England’S women cricketers completed their Ashes triumph yesterday just as their more high-profile male counterparts were succumbing to yet another defeat Down Under.
Charlotte Edwards’s team won their version of the battle for the urn for a fifth time as they continued proving to their gloating hosts that not everything is awry with English cricket.
Their success this winter has been the polar opposite of the tortuous tour the men have endured and emphasises the strength and development of women’s cricket in this country.
They have won the Ashes with two more Twenty20 internationals to come and having lost only two of the five matches over the three formats of international cricket.
England’s victory in Hobart gives them an unassailable 10-4 points lead and sees them lift the trophy for the second time inside six months.
Veteran captain Edwards admitted back-to-back engagements with Australia had left her emotionally drained since their important Test victory, which kicked off the multi-format series at the start of the month.
“Both series have been mentally tough,” said Edwards, whose side won the bulk of their points in that one and only Test match.
“I’ve had many sleepless nights throughout the Test match, throughout the one-day series.
“It’s going to be nice to have a few drinks and hopefully get a good night’s sleep.
“It’s hard doing back-to-back Ashes, without a doubt, because you get to know the players quite well.
“That’s what makes it extra special that we’ve done it out here, which was ultimately going to be our toughest challenge.
“It means everything to us. To win the Ashes in England is special, but to win it in Australia is really special.”
Edwards, 34, hit an England record 92 not out, from 59 balls, as she batted through a successful pursuit of 150-3.
She combined in a match-winning 114-run stand with Sarah Taylor (50), before hitting the winning runs when she lofted a delivery from Erin Osborne to the mid-wicket rope.
It sparked joyous celebrations, with an emotional Edwards raising her arms above her head as her team-mates rushed onto the Blundstone Arena to congratulate her.
“I’m getting a bit soft I think,” she said.
“To hit the winning runs and to lead the team out here is a pretty special feeling for me as an individual.
“It means everything to score the winning runs and lead the team.”
It was a near-perfect moment for the England captain, but not one she is prepared to retire on following a glittering career.
Instead Edwards suggested she wanted to play for another three years at least.
“While I’m playing the type of cricket I am playing at the moment I’ll be around for a bit longer, I think,” she said.
Meg Lanning’s unbeaten 78 had powered Australia to a tricky total on a pitch that was slightly slow.
After losing their previous two matches, in the 50-over format, England could have been fearful as they looked finally to pin down the win required to clinch the series.
England’s chase was set back when Danni Wyatt was caught by a diving Alex Blackwell with the score on 37.
It was the last wicket the tourists lost, however, as Edwards and Taylor took charge.
Edwards was particularly brutal on anything loose as she crashed 13 fours and a six to beat the previous highest score by an England woman in Twenty20 cricket – the unbeaten 80 Lydia Greenway hit to secure the Ashes at the Rose Bowl in August.
Edwards lofted Australia’s star all-rounder Ellyse Perry away to bring up her 100 stand with Taylor from 70 balls. The winning runs arrived in a rush thereafter with Taylor bringing up her own half-century from 37 balls just before Edwards ended matters.
England were without Barnsley-born pace bowler Katherine Brunt, who took three wickets in the Test match in Perth.
Brunt, 28, flew home with a back injury at the end of the one-day portion of the series and was replaced by Leeds Metropolitan University student Kate Cross, who had impressed in the Test match.
“With Anya Shrubsole injured and Katherine Brunt not here, we were under the pump with a weakened bowling attack, so it was time to step up,” added Edwards.
“So I’m so proud of these girls as the multi-format tests us in every department. We were determined not to give up the Ashes without a fight.”
Keighley’s Arran Brindle, 32, was also part of England’s team yesterday in Hobart.
The success of the England women’s team reflects the current growth in participation in the sport.
In 2003 there were 90 clubs across the country with a women’s section. Last year there were 600 clubs with a women’s and/or junior girls’ section.
BROAD RETAINS CONFIDENCE IN ENGLAND WINNING DESPITE EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY
CAPTAIN Stuart Broad believes England can still take something away from their miserable tour of Australia, despite a 13-run defeat in their Twenty20 series opener in Hobart.
An under-strength Australia blasted 213-4 on the back of a century opening stand between Cameron White (75) and Aaron Finch (52) to set England a record Twenty20 chase.
England made a sluggish start in pursuit and only Ravi Bopara’s 65 from 27 balls late on, including seven sixes, thinned the margin of defeat to 13 runs.
England must now win in Melbourne tomorrow to keep the series alive, and avoid three series defeats in all formats against Australia this winter.
Broad is sure his young side can do that and took confidence from the fact they still managed to reach 200-9 despite losing early wickets.
“Thirteen runs isn’t a huge defeat,” he said.
“I know it was glossed over a little bit by Ravi’s hitting at the end. We didn’t get moving as a batting unit, but to still get 200 runs actually gives us quite a bit of confidence.
“We have to bounce back and we have to win at the MCG to stay in this series. I’m pretty confident we can do that.
“We’re obviously very disappointed, but a big strength of this side in particular, and the records show that, is we do come back from disappointments and losses pretty well.
“That will be what we have to do at the MCG.”
England were made to rue dropping White on 10 when Joe Root put down a routine edge at first slip.
“Putting down Cameron White in the first three or four overs and for him to then go and get 70-odd hurt us,” Broad said. “We have to find a way to take early wickets.
“Finch has hurt us in the games he’s played and give our batsmen something more realistic to chase.”
A Twenty20 international record 22 sixes were hit in the match, although that figure was ballooned by a short boundary on the eastern side.
Australia openers White and Finch cleared the rope seven times between them.
England had only managed two sixes by the time Bopara walked to the crease with his side in trouble at 98-5 in the 12th over.