Australia celebrate their Ashes win

Australia have won three of the last six Women's Ashes series, England two

© Getty Images

I Was There

'My brain was hurting after that day of cricket'

Meg Lanning, Charlotte Edwards, Nat Sciver-Brunt and Megan Schutt relive a decade's worth of great matches and drunken antics in the Women's Ashes

Raf Nicholson  |  

On May 13, 2013, the England Cricket Board and Cricket Australia issued a joint press release, announcing a brand-new format for that summer's Women's Ashes. The series would be played for points across all three formats: six points for the Test, and two for each of the three ODIs and T20Is.

There were frantic negotiations in the run-up to the announcement. The three previous Ashes had been whittled down to a single Test, down from two Tests in the three series before, and three Tests in most series up to 1998. Now, the ECB's Clare Connor hit upon a left-field solution: add extra meaning to the Test and the series by expanding the Ashes to incorporate the white-ball matches.

This year, the multi-format Ashes celebrates its ten-year anniversary. In the decade from 2013, there have been six encounters between the sides, Australia winning three, England two, and one with the teams equal on points and Australia retaining the Ashes. The 2013 experiment has proven a roaring success. The teams are about to face off in a five-day Test in Nottingham - only the second played in women's history - and the matches will be played in front of record crowds (70,000 tickets sold and counting) at the biggest grounds in England.

For the players who have experienced it all, it has been a wild ride.

August 2013, England

England won 12-4

Charlotte Edwards, England batter: Everyone was getting frustrated with just the one Test match and how it was panning out - it was so difficult to play in. With the white-ball game being so prominent, it felt like we needed something to recognise that. I remember getting a call from Clare [Connor], asking me what I thought about a points system. I was like, "Yes!"

Knight in white armour: Heather Knight salvaged a draw for England with a near seven-hour 157 in the 2013 Test

Knight in white armour: Heather Knight salvaged a draw for England with a near seven-hour 157 in the 2013 Test © PA Photos

Megan Schutt, Australia fast bowler: I remember there were some sceptics out there. Some senior members of our team felt it wasn't the true Ashes. I was pretty fresh and I get bored easily, so the opportunity to play something that wasn't a Test match in the Ashes grabbed at me.

Meg Lanning, Australia batter: It kept the series alive - it made things more interesting. Although because it was new, we weren't really sure how to prepare for it!

The series began with a Test in Wormsley, in which Schutt and Lanning made their debuts. Australia racked up 331 for 6 and after declaring reduced England to 113 for 6, but a seventh-wicket stand of 156 between Heather Knight and Laura Marsh bailed out the hosts.

Lanning: We felt we had a sniff of victory at one point, but Heather was just too good for us.

Schutt: Laura Marsh was my first Ashes wicket. I only remember that because of the pure boredom factor of her making her 50 off, like, 300 balls, and me being like, "Is this Test cricket?" And then I finally got her out and I was like, "Thank god!"

Lanning: Fielding for the full day on day two, that was what got me. Standing on your feet for that long - I was pretty cooked at the end of it.

The big sweep: Australia could find no way around Lydia Greenway's batting in the white-ball games in 2013

The big sweep: Australia could find no way around Lydia Greenway's batting in the white-ball games in 2013 © Getty Images

The Test was drawn, but England went on to win five of the six white-ball matches that followed.

Lanning: We had absolutely no answers for Lydia Greenway's reverse sweeping. I remember us having a lot of discussions around that but we just couldn't nail it, she was always a step ahead.

Schutt: We were absolutely blasted by Fitz [coach Cathryn Fitzpatrick] after some of our performances.

Nat Sciver-Brunt, England allrounder: I was a newbie, and it was a lovely introduction to Ashes cricket for me. After we won the series at the Ageas Bowl, we got on a bus to go to the airport hotel. The driver got lost, but that meant we got more time on the bus to have some drinks and enjoy ourselves. Shawsy [coach Paul Shaw] sang a rendition of "Suspicious Minds".

Edwards: We actually broke a bit of the ceiling in the Ageas changing rooms as we were jumping around. It was a messy night!

Sciver-Brunt: Lottie [Edwards] slept in her playing kit hugging the trophy. We then had an early flight up to Durham the next morning. It was a really small plane and the Australians were on it. I was desperately hungover and had to sit next to Megan Schutt on the plane because it was alphabetical. Awkward!

The multi-format "experiment" was deemed such a success that by the end of August it was announced that the format would be retained for the next series, just five months later.

January-February 2014, Australia

England won 10-8

The WACA Test that launched the 2014 Ashes was a twisty-turny affair: Australia felt they had the upper hand when they bowled England out on the first day for 201 - before being bowled out themselves for 207.

Ellyse Perry's wicket on the fourth day - she made 31 in a chase of 185 - triggered a collapse that led to a 61-run defeat for Australia in the Perth Test of 2014

Ellyse Perry's wicket on the fourth day - she made 31 in a chase of 185 - triggered a collapse that led to a 61-run defeat for Australia in the Perth Test of 2014 Stefan Gosatti / © Getty Images

Sciver-Brunt: Every day, it hit 5 o'clock and it would change in an instant. It was such a special game to be part of. On day one I had a good partnership with Arran Brindle so I was out there for a good while, and they tried every chat line in the book and I didn't give them anything. They got very bored with me. It's still my favourite innings against Australia, even though I got out on 49.

Edwards: Without doubt, that was the best Test match I ever played in. We were massive underdogs. I remember going into the last morning, they needed about 100 [128], we needed five wickets, and I can still see Ellyse Perry clipping the ball to Jenny Gunn at square leg. We won by 61 runs but it felt a lot closer than that!

Sciver-Brunt: The game finished before lunch, so we had the whole afternoon enjoying ourselves in the Lucky Shag on the waterfront in Perth.

More drama was to follow. The day before the first ODI at Melbourne, Australia captain Jodie Fields broke her finger.

Lanning: Heading into the series, I was told that I was going to be vice-captain, which was a little bit of a shock. I hadn't given it any thought whatsoever. I remember having a conversation with Fitzy, and she was like, "Now, we have thought about the fact that if Jodie Fields gets injured then you will be captain." And I was like, "Okay!" - while fully thinking that wasn't going to happen.

And then before the first ODI I was in the fielding drill and I remember Jodie going off and it hit me pretty quick. I was like, "Oh dear".

England needed just one win in the T20Is to seal the 2013-14 series, and they got it in the first game

England needed just one win in the T20Is to seal the 2013-14 series, and they got it in the first game © Getty Images

Lanning was handed the captaincy and became, aged 21, the youngest ever captain of Australia.

Lanning: I had literally no experience of captaining a cricket team. I was making it up as I went along out there!

The win in the Test had put England 6-0 up, and though Australia fought back hard - dramatically and unexpectedly overhauling their target of 268 in the third ODI - England needed just one more win to seal the series once the T20 leg came around.

Lanning: We'd made an okay score in the first T20 at Tassie [150 for 3] - we felt going into the field that we were in with a shot. But I distinctly remember the first ball of our bowling innings going for four. Lottie whacked it through backward point and that was a bit "Oh. Okay." She just dominated from then on and took the game away from us. It was a pretty crushing defeat.

Edwards: We'd had loads of injuries, and I was just thinking, "We have to win this, because if the series goes on any longer, we're going to struggle to get a team out." They smacked us everywhere, and walking out to bat I thought, "It's now or never." It was my most important innings for England.

The next day I had my worst ever hangover. There's a picture of me and Heather [Knight] walking back at 5am up this street in Hobart, trying to find our way back to the hotel, and we were both all over the shop. We had to play two days later in Melbourne and we lost, but we'd already done the important thing!

July-August 2015, England

Australia won 10-6

It was all change ahead of the 2015 series. Not only was a win in the Test downgraded from six points to four, it was decided to stage the ODI leg first so that neither side got too far ahead early in the series. England won the opener, in Taunton, but Australia fought back to win the next two ODIs, putting them 4-2 up heading into the Canterbury Test.

Meg Lanning:

Meg Lanning: "Katherine Sciver-Brunt got me for a duck [in the 2015 Test] and gave me an almighty send-off. I reminded her of it on her retirement: 'Thanks for that send-off! I'm not going to miss you!'" Dan Mullan / © Getty Images

Schutt: It was our first tour under Matthew Mott - new coach, new philosophy, new mindset. The current shifted and suddenly we were playing different cricket. We were all really happy under Motty. It sounds cringe-as, but that showed in our cricket.

Lanning: That Test match is one of my favourite games of cricket that I've played in. I did absolutely bugger all with the bat, [Anya] Shrubsole got me and then [Katherine] Brunt got me for a duck in the second innings, and gave me an almighty send-off. I mentioned that one to her when I sent her a message on her retirement - "Thanks for that send-off! I'm not going to miss you!"

