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Alyssa Healy nervous but excited for 'most hyped Women's Ashes'

Test selection will come down to "a couple of calls here and there", says Australia captain

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Alyssa Healy walks out to Australia middle practice, Trent Bridge, June 21, 2023

Alyssa Healy walks out to Australia middle practice at Trent Bridge  •  PA Images via Getty Images

Alyssa Healy isn't afraid to admit to a smattering of nerves before she leads Australia out in the Women's Ashes Test, but her overwhelming emotion on the eve of the match was excitement.
Australia enjoyed a fairly thorough training session outdoors at Trent Bridge on Wednesday, having been forced indoors by rain the previous day, which Healy said had set back their decision on a final playing XI. Phoebe Litchfield is expected to open with Beth Mooney as Healy slides down the batting order to manage wicketkeeping duties over the five-day match and captaining in Meg Lanning's absence, but she was relishing the prospect.
"A sense of nervousness but I think at the same time it's mainly excitement," Healy said. "This is probably one of the most hyped Women's Ashes series that I've been a part of over here and especially off the back of yesterday [Australia Men's Test victory at Edgbaston] it's a really exciting time to be out here to play cricket. From that sense, me and the whole entire group are just ready to get out and get underway and see what's going to unfold."
Litchfield, 20 and uncapped in Tests, scored 68 and Annabel Sutherland 116 for Australia in their three-day warm-up match against England A at Leicester last week, and Healy pointed out that Australia have two legspinners - Georgia Wareham and Alana King - in the squad, which was presenting the biggest selection conundrum.
Kim Garth, who played 85 white-ball matches for Ireland before moving to Australia in 2019, could make her Test debut and lead the pace attack with Darcie Brown, having been the pick of Australia's bowlers in the Leicester warm-up. Meanwhile, left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen scored an unbeaten 173 for Australia A in their warm-up against England in Derby. A closer examination than the weather allowed on Tuesday of a pitch bearing patches of green grass was set to inform the decision, but Healy was full of praise for Litchfield in the meantime.
"She did a fantastic job for us, she looked the goods that's for sure in the three-day match against England A," Healy said. "She's a great option for us at the top. There's been a lot spoken about the opportunities up there and she looks like a brilliant international cricketer for Australia and I can't wait to see what she can do.
"If you look at the make-up of our squad, we've got two legspinners so naturally, looking at the balance of our side and potentially the conditions out there is probably going to dictate where we lean on that. But other than that, I think we're pretty much settled, it's just a couple of calls here and there and what it probably what it looks like from a line-up perspective as well."
England revealed their team the day before the match with Danni Wyatt, one of the most attacking batters in the women's game, to make her Test debut after 245 white-ball games for her country. She joins the likes of Nat Sciver-Brunt, Sophia Dunkley and Amy Jones in an aggressive middle order.
England also named uncapped quick Lauren Filer alongside seamers Lauren Bell, who made her international debut a year ago, and the experienced Kate Cross with one frontline spinner, left-armer Sophie Ecclestone as they set out to win the Women's Ashes for the first time since 2013-14 by taking the four points on offer for a Test victory in the multi-format series.
"I think for the first time there's probably a sense of unknown about both sides," Healy said. "It's sort of like a next gen are banging on the door and giving us a glimpse into what the Ashes series could look like for the next 10 years moving forward, which is really exciting.
"It looked like Filer bowled really well in that three-day game and Jess Jonassen in our squad gave us some good insight into that regard. But she sounds like a really exciting prospect for the future and we're excited to face that challenge of that bowling attack but also having to counteract the aggressive nature of that top six in particular."
As of Tuesday, 14,500 tickets had sold for the Test, played over five days for only the second time in women's cricket history and the first time on English soil.
"Five days ultimately could present a result but there's draws in five-day men's games as well," Healy said. "I think over time, if women's Test cricket does become more popular in the calendar, there's certain nuances to our game that are slightly different from the men and how you prepare a wicket for a women's Test match might be a little bit different and that will probably become clearer, with more and more cricket on the calendar as to how that might look to potentially get a result.
"We're obviously not as big as the blokes, we don't make as many marks in the wicket so we might just have a little creative think about how we can make that happen. But five days here could be really interesting. It's probably just a mental battle and there could be a bit of trench warfare at times but I think we're willing to see how that goes."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women's cricket, at ESPNcricinfo