Isa Guha wasn’t even supposed to play in the one-off Ashes Test in 2008, but her 9-100 gave England their first Ashes victory over Australia since the war. Guha’s nine-wicket haul is No.3 in Wisden’s women’s spells of the 2000s, picked by Wisden India edit0r-at-large Karunya Keshav.

Isa Guha

Australia v England, only Ashes Test
Bradman Oval, Bowral
February 15-18, 2008

When England’s men regained the Ashes in 2005 for the first time since 1986/87, a whole generation of England fans saw their country win the Ashes for the first time; after what seemed like an eternity, the urn had come home.

During the fourth Test of the men’s series at Trent Bridge, 80 miles south-west in Worcester, the women’s side were creating their own piece of history. An extraordinary all-round performance from 20-year-old Katherine Brunt set up an England win that gave them their first Ashes series victory since 1963.

Two and a half years later, they were tasked with retaining the urn Down Under, something they hadn’t achieved since 1968/69. England hadn’t won a series outright in Australia since 1934/35. England men’s wait for Ashes success Down Under seemed like a mere intermission compared to what the women’s side had endured.

This time they were up against an Australian team with a slightly different look about them. The formidable pair of Belinda Clark and Cathryn Fitzpatrick were no longer around and there was new blood in the team in the form of a 17-year-old Ellyse Perry.

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England won the toss and opted to bowl first in Bowral, despite a late illness to one of their usual new ball operators Jenny Gunn. Isa Guha, who had bowled just four overs during the five-match ODI series that preceded the one-off Ashes Test, was called up as her replacement on the eve of the game.

“Mark Lane [England’s coach] came to tell me I was playing and I started crying,” she recalled four years later. “I just wanted to play so badly. That night I couldn’t really sleep, but come the day it was just one of those moments where everything came together, everything worked.”

Having spent the majority of the tour on the sidelines, Guha was suddenly at the heart of the action. Taking the new ball, Guha made an immediate impact, bowling Alex Blackwell for one to give England the dream start. Before too long, she had nabbed skipper Karen Rolton, Lisa Sthalekar and Shelley Nitschke – Australia were teetering at 59-5 with Guha acting as the primary enforcer. Some welcome lower-order resistance salvaged some respectability to the innings for Australia before Guha finished the job she started by bowling Kirsten Pike to become the eighth English woman to take an Ashes five-for in Australia.

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She so nearly repeated the trick in the second innings. With Australia trying to overturn a 90-run first innings deficit, she dismissed all of Australia’s top three with the new ball to leave them 34-3. She would have to settle with a four-for this time round but the damage was done.

Sthalekar’s 98 gave Australia a brief glimmer of hope before England chalked off their target of 142 to complete their first away Ashes win since 1934/35. “At the top of my run I felt that I could get a wicket every ball,” Guha would go on to say about her performance. “Every chance went to hand and I was in this heightened state where I didn’t have to think about anything. You can’t describe it. It was perfect.”