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Match Preview – AUS Women vs ENG Women, Women’s Ashes 2021/22, 1st ODI


There’s no lack of context in what is a World Cup year, but Lanning and Knight aren’t looking too far ahead as they face off in the ODI leg of the women’s Ashes

The rest of this Ashes series will do well to match the drama of the Test that played out at Manuka Oval. It was a contest that may yet be pivotal in a sustained revival of the format in the women’s game.

That is a longer-term ambition and one that the administrators need to take seriously (highlighted by the fact that there are currently no further Tests on the schedule), but in the immediate future there is an equally important challenge to focus the minds of Australia and England.

Not that these ODIs, which will decide the Ashes, need any further context, but looming on the horizon is the World Cup in New Zealand. England are defending champions, Australia have long spoken of their drive to banish the memories of their semi-final exit in 2017, and their opening World Cup match is between each other on March 5. But Meg Lanning and Heather Knight are not looking further than these three outings.

“We don’t want to think too far ahead because as soon as we do that it will come crashing down pretty quick,” Lanning said.

“If we try and do the right things it will prepare us for the World Cup” Knight said. “We haven’t got our eye on that [the World Cup] at all, it’s all about that first game and trying to bring the good stuff we’ve done so far and polish a few things.”

There was somewhat less raw emotion in Knight’s voice as she spoke on Wednesday compared to her post-Test interview with the BBC on Sunday evening. She knew how close her team had got to putting themselves ahead in the multi-format series and, in truth, knew they should have won.

It could have been worse had those last 13 balls not been kept out by Sophie Ecclestone and Kate Cross because an Australia win would have finished the Ashes off there and then, but England now need to win the ODIs 3-0 to wrestle them back for the first time since 2013-14.

That is a huge ask against a side that had a 26-match unbeaten run in the format until their most recent outing against India, but amid the agonising near-miss three days ago, Knight felt England had laid down a marker.

“Real character from the girls, to show that we can do that and want to go at the Australians. We’ve talked about it a lot before the series and so pleased that the girls put themselves out there and tried to chase it down”

Heather Knight

“Felt like we were in a great position to win it and at the end there it felt a little bit like a loss, but the way we went at that chase was awesome,” she said. “I certainly think they were the most relieved with the draw. It’s shown that when we do go hard at them we can put them under pressure and create a few cracks.

“Real character from the girls, to show that we can do that and want to go at the Australians. We’ve talked about it a lot before the series and so pleased that the girls put themselves out there and tried to chase it down.”

England have won their three ODI series since cricket resumed in the pandemic – two against New Zealand and one against India – but their last meeting against Australia in the Ashes during the 2019 series was a 3-0 defeat.

Those three matches were part of Australia’s winning streak – the third of them featuring Ellyse Perry’s 7 for 22 – and there remains understandable confidence in the one-day game. India pushed them harder than most earlier this season and, having narrowly seen victory slip away in the second match because of a waist-high full-toss, reset Australia’s counter to zero in the next game.
There were some questions raised about Lanning’s captaincy when the pressure was on in the closing stages of the Test, although they were eventually able to pull a draw out of the fire with Annabel Sutherland and Alana King impressing in what effectively became one-day death bowling, albeit without wides and fielding restrictions.
So far the absence of Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham from the spin attack has been well covered, while quick Tayla Vlaeminck has since joined them in missing the World Cup, but it will be interesting to watch how Australia adapt in the 50-over game.
Though Amanda-Jade Wellington is part of the World Cup squad as a second legspinner alongside King, Lanning indicated that she would not be drafted in for this series unless there was injury or illness, leaving the road clear for King to continue as first choice.

“[The Test] turned into a bit of a one-day game and it does go to show that when you put partnerships together it’s pretty difficult to get wickets. So that’s a bit of a sign for the ODI series,” Lanning said. “From a bowling perspective, we need to be able to take wickets and put them under pressure, and from a batting point of view, when you get in you really need to make sure you are making the most of it.

“We are really comfortable with our ODI game at the moment, feel like it’s in a good spot, but we need to make sure we bring our best to beat England.”

Lanning confirmed that Megan Schutt would return, having been left out of the Test to manage her workload after Covid-19, while they could have either Ashleigh Gardner or Tahlia McGrath as low as No. 7. Knight said there were no injury concerns and a 12-player squad had already been narrowed down. It’s make or break for England.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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