Saturday, September 14, 2013

10 reasons England won the Ashes

Before this summer started, it was generally felt that the women's Ashes would be a closely-fought contest, with Australia favourites for the trophy. That prediction now looks rather pessimistic to England supporters. England won 12-4 on points, with 5 wins in a row to end the series, and thoroughly convincing victory margins of 51 runs, 5 wickets, 15 runs, 5 wickets and 7 wickets in those matches. Truth be told, this was a thrashing by England, and one that no one expected. Here are 10 reasons why it happened:

1. Sarah Taylor
Taylor's three successive ducks in the World Cup in February put England on the back foot but she has clearly recovered from that blip in form. She scored 269 runs at an average of 38.42 across the series and her innings at Chelmsford – 77 off 57 balls – effectively secured the match for England. Her glovework was also impeccable throughout. And that's not even mentioning THAT catch at Hove, the best I've ever seen by a keeper in men's or women's international cricket.

2. Heather Knight
Back in June at Loughborough, I watched Knight make 14 off 46 balls against Pakistan. Those in the crowd who remained awake spent their time grumbling at her terrifically slow scoring. Yet her record partnership with Taylor at Hove in the third ODI, of which Knight hit 69 off 65 balls, secured victory for England, and she was then drafted into the T20 squad at the last minute by the selectors. And no one can forget her majestic 157 at Wormsley, without which England would almost certainly have lost the Test. She finished as England's top run-scorer, with 301 runs at an average of 37.62, and she was also, deservedly, Player of the Series.

3. Lydia Greenway
It is difficult to exaggerate the impact Greenway's amazing fielding can have; her one-handed pick up and throw in from extra cover to dismiss centurion Sarah Elliott for 10 in the second innings of the Wormsley Test is just one example from this series. She also proved herself once again to be possibly England's best T20 batsman, hitting 80* at Southampton, the highest ever score for England Women in a T20, and gloriously smashing the winning runs to take England to a memorable series victory. One of the stars of the series.

4. Katherine Brunt
Brunt was without doubt the pick of England's bowlers this series. Besides being their top wicket-taker, with 9 wickets at an average of 25.88, she was also by far the most consistent. She looked equally dangerous across all three forms of the game and was finished the series as Player of the Match at Durham, giving away just 14 runs in her 4 overs. The best bowler in the world at the moment.

5. Ellyse Perry
Perry is the Aussie superstar, their big name, but she utterly failed to perform this series with the ball. Of course it was always going to take her time to adjust to English conditions and pitches, but she struggled to find the right line throughout, finishing with only 2 wickets at an embarrassing average of 129.50. On a good day, Perry can blast through a side on one leg, as she proved in the World Cup final. She had very few good days this series.

6. The failure of the Australian openers
Rachael Haynes was Australia's top-scorer at the World Cup earlier this year. The most she managed this series was 25*, and she was ignominiously dropped for the third ODI after two successive ducks at Lords and Hove. Alyssa Healy, who replaced Haynes in the third ODI, and Elyse Villani, opening in the third T20 at Durham, fared no better with a duck apiece. The question of who might open for Australia when England arrive in January is something the Aussies will need to give serious thought to in the coming months.

7. England's top order
A criticism often levelled at this England side has been their over-reliance on Edwards to perform with the bat. I accused them of the same old story after their appalling batting collapse at Lords, but in the following five matches they absolutely proved me wrong. Natalie Sciver's contributions with the bat throughout, including 37* in 44 balls at Durham, demonstrated that England were not overly reliant on the “usual suspects”. And, in the second ODI at Hove, every one of England's top six batsmen contributed double figures.

8. The lack of Australian bowling depth
Unfortunately for the Aussies it is all too obvious that they are missing the all-round talent of Lisa Sthalekar (she retired earlier this year). Captain Jodie Fields spent much of the series juggling a set of bowlers who simply did not look like taking a wicket: Megan Schutt and Julie Hunter were both toothless and expensive. Holly Ferling is a special talent, but she is still young, raw and erratic; she was dropped midway through the series, then brought back for the last two T20 matches, epitomising the headaches of the Australian selectors this series. This lack of bowling depth is another issue they will need to resolve before the follow-up series early next year.

9. England's bowling unit
Edwards blamed England's defeat in the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka last year on “a lack of discipline with the ball”. Given that Brunt, recovering from injury, could still only bowl in short spells, and that Anya Shrubsole was injured early on in the first T20 at Chelmsford and was out for the rest of the series, the pressure was on the rest of the England bowlers to provide crucial support. They did not disappoint. By contrast with the Aussie bowlers, the consistent line and length of Laura Marsh, Dani Wyatt and Danielle Hazell saw Australia's batsmen tied in knots and left them with below-par scores, including just 91 off their 20 overs at Durham. Here was the key difference between the two sides.

10. The new format
An obvious one, this, but if the Ashes had been decided just based on that one-off game at Wormsley, we would be talking about a drawn Test and the Aussies retaining the trophy. The new multi-format series, on the other hand, gave England a chance to demonstrate their abilities in the shorter forms of the game and secure a victory on points.