Australia women eye Ashes success
In 2013, Australia won the Women's World Cup. In 2014 they took out the Women's World T20. Now they are hoping that 2015 brings them the other major piece of silverware available: the Women's Ashes. It is a prize the Australians have barely laid hands on over the past decade, despite their success in the shorter formats.
Captain Meg Lanning and her squad leave for England on Monday night with great expectations, although recent history will be against them. Not since 2001 under Belinda Clark's captaincy have Australia won the Ashes in England, and only once in the past 10 years have they claimed the trophy anywhere, with victory at home in 2010-11.
This will be the third Ashes campaign that incorporates ODIs and T20s as well as Test cricket, and the weighting of points given to the formats has now been adjusted to ensure the Test result does not effectively dictate the outcome of the series. Coach Matthew Mott, who joined the group earlier this year, said the time for Ashes success was now.
"The team's record speaks for itself over the last 10 years," Mott said. "But the one thing that has eluded us is the Ashes. It was 2001 the last time the team won in England. There's a lot of payback ready and the girls are really excited about this opportunity coming up.
"A lot of teams will say they're in rebuilding phases. This is the time for these girls to capitalise. They've played together for a long time, they've had success and they're all at the peak of their careers. It should be an exciting couple of years."
The series begins with three ODIs, followed by the Test match in Canterbury, and then three T20s that complete the campaign. The Test is worth a maximum of four points and the shorter matches two each, which means that a team needs to perform consistently across at least two of the formats in order to claim the Ashes.
"Given that we've had success in both the World Cups recently in both the T20 and one-day formats it should bode well for us," allrounder Ellyse Perry said. "But there's not much margin for error in this series because you only play a few games in each format."
Perry was Player of the Match last time Australia played a Test, against England at the WACA in 2013-14, where she scored 71 and 31 and claimed eight wickets for the match. However, it was not enough to prevent England claiming victory.
Test cricket is a rare sight in the women's game these days, and generally only occurs for Australia when they take on England - since 1996 they have only once played a Test against another nation, when they beat India in Adelaide in 2006.
"It's truly wonderful, to be able to put on the baggy green is what most young cricketers look forward to doing," Perry said. "We're really thankful for the opportunity. It's a true test of your skill and ability on the cricket field. Because you spend so much time in the field as a team it brings you closer together as well. Every time we play a Test together we learn a little bit more about our own games and about each other. I'm really excited to play again."
Departing for England will complete a busy few days in women's cricket in Australia, after the inaugural Women's Big Bash League was announced last week. The T20 tournament will mirror the men's BBL with the same eight teams and the potential for international players to sign on. Perry said she had been pleased with the public interest surrounding the WBBL since its announcement.
"It's a huge step forward in terms of the development of the women's game, not just in Australia but globally as well, with the chance for a lot of international players to come and play in what is probably going to be the premier tournament in the world," she said. "The interest in it is really pleasing and a little bit surprising. A lot of people are anticipating the competition starting, and the fact that it's integrated with the men's competition is a really good development."
"Things have been developing so quickly in the last five or six years. Even when I came into the team about eight years there were no contracts for players, it was just tours every now and then. Now there are full-time contracts for some of the top players in the country, we have a professional competition in the WBBL starting.
"That's testament to the huge amount of effort and investment that Cricket Australia have put into the women's game here, and also there's more interest from the public across all women's sport in the last couple of years."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale