England's chances of retaining the Ashes will rest on overturning a confident Australia in three consecutive T20s, starting with Wednesday's match at "fortress Chelmsford". Charlotte Edwards' team must channel the support of a famously boisterous sell-out crowd and will be aided by the knowledge that they are unbeaten on Essex's ground.
It is a quest that might easily be painted as futile after three increasingly limp defeats left them 8-2 down in the points-based Ashes and requiring every point still available to them (which is two for each T20 victory). They lost the ODI series 2-1, despite winning the opening match, and were then comprehensively outplayed in the sole Test in Canterbury, unable to salvage a draw after rain had wiped out most of the third day.
Australia are the reigning World T20 champions - they brushed England aside in the final last year - but Edwards can call on the memory of 2013, when England swept the T20 series 3-0, starting with a narrow in in Chelmsford.
"We can keep this alive," Edwards said. "This is a massive game and this is exactly where we would want to play it. There is always a fantastic crowd at this ground and we want to continue our unbeaten record here. We just need the weather to brighten up and it looks as though it will get a bit better as the week goes on. But we believe we can turn this around.
"We want to put more pressure on the Australians and in front of such a big crowd we are confident we can do that. The levels of support we have received here in the past have been incredible and long may that continue. To play in front of thousands of people here is a massive lift and the girls always remember the nights at Chelmsford.
"We have had some of our best memories here. Coming back to win would be a huge lift for English women's cricket. We want to see bigger crowds across the country so putting in a good show in front of a sell-out crowd is really important."
Meg Lanning has marshaled a series of impressive displays from the tourists, as they look to beat England on points for the first time since the system was introduced two years ago. Lanning is ranked the No. 1 batsman in the format, while in allrounder Ellyse Perry Australia have a player capable of match-winning performances with bat and ball.
England, by contrast, in their second summer as professionally contracted athletes, have suffered a worrying dip in form. Sarah Taylor, alongside Edwards the team's star batsman, has scored 74 runs in five innings - including a pair at Canterbury - and although new-ball bowlers Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole have provided a customary threat, England have struggled to get on top in their home conditions.
Perhaps a return to T20, the most commonly played format in the women's game, will help them to play with greater freedom. They are also able to call on the No. 1-ranked T20 bowler, Danielle Hazell, who comes into the squad along with fellow spinner Danielle Wyatt. Edwards admitted it was time for England to prove how much they were willing to fight for the prize.
"It's about character now - it's about seeing how much we want to keep a hold of these Ashes and from what I've seen from the girls so far they're desperate to do that," Edwards said.