|Venue: Trent Bridge Dates: 22-26 June|
|Coverage: Live text commentary and in-play video clips on the BBC Sport website & app, plus BBC Test Match Special on BBC Sounds and BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra. Daily Today at the Test highlights on BBC TV and BBC iPlayer from 19:00 BST.|
It’s the million-dollar question of women’s cricket: How do you beat Australia?
Their record is one of the greatest in sport. Since 2018, they have won the 50-over World Cup, three consecutive T20 World Cups and the Commonwealth Games at the first attempt.
And on top of that, it has been a decade since England have beaten them in the Ashes.
But England, despite disappointment February’s T20 World Cup, appear rejuvenated under new coach Jon Lewis, and are preparing to take the attack to cricket’s dominant force.
It is still going to be a tough task – Australia have lost just eight out of 110 games across all formats since 2018.
England have also beaten them just twice across formats in that time. So how do they do it?
‘Attack is the way to go’
Perhaps ironically, it is an England coach who is one man who holds Australia’s secrets to success.
Matthew Mott, coach of England men’s white-ball sides, led Australia for seven years between 2015-2022 and oversaw much of their dominance.
With the multi-format series starting with a five-day Test at Trent Bridge, worth four points, Mott believes that attacking cricket is the key to unsettling such a formidable opponent.
“Whenever you come up against great opposition, in any sport, you’ve got to play a game that they don’t like,” says Mott.
“The tone will be set in the Test match. You’ve got to be aggressive, but you’ve got to be prepared to lose it.
“In the last series in Canberra [drawn Test after England needed 12 off the last over with one wicket left], we had a great Test but I look back on that and see that England lost an opportunity to really risk it, and when you get into situations like that with a chance to beat Australia, you have got to take the brave option.”
Head coach Lewis says that he has been inspired by England’s men’s Test side, revolutionised by Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, and the call-ups of uncapped players in Dani Gibson and Lauren Filer, and subsequent debut of the latter, indicates the likelihood of a fearless, exciting brand of cricket.
“Whenever we felt threatened when I was there, it was when teams took an aggressive option,” adds Mott.
“If teams try to take Australia on conservatively, then the skill level will always prevail. Teams that have done well have disrupted them – that’s what you’ve got to do, and England are definitely capable of that.”
‘England up against a juggernaut of success’
Former England Test captain Michael Vaughan led his side to a historic and era-defining Ashes victory in 2005, beating another of cricket’s greatest teams in Ricky Ponting’s Australia.
There are parallels to be drawn between the task facing Heather Knight and the one that Vaughan overcame: an intimidating, ruthless opposition, a side mixed with experience and promising youth, and a chance to make history.
And Vaughan echoes Mott’s belief that aggression will be the key for England to win.
“You could argue that Australia’s women are the best sporting team in the world, so England are up against a juggernaut of success,” says Vaughan.
“But to beat those great teams you have got to be willing to take risks.”
Vaughan also emphasises the fact that some of England’s young players – the likes of Alice Capsey, Issy Wong, Gibson and Lauren Bell – do not have the mental baggage of constantly losing to Australia, drawing comparison with Kevin Pietersen’s fearless approach in 2005.
“England should be braver. Pick your quick bowler, be aggressive, be proactive, be fearless.
“Australia are clear favourites, they’re an outstanding side, but there’s no point in just doing what you’ve done before because you’re just going to end up with the same result as before.
“England could possibly play the best game of their lives and still lose – Australia are that good. But give yourselves the chance to be free of the baggage of old, and allow the youngsters to have their say.”
Despite their record, Mott says one of the hallmarks of Australia’s success was to never accept complacency.
“We always looked back to the defeat by India in the semi-final of the World Cup in 2017 and I don’t think, from that day forwards, we ever assumed that we would win any game of cricket.
“Great teams find a way to balance the fear of failure and the expectation and what we did really well in the last couple of years was to embrace the expectation rather than fear it.
“There were times where we were up against it, and most other teams would probably roll over but we just find ways to grind out a victory – even when they’re having a bad day, they can still win.
“And you just need to make sure as an opposition that if the opportunity comes, take it – because you don’t get many.”
What do the numbers say?
Analysts CricViz look at what England can do to win at each ground, and which match-ups England can utilise against Australia’s batters – and which ones to avoid.
- In the first T20 England should go pace heavy at Edgbaston – pace takes wickets at an average of 22 while spin goes at 26.
- In the ODIs, the most obvious ground bias is at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton, where spin has dominated over pace. Spin takes wickets at an average of 29 whereas pace takes them at 37 apiece.
- For the Test match, a surprising match-up is Alyssa Healy against off-spin – she has been dismissed three times for just 30 in Tests against off-spin.
- In the ODIs, Ecclestone to Ellyse Perry is an important match-up. Ecclestone can be really useful in keeping Perry quiet – she strikes at just 64 against slow left-arm.
- Heather Knight should bowl Sarah Glenn as soon as Ashleigh Gardner comes into bat – the Aussie averages just 7.6 against leg-spinners in ODIs with seven dismissals.
- In the T20s, England should target power-hitter Grace Harris with pace. Although she strikes at 149 against right-arm pace bowling, she averages just 11 against it.
- Sophie Ecclestone should be hidden from Beth Mooney at all costs. The Australian left-hander averages 75 and strikes at 138 against slow left-arm.