Preview by Peter Exley
All-conquering England will begin their Ashes summer on Thursday with a Twenty20 International against arch rivals Australia at the County Ground, Derby.
England have now won both the ICC World Cup and the inaugural World Twenty20 in the space of just three months and have confirmed their status as world leaders in the women's game. They seem to be on a completely different planet to their male compatriots as they seek to emulate the Ashes success of 2008. However, Australia have been the only team of late to give the English a real test, as seen in the World Twenty20 when the two teams fought out a tight contest with England eventually running out winners.
Now England have the chance to repeat that success with a summer of cricket that coach Mark Lane predicted as being 'intense'. The tour kicks off with the Twenty20 International and with both teams having had ample practice in recent weeks it should prove to be another fascinating contest. England go into the match having named an unchanged squad for the summer. The only absentee is Anya Shrubsole who continues her rehab after a back injury which ruled her out of the World Twenty20 aswell. This means that Danielle Hazell will retain her place in the squad.
Australia can take many positives out of their recent loss to England. They looked to be on top after they batted first and made a good score of 163 for five, however some poor bowling and misfields may have aided a brilliant England getting across the line.
The Australians have been the only side that have challenged England in the recent past, but having said that, they haven't won a series between the two teams since 2007 when England were no way near the level they have achieved in the last three months. This tour will provide a tough challenge for the tourists whose usual Aussie self confidence will have taken a hit after being knocked out of the World Twenty20 in the semi finals and only managing third place in the 50 over World Cup. Australia however did beat England in the 50 over World Cup, the only match England lost, so will be looking to recreate some of the form shown in that match to stand any chance of overcoming the Pommie threat.
Australia, fresh with a new captain, will make only one change to the 14 member squad, talented young batter Rachel Haynes replacing Elyse Villani. Jodie Fields, who was named as captain after veteran Karen Rolton stepped down, will seek to improve on her predecessor's Ashes record by wining the urn for the first time since 2003. Rolton will remain in the team in a playing role and her experience will prove invaluable to Fields and vice captain Alex Blackwell in their first series which could potentially be one of the biggest series of their careers.
It will take a huge effort from Jodie Fields' team to take the Ashes back to Australian soil this summer, but England will not want to be complacent going into a series that could well be a very close contest. But Charlotte Edwards will be confident that her team can get off to a winning start in the Twenty20 game which is the first of what could be an intriguing summer of women's cricket.
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