Jess Jonassen's 99 dug Australia out of a hole, allowing them to post 274 for 9 before declaring. On the second day, England crawled to 168 all out, facing widespread criticism for playing out 34 maidens and 436 dot balls. Then, set a record target of 263 to win in 89 overs on the final day, England attempted to dig in for the draw.

Lanning: It was a bit tense on the last day because we were in a strong position, but then Lydia Greenway and Georgia Elwiss put on a partnership. We couldn't get a wicket. Not having played a lot of longer-format cricket, we were getting impatient.

Lydia's was such a strange dismissal - she ducked under a bouncer and got bowled. We couldn't get her out and then we got her out like that! We went a bit crazy with our celebrations.

Duck duck go: Lydia Greenway gets bounced and bowled in the Canterbury Test of 2015

Duck duck go: Lydia Greenway gets bounced and bowled in the Canterbury Test of 2015 © Getty Images

Sciver-Brunt: As players, we were so embarrassed. And it was the first time that it was all on telly, so if we could have dug 11 holes and got in them, that would have been great.

Australia's victory, by a mammoth 161 runs, meant they were left needing just one win in the T20 leg to regain the Ashes. England won the first game, in Chelmsford, and were on the up in the second T20 at Hove after restricting Australia to 107. But they quickly found themselves at 10 for 2, and then 10 for 3, when Sciver-Brunt was bowled swiping across the line to her first ball, from Perry.

Lanning: That was a strange game. We batted poorly and then when you're defending that, everything has to go perfectly right. We got early wickets, England got nervous and went into their shells.

Greenway did her best to rally England's tail, but Australia eventually bowled England out for 87 in 19.1 overs. Schutt took 2 for 18.

Schutt: It was insanely intense. I remember our talk at half-time: "It's a game of two halves, if that's what we made then we can keep them to that or less. Put them under pressure and see what happens."

Lanning: And we won it, and it was incredible. I remember celebrating afterwards, back at the team hotel.

Schutt: I snapped a photo of Meg being drunkenly asleep after one too many wines - that was the first time I've seen her properly unwind. I remember we had to leave the hotel the next morning and none of us were overly functional. That's how you knew it was a special tour - everyone was having some fun. It was a bit of a turning point in my career. Under Motty I got to be myself and find the joy in cricket.

October-November 2017, Australia

Series drawn 8-8, Australia retained the Ashes

Two new Ashes captains faced off in the 2017 series down under. Knight had taken over the reins from Edwards the previous year, and Lanning was out on the sidelines, undergoing shoulder surgery, so Rachael Haynes acted as her stand-in.

Rachael Haynes and Heather Knight faced off as captains for the first time in the 2017-18 Ashes

Rachael Haynes and Heather Knight faced off as captains for the first time in the 2017-18 Ashes © Getty Images

Lanning: I found it all very strange, not being around. I watched bits and pieces but I found it quite difficult to watch and not be part of it. I followed the results and how we were going, but I didn't watch the games. I wasn't sure what to do with myself. Mostly I kept my distance and let them do their thing, and they did it pretty well.

Schutt: Rach [Haynes] was incredible. It was seamless from one leader to the other. I remember Rach catching us for individual chats just before the series to make sure there was no nerves or jitters, and trying to get to know each other better. She was very calm, and that was infectious.

The day-night Test, at North Sydney Oval is mainly remembered for Ellyse Perry's unbeaten 213.

Schutt: I didn't overly want to play in that Test - I really struggle with seeing the ball at night-time. But it was worth it - I was at the other end when Pez [Perry] got her 200. Getting to celebrate twice with her was pretty darn funny [an on-field six that would have taken her to 200 was ruled to be a four by the third umpire]. I laughed the house down at her sheer embarrassment.

Sciver-Brunt: Being a pink ball Test there was more excitement around it - what's the pink ball going to do? And then we got there and ended up fielding for three [two] days whilst Ellyse Perry got 200. By the final day we were all knackered, and then it ended in handshakes.

Five days later, Australia retained the Ashes with a win in the first T20 at North Sydney. The series ended on a high point for England, though: chasing 178 in the final T20, a spectacular century from Danni Wyatt got them over the line with an over to spare.

Schutt: I remember Danni coming out and making a hundred and being like, "Well, this sucks." Drawing the series didn't bother us too much. What bothered us was that we weren't able to win a T20 series at that time. We couldn't shake that little monkey off our backs.

Ellyse Perry converted her maiden Test hundred into a double; her 213 not out is still the highest individual Test score by an Australia women's batter

Ellyse Perry converted her maiden Test hundred into a double; her 213 not out is still the highest individual Test score by an Australia women's batter © Getty Images

Sciver-Brunt: We were happy to put a dampener on their celebrations.

