One benefit of the multi-format Women’s Ashes system is that it takes quite a lot for a rubber to be truly dead. So now, despite the series, at large, having been determined on Friday with the trophy in Australia’s safe-keeping for another two years, both sides still have something to play for. The remainder of the series assumes greater currency for them when casting their gaze forward to the World T20 – their next major global assignment, this time next year, in the Caribbean.
Elated as Australia captain Rachael Haynes was after the home side retained the trophy, there was no suggestion of tinkering with her XI for the final two contests between the teams, in Canberra on Sunday and Tuesday. “We want to win the series,” she said of the T20I leg. “So we will pick the best team as we have done throughout.”
That sentiment was shared by seamer Megan Schutt, who popped her head up to speak the day after the night before, where a few drinks and an enthusiastic singalong were enjoyed after the home side easily accounted for England in the opening T20. “We want to win the series 12-4,” she said. “We haven’t won a T20 series in a little while and that is something we are quite aware of.”
Both acknowledged the strip that they will be presented with at the Manuka Oval will be hard work for bowlers. Comparisons to the barren Federal Highway that leads into town are supported by the volume of runs scored at the ground in recent summers.
The Australians arrive in the nation’s capital satisfied with what they have achieved after a tough year. “It really hit us then that we have regained the Ashes on home soil,” Schutt said. “For me, it has been a little bit emotional. Just the way this team sticks together is something really brilliant. We really do have a special group.”
For Haynes’ part, she said it was made all the better after the “bitter disappointment” of having been bundled out of the World Cup in July in the semi-final. “That was obviously a hard loss,” Schutt added. “We did some clear planning coming into this and it has paid off. We have plans and are accountable for what we said we are going to do.”
The South Australian has bowled exceptionally across the four white-ball fixtures to date, capturing 14 wickets at an outstanding average of 9.71. Her returns of 4 for 22 on Friday earned Schutt her third four-wicket haul in the limited-overs contests. By contrast, in the World Cup, she took 10 wickets at close to 31 and conceded 4.79 runs an over, the most profligate non-spinner on the list of those with double-digit victim counts.
“It is swinging again,” Schutt, the right-arm opening bowler said simply of her return to top form. “I don’t really know why that is, so I am just really happy it is going that way at the moment.”
England were shattered that they had not been able to bounce from their World Cup win to also capture a rare Ashes triumph away from home. It was visible that they were exhausted, a risk that coach Mark Robinson spoke of before boarding the plane following on from their most taxing home summer since turning full professional in 2014.
“It was quite a hard ask,” he said after the North Sydney Oval loss. “We came here at the request of Cricket Australia because they wanted to do this one-off, standalone series. It didn’t really suit us.” This raises a secondary question about scheduling, but that is a debate for another day as the England camp doesn’t want to take any gloss over the hosts’ victory.
England captain Heather Knight said her team had learned the hard way what a difficult place Australia can be as a touring side under pressure. “We came out here to try and get [the Women’s Ashes] back and we haven’t done that and it hurts,” she said.
But she was also quick to offer praise to her team for fighting back after a top-order collapse in Sydney. She was particularly praiseful of Danielle Wyatt, who made her maiden international half-century on Friday in what was her first innings of the tour and saved the tourists from embarrassment. “I couldn’t be more proud of how the girls have fought and stood up to that toughness and tried to throw a few punches back.”