It started in Mackay late in September and ended in Melbourne at the start of February. The 2021/22 Southern Stars summer of cricket may have been different than any other season past, but it ended in familiar fashion.
It was the same result with another dominant summer by the Australian Women’s Cricket Team. While it’s not the end of the road this season, as they prepare to hop on a plane and win the 50 over World Cup across the ditch, their latest series win in the Women’s Ashes, where they brushed England to the side, capped off a hugely successful summer with two multi-format series wins.
Just one defeat in 14 matches and a consistent showing of their incredible depth all throughout the summer highlighted Australia’s growing dominance.
As both teams move on quickly to their next assignment, the 50 over World Cup across the ditch in New Zealand, Here are the Top 6 talking points to emerge from the Women’s Ashes.
Depth continues to shine through various setbacks
Even when it looked like they might be cut down to size with some sizeable omissions, there was always someone else there ready to step up and slot seamlessly into the starting XI for Australia this summer.
The fearsome depth in Australian cricket has always been discussed, but it was firmly on show this season with injuries at times to Rachael Haynes, Jess Jonassen, Megan Schutt, Sophie Molineux, Georgia Wareham, Beth Mooney, and Tayla Vleaminck.
Many were fearing the worst when Beth Mooney was struck in the nets on the eve of the series with a broken jaw, putting her Ashes and World Cup in doubt. But when the likes of Tahlia McGrath and Annabel Sutherland stepped up in the middle order to post constant high totals, the Australians always looked in control with both bat and ball in hand.
To sum up Australia’s depth, it’s important to look at the talent Matthew Mott and co are leaving out in the Australian A side. At times, Darcie Brown, Amanda Jade-Wellington, Nicola Carey, Heather Graham, and even Ellyse Perry all struggled to get any game time across the series, highlighting the ability that is filtering through Australian women’s cricket at the moment.
Contrasting prep for both sets of travellers
It was already largely spoken about the difficulties that faced India’s women when they touched down in Australia amidst more COVID drama, but it continued throughout the summer.
England, although coming later into the summer, had similar troubles, meaning preparations were shortened and the tourists never seemed ready to knock off the best team in international cricket.
Copping the brunt of la Nina in Canberra with rain wreaking havoc and then COVID entering the camp, much like it did to England’s men’s side.
The England Women also had to endure a period of self-isolation at home prior to departure, it was less than ideal circumstances for England before they jumped right into games.
COVID changing the schedules and structures of the games and the series actually worked in England’s favour with their preferred format. But it meant the English had to be on the money immediately.
Once they were in the first game and lost it to a record chase from the Australians, and had the remaining two T20 matches washed out, they faced an uphill battle to get back into the series. They were given a chance on the final day of the extraordinary Test match but that might have been where all their petrol tickets ran out, as Australia took advantage of a strained and tired England side.
New superstar McGrath – captaincy material?
It’s been nearly two decades since someone with the last name McGrath last tore through England to send them home desolated, but this summer it was time for the moniker to return.
Instead of the famous Glenn McGrath, it was all-rounder Tahlia McGrath who destroyed the English for a second player of the series award this summer. Having already burst onto the international stage with a handful of match-winning knocks and spells against India, McGrath continued her hot run of form to replicate her efforts against the old enemy.
McGrath got to work quickly in the T20s, smashing 91 not out in the only T20 that wasn’t rain-affected, and leading the wicket-taking column with three scalps. Continuing through the tense test draw into the one-dayers, McGrath was at her brilliant best with the ball. The young all-rounder snared six wickets, including figures of 3/4 in the second game and a rip-snorter of a yorker that was played on many highlight reels.
Watch out world cricket, another McGrath is shooting up the world rankings in a hurry and is looming large ahead of the World Cup.
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Kids lead the way on final day – a sign for the future
It’s the final day of a tense test match. With many strong veterans across both sides, you’d expect the ball to be thrown to wily experienced bowlers, and for England’s top-class batters to shine.
But when skipper Heather Knight and all-rounder Nat Sciver fell in quick succession the final session of a tight test match, with the finish line in sight, it was younger players who took up the fight.
Sophia Dunkley’s 45 off only 32 balls lit up the final evening in Canberra, bringing England to the brink of a remarkable test chase. But Meg Lanning indulged in the youth policy too, throwing the ball to Alana King and Annabel Sutherland. It worked out – King snared 2-39 while Sutherland was trusted to the end to finish with 3-69 and nearly bowl England to victory.
On a day where many thought the veterans on both sides would fight it out, it was the young players on either side who delivered a finish for the ages.
New bowlers needed soon as England turn to youth
In remarkable fashion, both the English women and men face the same dilemma going forward. For the men, James Anderson and Stuart Broad are still their country’s best pace bowlers, while for the women it’s Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole who still hold the mantle despite being very experienced.
It leads to an interesting question as to who takes over from the pair when they inevitably give up the international game, as both are well into their 30s and could’ve just played their final Ashes series.
With a potential World Cup swansong on the cards these coming months, England will be looking to the next generation for replacements.
Tash Farrant is one who comes to mind, as she took the new ball in the final ODI. The likes of Freya Davies and Charlie Dean were also thrust into their bowling attack, showing where England cricket is turning to for their next bowling cartel.
Bigger fish to fry as departure across the ditch looms
Although it was a terrific series win yet again for the Aussies, they won’t have long to celebrate.
They’ll already be packing their bags in the glow of their Ashes win to head over for a clutch 50 over World Cup. Now they have secured the first part of their 2022 venture in securing the little urn, they’ll have to maintain their brilliance if they are to beat the likes of New Zealand in their home tournament.
They will enter the World Cup as the team to beat due to their ominous form, but they won’t get the chance to come down off their Ashes high before heading into a March 4 opening bout with England yet again.
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