July 2019, England

Australia won 12-4

Australia dominated the series from the outset, winning the ODI leg 3-0, in which Perry blew England away at Canterbury with seven wickets.

Schutt: It was insane - she was hitting all the right lengths, the ball was moving, and England didn't have any answers.

Perry followed that up with a century in the Test, in Taunton, where Australia amassed 420 for 8 in the first innings. Knight attempted to breathe life into the game on the final day by declaring 145 runs behind, but Lanning refused to take the bait: the Test was drawn and Australia sealed a series win in record time.

Lanning: We didn't owe England anything - we got ourselves into a position of strength in the series, and at the end of the day we were there to win the Ashes. Anyone in the same position would have done what we did. We would have loved it to be more of an exciting contest, but the wicket was just not conducive to that. The draw wasn't our fault.

Schutt: Had you given us a newer wicket and five days, you're going to get a result.

Australia added insult to injury by finally breaching "Fortress Chelmsford", a ground where England had never previously lost, courtesy of Lanning's 133 not out, at the time a world record in women's T20Is.

Lanning: I don't know what happened - it was one of those days that it just clicked. Everything came off the middle of the bat, everything went in the gap. I don't think I've batted as well as that since.

Sciver-Brunt: That was the first time we'd really seen Meg play in that way. It got me trying to think differently about how we play T20 cricket - rethinking my own game.

Dawn of the Meg: Lanning hit a record 133 in the first T20I of the 2019 series

Dawn of the Meg: Lanning hit a record 133 in the first T20I of the 2019 series © Getty Images

Schutt:After winning that game, all of us squeezed into the back of the bus, and we had Johnny Farnham "You're the Voice" absolutely cranking. We were all pretty pissed. And there was all of us in this super-small space blasting out this classic tune. It was one of the most special moments.

January-February 2022, Australia

Australia won 12-4

The most recent series was played immediately before the World Cup in New Zealand, and was hit hard by the Covid-19 Omicron variant.

Sciver-Brunt: Pre-Christmas before leaving, we all had to isolate in household bubbles. People's mums were feeding the bowling machines and everyone was getting bowled at by their boyfriends. Katherine [Sciver-Brunt, Nat's wife] and I had a bit of an advantage because we could bowl at each other - except we don't really like doing that. Not my favourite preparation for an Ashes!

Schutt: If we had caught Covid at the end of the Ashes, we weren't going to the World Cup. They drilled that into us. We were very disciplined about it because the World Cup was on the line.

Ultimately two of the three T20s were washed out, placing a lot of importance on the Test, in Canberra. The game looked to be heading for a draw - until a bold declaration from Lanning before tea on the final day set England 257 from 48 overs.

Lanning: That Test match was standard for three days and then I don't know what happened on the last day! My brain was hurting after that day of cricket.

In hindsight we were probably a bit generous with the declaration. But given how the game had gone, we felt like it was enough. And then it was very clear from the start that England were going after the total, and for a large part of it I really thought we were going to lose. It was impossible to stop the runs, no matter what we did with the field.

Australia are disappointed as Kate Cross safely sees out the last ball for a thrilling draw in the 2022 Canberra Test

Australia are disappointed as Kate Cross safely sees out the last ball for a thrilling draw in the 2022 Canberra Test © Getty Images

With ten overs to go, England needed just 45 runs with seven wickets in hand - then a collapse ensued.

Schutt: I remember sitting on the sidelines and it was so intense. One of the Poms said we had cracked under pressure, which I thought was quite ironic when England had historically cracked ten times under pressure in previous Ashes.

With England nine down, Kate Cross was sent out with instructions to batten down the hatches for a draw, and she safely played out the last two overs.

Sciver-Brunt: We were celebrating, but also not celebrating, just feeling a bit unsatisfied. The disappointment of it being a draw is still there.

The rest of the series proved something of an anti-climax - Australia won the first ODI to take an unassailable lead, and won the next two ODIs to boot.

Schutt: They were very subdued celebrations. We were on the rooftop of our hotel, we were all socially distanced, and it was quite a chilly night, so it didn't go on long!

It wasn't a hugely competitive series to be honest - I reckon it's going to be a different chapter this time.

Edwards: I'll be commentating and I'm looking forward to this one more than anyone. The multi-format Ashes has made the Ashes bigger than the World Cup.

Raf Nicholson is a writer on and historian of women's cricket. @RafNicholson