Raising the curtain and hopefully the roof
Blistering pace bowling, hitting over the top, quality fielding: all these are components of top-level women's cricket these days and so it's rather fitting that kicking off the Australia-England series is an explosive Twenty20 at the MCG, which promises high-octane excitement potentially in front of a huge audience.
The match is a curtain raiser for Australia men's sold-out match against India, and Australia's captain Karen Rolton is hoping to catch some of the spectators who arrive early for that one. "I've played in a few Twenty20s before a state game and it's worked really well," she told the ICC, "the crowd have really got into them.
"If we can get a few people to come and watch hopefully they will come and watch next time. To play the game in front of the men is fantastic and is going to be good publicity for women's cricket."
England's Claire Taylor also knows the value of putting on a good display: "We're going to play some really positive, aggressive cricket. It's quite important to play some good cricket in that match to show we're here and mean business." Highlights will be shown on Nine on February 10.
Rolton picked out a few team-mates to watch throughout the series which includes five ODIs and a Test for the Ashes which England hold. "Shelley Nitschke might open the batting, she likes to get on with the game, so it's going to be exciting to watch. Emma Sampson's one of the fastest bowlers going around in the women's game, Lisa Sthalekar is in good form with the bat, Alex Blackwell as well. It will be a good allround performance."
England's captain Charlotte Edwards is up for the contest. "Playing Australia on home turf is the toughest challenge for any team," she said. "They're a strong outfit anywhere in the world, so to play them at home is doubly hard. But, that said, it is a challenge we're relishing." Both sides begin the series having been beaten by Australia Under-21s but England went on to win the return match.
And now Edwards can't wait for the MCG. "It's the Lord's of Australia and to play there in front of what could potentially be a huge crowd will be a great experience. Twenty20 has worked wonders for the women's game. It'll hopefully help to generate more interest in the women's game especially if we start playing more curtain-raisers to big men's matches. That exposure could be huge going forward."
After the Twenty20, the teams head into a one-day series with two games back to back at the MCG on February 3 and 4. "The ODI series will be hard," said Edwards. "With the World Cup being held over here in a year's time it'll be great preparation and hopefully this series will give us a good indication of where we're at at the moment."
On February 5 both teams head to Sydney for the final three one-dayers. The third ODI will be played at the Drummoyne Oval while the final two will be held at The SCG. "A few of us have played at the SCG before and it was a great experience then, so I'm sure it will be again this time. We feel very lucky to be playing at some of Australia's top venues."
Following the ODI series, the teams head to Bowral to the Bradman Oval for the only Test match to contest the women's Ashes. England need only draw to retain the Ashes that they won for the first time in 42 years in 2005. "A draw is not our aim, we want to win like any game we play. It's set up really nicely and to contest the Ashes at another great venue will be a great end to the tour."
But for now the tour is only beginning.