England’s women enjoy first laugh in Australia

Barnsley's Katherine Brunt is proving a hit Down Under.
Barnsley's Katherine Brunt is proving a hit Down Under.
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Katherine Brunt says England’s women’s cricketers learned from the mistakes made by their male counterparts to help restore a little pride for the tourists Down Under.

And the Barnsley-born pace bowler believes the women’s team’s greater unity will help them retain their Ashes this winter to prove to Australia that not all English cricketers are there for the taking.

Brunt helped her team claim a significant advantage in the women’s Ashes with a victory in the first and only Test match in Perth on Monday.

That belated success for English cricket came just 24 hours after the latest disappointment for Alastair Cook’s men, who lost their opening one-day game to make it six successive defeats suffered at the hands of Australia this winter.

England’s women have now moved on to Melbourne for the first of three one-day games on Sunday before the series concludes with a trio of Twenty20 internationals.

Two points are awarded for victory in each of the next six games, but with six points up for grabs in the only Test match, Charlotte Edwards’s side took a significant step towards retaining the urn they won on home soil last summer. They only require two more wins from the final six games to keep hold of the Ashes.

That they are in this position owes much to their strong mentality and unity, believes Brunt, who along with her team-mates noted the vulnerabilities of the men’s team earlier in the winter.

“There were a number of periods of time in our Test match where a partnership was under pressure and they really needed to dig in,” said Brunt, 28, who has now been a member of the England set-up for a decade.

“There were stages like that in every one of the men’s Test matches and we saw the English boys go through that so we knew there would be times when we would come under that pressure.

“We had experienced players like Charlotte Taylor and (Keighley-born) Arran Brindle who were able to dig in, but we also had the debutantes like (Leeds University student) Kate Cross coming in and showing their strength.

“That’s the great thing about young, hungry players. They come in and they are fearless and can express themselves.

“The men didn’t seem to have that.

“What we picked up from watching the boys was that at crucial times when the Aussies were making things happen, as a player you had to be aware of the key moments. For instance when Mitchell Johnson is steaming in and having 45-minute spells where he’s just on fire, you have to knuckle down and dig in.

“You have to stand strong in the face of it. We saw that in all the men’s Test matches, and in ours.”

Brunt accepts the loss of an influential player like Jonathan Trott so early in the tour was a blow to the balance and harmony of the men’s team.

But for the women’s squad going forward, maintaining a strong dynamic between the 15 women will be pivotal to their chances.

“It’s hard to say what has gone wrong for the men,” Brunt told the Yorkshire Post from the team’s hotel in Melbourne.

“The way we work is that every game is a privilege to play in and in every game you want to give 100 per cent.

“You represent your country with pride and play as a unit and all get on well together.

“It’s very important for 11 to 15 individuals to have a really harmonious environment, because if you don’t it can really have an 
effect on the team dynamic.

“That’s one of the most important aspects of the last 10 years in this England team.

“It’s a really good group of girls with a management team that knows how to get the best out of us.”

ECB chief executive David Collier joined the triumphant women’s team for celebratory drinks in Perth on Monday night.

That was one of the first times since arriving in Australia at the start of the year that the women’s team had not been the butt of the host nation’s joke.

“We copped for England’s Ashes failure the first 10 days we were here,” laughed Brunt, who took three wickets as England won the Test by 61 runs.

“All we heard were shouts of 
“5-0” and people saying we were going to get thrashed. We got every comment you could imagine.

“We had to take that on the chin, but funnily enough, we’ve not heard anything about it since winning the Test in Perth.

“The support we have received from back home on Twitter, Facebook and other social media has been fantastic. It’s shown how much people are behind us.

“We could sense that the English public was just desperate for a bit of pride to be restored and we were striving to do that to make them proud. And so far, so good. Even if we don’t win the series, what we have done in the Test match has at least turned the tide.”

Not that Brunt – a veteran of 142 England appearances – will settle for just winning the Ashes.

“Obviously a whitewash would be brilliant but we know there is a long way to go,” she said.

“Every game with Australia is massive so we certainly won’t be holding back or resting key players. There’s a great buzz in the camp and we want to keep that going.”

nick.westby@ypn.co.uk