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Megan Schutt relishing red-ball prospects in England as Australia look to clinch Ashes

'With the white ball, once it's gone it's gone, but with the red ball you can bring it back to life, that's the beauty of it'

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Megan Schutt of Australia, Australia Women v England Women, Test, North Sydney Oval, November 12, 2017

Megan Schutt of Australia  •  Getty Images

Megan Schutt is relishing the thought of getting her hands on the red ball in England when Australia set out to seal the Women's Ashes during this week's Test match.
With Australia leading the points-based series 6-0 and four points up for grabs in the Test starting on Thursday, it is the four-day fixture in Taunton where the the series can be won or, in England's case, kept alive. And Schutt, who forms a formidable strike-bowling partnership with Ellyse Perry - not least during Australia's sweep of the three-match ODI series comprising the first part of the Ashes series - hopes very much to be part of it.
"The red ball moves, it's lovely," Schutt told ESPNcricinfo. "The best part about the red ball is that you can bring it back to life.
"With one-day cricket and T20 cricket, the white ball, once it's gone it's gone. But with shining and the red ball you can kind of bring it back to life a little bit and that's the beauty of it, I think, is hopefully some reverse swing at some point, but it's a beautiful ball."
Schutt's five wickets at 14 for the ODI series against England were somewhat overshadowed by Perry's 11 at 9.54 given the latter's stunning haul of 7 for 22 in the third fixture. But Schutt's economy rate of 2.60 was pivotal in containing England's batsmen who - with the exception of Tammy Beaumont's 114 in the second match and Natalie Sciver's attempted salvage mission with 64 in the first - are yet to fire in this series. Schutt's return also pushed her back to the top of the ICC's ODI bowling rankings from No.4.
Schutt went wicketless during Australia's 240-run tour match victory over England Academy Women, which ended on Saturday, with returns of 0 for 23 off seven overs and 0 for 24 off nine, and admitted: "Personally, I probably could have done with a few more wickets in the warm-up game".
It was the sort of honest self-assessment Schutt sees as part of her personal make-up, but which she said had also been integral to the Australian team since their semi-final loss to India at the 2017 World Cup, where England ultimately lifted the trophy.
"For me, honesty has always been the best policy, but it's not always the best environment to do so," Schutt said. "We had a real duty to have a hard look at ourselves after that 2017 World Cup semi-final loss and really reflect and it was kind of a shift in all of us.
"We sat in our room and we just divulged how we were feeling and how we played and why we played that way and emotionally how we felt. It was at that moment that we realised, we've been together a long time, we actually can be vulnerable with each other and that's okay. Now we're a bit more open and honest and that helps with our reviews.
"That's the biggest challenge in life, sometimes ... being honest with each other. When you know it's constructive criticism really but it's honesty with care, in a way. There's no malice in it."
So it is about being ruthless, is it trust, or is it just flat-out honesty?
"I think trust is a big word there," Schutt said. "We've been together a long time now, the core group. We're putting this onto everyone who's coming in the team as well and it's just kind of woven through."
One of the newcomers Schutt expects to see making her Test debut during the Ashes is 20-year-old fellow quick Tayla Vlaeminck, whose raw pace has excited onlookers and who took 4 for 31 and 1 for 19 against England Academy Women.
"We've been sitting on the sidelines while the girls have been batting away and trying to pick our XI and we couldn't really do it because we're not quite sure what the coaches are going to go for," Schutt said. "It's going to be pitch dependent, conditions dependent.
"For me, personally, I think Tayla's in the team. She's in my XI, so I think if she's not in the Test XI that will be disappointing for her. She's showed what she can truly do with the red ball and is bowling absolute gas."
Schutt, who has played three Tests, the last of which was the drawn day-night Ashes fixture at North Sydney Oval in 2017, was also expecting to encounter a fired-up England this week. The hosts must win to have any hope of snatching the Ashes from Australia's grasp, which tightened significantly during their 194-run victory in the third ODI, when England were bowled out for 75.
"I saw that they copped a bit from the English media over here and we know that that's not England," Schutt said. "We know that that is not the England side that we faced in the first and second ODIs and you kind of never really scrub them out of the way, but at the same time we've got to be looking for our perfect game and we still haven't had it yet so hopefully in the Test match we can just grind out and play our cricket.
"I think that our top order still hasn't really fired yet, so this is a really good opportunity for them to do so and kind of grind them into the ground in a way. But we've been in that position many times against England where we've been up and we've let them back in so we know what they're capable of and they've got nothing to lose, so I assume they're going to come out pretty hard in the Test, which is great. Hopefully we can get a result."