A win would give the home side the urn but England Women captain promises resilience and fight
In the last ten years, women's cricket has witnessed only eight Tests. But with the women's game currently going through a purple patch and getting the much-deserved attention from fans around the world, the inaugural day-night Ashes Test between Australia Women and England Women is guaranteed to entice a large number of fans to the North Sydney Oval from Thursday (November 9).
Australia has an edge over the visiting side, having won the One-Day International series 2-1. It has four points in its kitty while England has just two so far. If the host wins the one-off four-day encounter, it will pick up four more points and thereby, retain the Ashes.
The three Twenty20 Internationals that follow carry two points each, and even if England wins all three, the two teams will end up with their points tied at eight each, which gives Australia the urn since it is the defending champion from the previous edition.
England, hence, would be desperate to finish on the winning side, or at least force a draw to pick up two points and keep its chances of clinching the Ashes alive via the T20Is.
"For us, it's about nullifying the threat and quietening them down in terms of how they play," Heather Knight, England's captain, told reporters ahead of the match. "We're a very resilient team that's got a lot of fight in us. We've won a lot of games where we've had our backs against the wall. We've had to turn it around and we did exactly that."
England last played a Test in August, 2015 (against Australia in Canterbury). It ended the two-day warm-up match against Cricket Australia XI in Sydney earlier this week in a draw.
"From our point of view, we've been focused on what we're trying to do leading into this match," said Rachael Haynes, the Australian captain. "We haven't really thought too much about England and those sorts of things, in terms of how they're feeling."
With the upcoming Test set to be played with a pink ball, it will be the first Ashes encounter - across the men's and women's formats - to take place under floodlights.
Australia has five players in the side who are yet to make a Test debut. Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ashleigh Gardner, Amanda-Jade Wellington and Lauren Cheatle have all played limited-overs matches for the host, but have no experience of playing in the longest format. Kristen Beams, the legspinner, was the only player who featured in the ODI series but couldn't find a place in the Test squad.
Australia will bank on the experience of Alex Blackwell, Ellyse Perry, Rachael Haynes and Alyssa Healy to guide them to glory.
England has added Kate Cross, the right-arm pacer, Amy Jones, the wicketkeeper-batter and Tash Farrant, the left-arm pacer, to its squad since the ODI series. All three have experience of playing club cricket in Australia, which should help them with dealing with the conditions.
With a green-top expected to be prepared for the day-night match, it could prove to be a unique contest.
“The most important thing for women’s cricket is the surface all the time. You need that extra pace and bounce and it makes it a spectacle,” Mark Robinson, England's coach, pointed out. “Their overall skills would really prosper by having more opportunity to play it on a regular basis.”
“We’ve got a lot to play for," said Matthew Mott, Australia's coach. "If we win it, we will obviously close out the series, so we’re desperate to try and get four points.
“England wouldn’t want to have to go in and win the last three T20s. They’re going to go out there and play an aggressive brand they’ve been trying to play in one-day cricket.”
The weather in Sydney is expected to be pleasant right through the contest, with the temperature hovering between 16-20°C.
Australia Women: Alex Blackwell, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes (capt), Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
England Women: Lauren Winfield, Tammy Beaumont, Sarah Taylor (wk), Heather Knight (capt), Natalie Sciver, Fran Wilson, Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn, Anya Shrubsole, Sophie Ecclestone, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Danielle Wyatt, Kate Cross, Tash Farrant, Amy Ellen Jones, Georgia Elwiss.