Building a way forward for the Women’s Test matches
As Australia and England begin their final preparations for this week’s Ashes Test in Canberra, I want to get early into the conversation that comes up every time we see a rare women’s game in the longer format: l Future of Test Cricket in the Women’s Game.
So what is the way forward? This is a great question that sparks heated discussion and one that I would love to try to unpack.
I would love to see multi-format series mandated and financially supported by the ICC – leadership comes from the top.
The ICC Women’s Championship (ODI World Cup Qualifying Matches) has had an immense impact on the expansion of the game with a schedule of over 50 matches between countries &ndash: three ODIs per series &ndash: which are to be played in part of the future program of visits.
Countries regularly add three T20 matches and it shouldn’t seem like a stretch to add a Test match to the mix, as we saw in the Ashes and also in the Indian tours of Australia and England last year.
The move to having the Test as the first game in the series &ndash: according to the original schedule for this Ashes series &ndash: was a good move.
Without points on the board, it would have left both teams pushing harder for a result to gain an early advantage and set up the series. Unfortunately, due to COVID and quarantine requirements for the upcoming ODI World Cup, the T20 component of the series had to be brought forward.
Build the structure
What’s not realistic is for all countries to play each other in Test cricket in the short term, but that’s a big, ambitious goal.
Therefore, I would suggest splitting test cricket into two groups and starting with the 50 plus ranking. This would currently see England, Australia, India and South Africa in one group and New Zealand, West Indies, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the other.
An important piece of the puzzle is what underpins Test cricket in each country.
At present there is no structure in place to support the development of test cricketers because simply put testing is ad hoc meaning there are a lot of test cricketers internationals who never have the opportunity to play in the format.
I think it will be up to the top nations to pilot different structures to help develop Test cricketers, whether it’s a longer format in domestic cricket (3-4 days), a specialized series where a country can select the top 22 potential test cricketers to play in a series, or it can be a small step with 70-90 cricket. The latter being perhaps a good starting point for countries that have not played any Test cricket.
At the end of the day, we have to think outside the box and we should not fear failure in our attempt to find the right structures that all countries can adopt in the future.
Five days (and nights) are essential
Finally, the last step is the format itself. Five-day testing should be the minimum standard.
The four-day tests are hard to win, it’s not rocket science. Australia have now played three straight draws with the most recent result coming in that memorable match at Canterbury on the 2015 Ashes tour.
I am personally pro of pink ball testing; they provide entertaining cricket when swinging (especially during the night session) and given that the pink ball behaves similarly to the white ball, it seems more relevant to the women’s game.
Adding an extra day will also reduce the number of overs in the day from 100 to 90, which will put less pressure on bowlers when they are already making such a big leap from their workload. usual in games with limited overtaking.
It’s not simple and there are a lot of factors that haven’t been covered here, including resources and funding, but I’d like to think we’re not far off from realizing the dreams of female cricketers and that we don’t have players retiring before they’ve had a chance to play test cricket.
The upcoming test
We can’t fix all of this until the Ashes Test starts tomorrow, but we can talk about how to try to get a result.
Manuka is known for being a flat track and a hitting delight.
Both teams have plenty of depth in the batting department and for England, who need to be the aggressor, the balance of their line-up will be key. Is this the opportunity to give a first Test to Danni Wyatt?
Teams may need to approach it as a limited overrun game in the sense that their batting lineup needs to be flexible.
If openers get through the new ball and it becomes easier to hit, promoting their most aggressive hitting options could hold the key. If they strike first, how quickly they can reach 300 will be telling.
Australia will have variety in their bowling attack – and attack really is the right word. They will choose their best options to take wickets with rhythm, swing and spin.
This presents a challenge but also an opportunity for England if they are ready to play a brave style of cricket.
The biggest challenge in this test will be the ability to take 20 wickets on Manuka Oval. I think we’re all hoping for a hard-to-beat wicket early in the test to provide a good fight between bat and ball before it gets easier to score as the test goes on.
And what role does the weather play? It might be too optimistic of me to say ‘none’, but I think we deserve some sunshine!
I can’t wait to see how this test plays out, who debuts, and who leaves its mark on this particular form of the game.
While we’re enjoying this game, we also need to make sure these important conversations aren’t pushed aside until the next Women’s Test, because the reality is that we have no idea when that will be. Build the ideas, keep the discussion going and put the pressure on the powers that be to keep pushing the cause forward so we see more of our superstars in the ultimate format.
Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes v England
Australian Ashes team: Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Stella Campbell, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes (vc), Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Meg Lanning (c), Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland
Ashes England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Maia Bouchier, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Tash Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Nat Sciver (vc), Anya Shrubsole, Mady Villiers , Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danni Wyatt
Australia lead the multi-format series 4-2
January 20: Australia won by nine wickets
January 22: No result
January 23: Match abandoned without ball played
January 27-30: Test match, Manuka Oval, 10am AEDT,
February 3: First ODI, Manuka Oval (D/N), 2:10 p.m. AEDT
February 6: Second ODI, Junction Oval, 10:05 AEDT
February 8: Third ODI, Junction Oval, 10.05am AEDT
Comments are closed.