Teams prepare for pivotal Test
The women's Ashes series has been in abeyance for the last fortnight, since Australia took a 4-2 lead in the points-based format by winning two of the three ODIs, but the contest will require little reheating when the teams meet for the sole Test at Kent's Canterbury ground, starting on Tuesday. The match will see a women's Test televised for the first time and will revive memories of England's victory in a gruelling Perth encounter 18 months ago.
The heat on that occasion was of the unbearable, get-indoors-and-stand-under-the-ac variety, while the teams tussled for the advantage over four days under the fierce western Australian sun. Conditions in the southeast corner of England are likely to be more convivial - Kent is known as the Garden of England - and there is the possibility of some rain, though the intensity of the cricket should be just as high.
England's hold on the Ashes will weaken considerably if Australia can secure a first Test win in the country since Karen Rolton's unbeaten double-hundred set up victory at Headingley in 2001. However, a change to the points system since 2013-14 means that England will remain in with a chance of drawing the series, and retaining the Ashes, even if they lose.
When England closed out a 61-run win in Perth at the start of the last series, it gave them a 6-0 points advantage that meant they only had to win two of the remaining six limited-overs fixtures. Now, the Test will only be worth four points to the winning side - with two points apiece for a draw - which means the contest will be decided one way or another during the three T20s scheduled for the end of August.
As Meg Lanning, Australia's captain who is set to lead in a Test for the first time, put it: "The Test match is really important. If either side can get a win here, that certainly puts you in the box seat."
A key factor will be the Canterbury pitch. Both sides are equipped with lively pace-bowling options, as a low-scoring contest at the WACA demonstrated, but Australia may be apprehensive of encountering a surface similar to that at Wormsley in 2013, when Heather Knight's monumental, seven-hour 157 staved off the threat of defeat. Those at the ECB in charge of developing the women's T20 franchise tournament in England might hope for something a bit more televisual this time around.
England eventually swept to a 12-4 points victory that summer but Australia, the reigning 50-over and T20 champions, have more recently asserted their limited-overs dominance. England have more experience in Tests and red-ball cricket in general - Kate Cross has made an impression playing men's cricket in the Lancashire Leagues - but they also suffered a surprise defeat to India at Wormsley last year.
Having taken the lead in this Ashes series with victory in the first ODI at Taunton, England were convincingly beaten in the second and third games. The batting has looked susceptible, particularly if Australia can keep Charlotte Edwards quiet, and England have brought in Fran Wilson for a potential Test debut after she made two half-centuries against the tourists for the Academy - though Amy Jones, the player Wilson replaced, promptly went and scored an unbeaten 155 at Beckenham last week.
Edwards said it had been good to have a break after the ODIs to reflect and learn from defeat. "We haven't got a huge amount of experience in terms of playing four-day cricket," she said. "We go out there in our ODI cricket and look to get wickets and score runs. We've just got to do it for an extended period of time, and that's what we're saying to the players."
Australia's standard-bearers, Lanning and allrounder Ellyse Perry, have been in prime form, leading the run-scoring during the ODIs. Perry has added a century and 80 not out in Australia's two tour games since. They could be tempted to bring in Rene Farrell, with Holly Ferling still searching for her best form after injury, but the key battle will likely be between Lanning, in her third Test, and Edwards, in her 23rd. Should Lanning's side continue to set the tone, the Ashes could soon be within their grasp.
(Last five completed matches, all formats)
England squad Charlotte Edwards (capt), Heather Knight, Katherine Brunt, Kathryn Cross, Georgia Elwiss, Lydia Greenway, Rebecca Grundy, Jenny Gunn, Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor (wk), Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield
Australia squad Meg Lanning (capt), Alex Blackwell,Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Jess Cameron, Sarah Coyte, Rene Farrell, Holly Ferling, Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Erin Osborne, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick