBL, although she showed glimpses here and there. But when you speak to the England players, they all say Nat Sciver is your game changer, the person they hate bowling to in the nets, in the Super League or in county cricket. During the World Cup I started to see why people rated her so highly and off the back of the tournament I think she’s got that belief that not only she can do it consistently, but that she can do it against the best teams as well.”
Who are the key players Australia need to perform?
Captain, batter | 30yo | left-hand bat | left-arm medium
Jones: "Leadership wise, she’s got big shoes to fill. But she’s not trying to fill Meg’s shoes, she’s trying to walk in her own. I think she’s got that calmness about her own knowledge of the game to do that. It’s a tough series, a home series, an Ashes series and all these other factors are going on around the team, so her ability to manage things on and off the field will be critical.”
Wicketkeeper-batter| 26yo | right-hand bat
Jones: "I think she’s got a good cricket brain and that needs to come out now in support of Rachael. Rachael is very clear on her game plans but Healy knows the opposition players and the team really well and her input tactically, and player-management wise, will be crucial. We need her really up and about behind the stumps. It’s a long series and in terms of aggression, it’s not just about bat and ball, it’s about being vocal as well. Australia need her up and about behind the stumps and dictating terms out there.”
Allrounder | 20yo | right-hand bat | off-spin
Jones: "She’s so aggressive with the ball and she gives so much with the bat. We didn’t see it much during the World Cup because she batted so low, but she can be a real game changer with both bat and ball.”
Who will provide the X-factor?
Jones: "Ashleigh Gardner, more so with the bat. England would have done a lot of work on her as a bowler, but there’ll come a point in a game where she’ll need to come in and do something with the bat to break open the game.”
Who's a young gun ready to rise to the challenge?
Bowler | 20yo | right-hand bat | leg-spin
Jones: "She’s just such an aggressive turner of the ball and she gives something with the bat as well. I think England would have, in terms of facing leg-spin, worked a lot on facing someone like Kristen Beams who is exceptionally consistent but Wellington gives you a completely different style of delivery and I don’t think England have seen that as much in the past so they have to adjust very, very quickly to that."
Who will be player of the series?
Allrounder | 26yo | right-hand bat | right-arm fast
Jones: “She’s the type of player who will say, ‘Right, well Meg isn’t here so I’m going to value-add X, Y and Z’. Not that she needs to add value to what she’s done over the last few years, it’s been ridiculous as it is, but she’s at an age where she knows her game so well and I would hope she gets the monkey off her back and gets that maiden ton in the first three one-dayers. If she does that, look out, because I think we’ll see a whole new Ellyse Perry which will be really exciting to see.”
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
Australia squad (ODI and Test): Rachael Haynes (C), Alex Blackwell (VC), Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa (Test only), 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 Allan Border Field, October 22
Brisbane Charity Partner: Lord Mayor's Charitable Trust
Second ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 26
Third ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 29
Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12
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