Women’s Ashes: How England closed gap against Australia
This summer, Australia came to the UK regarded as one of the greatest teams in sports history.
The Ashes urn remains in their possession, but they have lost both white-ball series against England, their first bilateral defeat since 2013.
What has England achieved that many thought was impossible?
Every department is improved by Jon Lewis
‘Bazball’ has been the buzz word of men’s cricket this summer, and Heather Knight’s team has adopted the style of play that has been so successful for Ben Stokes’ side.
Jon Lewis introduced this, who was part of Brendon McCullum’s revolution before taking over the women’s team.
There’s little doubt McCullum and Lewis have changed the way England’s men and women play cricket with the term Bazball, or ‘Jonball’ as Lewis’ variant has been called.
To put it simply, it’s about controlled aggression with the bat and a desire to capture every single opposition wicket with the ball.
It is better for bowlers to be proactive rather than reactive. The concept of defensive fields, lines, and lengths just doesn’t work.
The batting run rates of England have improved under Lewis, but dig deeper and it’s clear the positive option is as successful as it is controlled.
In the one-off Test against Australia, England’s strike-rate (58.81) was highest of any Test.
In the previous Ashes series at home in 2019, England scored 39.66 runs at a strike-rate greater than their 54.95 in the last Ashes series down under.
Although England played fewer attacking shots than in the most recent Ashes Test in Australia (43% compared to 50%), this supports the McCullum/Lewis theory of clarity over carelessness.
The red bars in the chart below indicate when Lewis was in charge, when England scored more than eight runs per over for the second successive series.
England fast bowling legends Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Sciver-Brunt were in the latter stages of their careers during Australia’s recent dominance.
Now that both are retired, Kate Cross and Lauren Bell are leading the attack.
In this year’s Ashes series, Bell took 14 wickets, more than Megan Schutt, Darcie Brown and Ellyse Perry combined.
Former Australian batter Alex Blackwell said England had a big task to fill the void left by Shrubsole/Brunt, especially for their consistency.
Lauren Bell is showing signs of being able to do that as she grows in confidence. Her ability to bowl with discipline has been a huge asset to this team.”
Additionally, England used young pace bowler Lauren Filer in the Test, which saw an increase of two miles per hour in the seam attack as compared to the most recent two Tests.
“Lauren Filer provided some of the best entertainment during the Test when she charged in with the crowd behind her, and she got Ellyse Perry out twice,” said Blackwell.
Darcie Brown is Australia’s young tearaway, and she hasn’t been at her best, but she is young and will learn control.
Tayla Vlaeminck’s injury has been a shame for Australia. Raw pace is missing.”
What is hard to quantify is the impact of Australia losing captain Meg Lanning for this series due to medical reasons.
She has led Australia to unprecedented success as skipper, averaging 53.51 in one-day cricket. Alongside Allan Border, Steve Waugh, and Ricky Ponting, she is one of Australia’s greatest captains.
Compared to Alyssa Healy, her replacement in this series, she has a captaincy win percentage of 80%.
Over the past year, Australia has also lost their head coach, Matthew Mott, and influential batter Rachael Haynes (retired).
Shelley Nitschke replaces Mott as England’s white-ball head coach, with all-rounder Tahlia McGrath replacing Haynes as the group’s leader.
The loss of Lanning, while significant, was not the main reason for the drawn series, according to Blackwell.
Unlike Healy, Meg has a different style, which is very fun and light-hearted, whereas Lanning is more ‘follow my lead’ and sets very high standards for herself and for others.
“Australia was under pressure at times in the Test, but Healy’s fearless style helped them.
She made a half-century in 60 balls after Australia lost a flurry of wickets in the second innings. And that’s what Lanning has instilled in the team.”
As long as they know they are never out of it until the very last ball, they will never give up. She is the cool captain, but I haven’t noticed a huge difference between her and Healy from that perspective.”
Under Lanning’s leadership, Australia failed to take advantage of more chances than in recent years, but they still performed better in the fielding department than England.