Strange start to Women’s Ashes series buried by World Cup

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first_imgShare on Facebook Australia sport Cricket Reuse this content Australia beat England by two wickets: Women’s Ashes, first ODI – as it happened Support The Guardian Women’s Ashes Share via Email … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. England women’s cricket team Share on Messenger Since you’re here… Alyssa Healy helps Australia take first blood in Women’s Ashes Share on Twittercenter_img Australia women’s cricket team Women’s cricket Share on LinkedIn features With the venue, the attendance, the umpiring and the opening exchanges all going through a phase of yawning and stretching and limbering up, it was no surprise that we ended up with a hesitant, stuttering match. The Australians took an age to bowl out their demolished opponent, then chased a modest target using every bit of their deep batting order. “Hopefully the quality improves over the series,” was the frank assessment from captain Meg Lanning. “A win’s a win, I guess, but we’re looking forward to improving.”We’ve seen these sides enough to know the quality they’re capable of. Even this time, there was the way Natalie Sciver and Sophie Ecclestone rallied England with the bat, and the customary boldness of Alyssa Healy’s strokes to provide Australia a vital fast start. There was Ecclestone giving England a chance with the ball, and another preternatural Sarah Taylor stumping for the key wicket of Ellyse Perry.Finishing with Australia eight wickets down was a reminder that a lot can shift over the course of a day’s cricket, and a lot more over the course of a series. But we’ve seen the shifts that women’s cricket can cause when given the right support, and this time around the indications are that it hasn’t. It’s a big ask to expect the players on the field to make up for that, but they’ll have to try. For a long time, it felt like nothing much was happening. After the hustle and drama and crowds of the World Cup venues, here we were at a pleasant but nondescript county ground, on a quiet cloudy afternoon in Leicester. A suburban feel with a smattering of spectators. It didn’t feel like the start of the Women’s Ashes.Perhaps this atmosphere seeped into England’s top order, who started out playing like none of it was happening. Half asleep, a quarter switched on. Because they were barely there, pretty soon they weren’t there at all. Four wickets in five overs all but sealed the result. It was all kinds of anticlimax. When the Women’s World Cup sold out Lord’s two years ago for England’s triumph in the final, it proved there was an audience and a future. But this year, with England’s marquee bilateral series played across 50-over, Test, and Twenty20 formats, not a single match will be held in London. Much was made in 2017 of how many people in the audience had never been to a cricket match before. By scheduling this series in Canterbury, Taunton and beyond, the England Cricket Board has ensured that most of them can’t come again.And that’s before we come to the calendar, where overlapping this series with the business end of the men’s World Cup – easily the biggest event in the sport – meant that the former would be buried. The standalone women’s Test starts three days after the World Cup final and may have a degree of clear air, but the likelihood is that in such a saturated month the entire series will be largely lost.Of course time is scarce in this crammed summer where the World Cup and the men’s Ashes run with only a fortnight’s window in between. But that does raise the question of why this World Cup and the five men’s Ashes Tests are happening in the same season at all.Four years ago the England and Australia boards made elaborate arrangements supposedly to avoid exactly this scenario. Saying it was impossible to hold both a World Cup and an Ashes in the Australian summer of 2014-15, they pushed that Ashes series forward a year. Then not wanting to miss out on any money, they plonked an extra series in England in the July of 2015.That meant three series in two years, including one tour that started six weeks after another ended. It was fun, but clearly the rationale was flimsy. Because four years after that logjam, in the English summer of 2019, playing the World Cup and the Ashes back-to-back is fine and dandy.In the low-intensity environment that has resulted, the Australian women’s team were as surprised as anyone at how easily they were given early control. If a succession of gifts from England’s batting weren’t enough, the umpires added their own with Fran Wilson given out leg-before wicket on the sweep despite having punched Jess Jonassen’s delivery away with her glove.The error was obvious in real time and more glaring with each replay, but the Decision Review System isn’t available in these matches. Television broadcasters were using all their toys, including ball-tracking and audio waveform technology. But it’s up to the home boards to make these available to the umpires and cover related costs, and the ECB has once again decided to keep that coin in the jar. Read more Share on Pinterest Share on WhatsApp Read more Topicslast_img

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