Australia retained the women’s Ashes in 2023 after drawing the multi-format series in England. Raf Nicholson’s report appeared in the 2024 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

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Test match (1): England 0, Australia 1. One-day internationals (3): England 2 (4 WC pts), Australia 1 (2 WC pts). Twenty20 internationals (3): England 2, Australia 1. Overall Ashes points: England 8, Australia 8

This was the most competitive women’s Ashes series in a decade, and England captain Heather Knight proclaimed it “the best there’s ever been in the history of the women’s game”. Four of the six white-ball matches came down to the last over, and another was a nail-biter which England sealed with two wickets to spare. The final result was a drawn series, eight points apiece fairly reflecting the narrowness of the margins. Australia (who retained the Ashes) suffered the strange experience of being presented with the trophy at Taunton just minutes after England had ended their run of 21 bilateral one-day series wins. Alyssa Healy, leading the tourists in the absence of regular captain Meg Lanning, told reporters that winning the trophy felt “a bit dirty”, while Nat Sciver-Brunt claimed it as a moral victory for England, who won both the T20 and ODI legs 2-1.

That Australia could draw the series despite winning three matches to England’s four raised questions about the points system, which valued a Test win at four, compared with two for an ODI or T20 victory. Some also queried the scheduling of the Test at the start, fearing that, after Australia won, the outcome of the series was effectively decided – although England’s fightback quashed some of those concerns. The ECB and Cricket Australia were to review the point allocations before the next series, in Australia in 2024/25, and needed to weigh up the necessary emphasis put on a Test with the desire for a contest which remains in the balance until the final stages.

Overall, it marked the end of an era of Australian supremacy, as they endured their first T20 series defeat in six years, and their first ODI series defeat in ten. Their golden generation looked to have reached their apogee at last: Megan Schutt (aged 30) was given a tonking by the English batters, while Healy (33) struggled to juggle the extra responsibility of the captaincy, passing 16 just once in the white-ball games; she did score a vital fifty in the Test, but only after narrowly avoiding a pair. Afterwards, Healy said Australia had felt the loss of Lanning acutely – she had withdrawn from tour at the eleventh hour, with an undisclosed medical issue. “We’re not sure if or when she might be coming back, so we’ve had a little bit of chopping and changing,” said Healy. “It’s a great opportunity to reflect and have a mini reset.”

Knight praised England’s young players for their contributions. In her first Ashes series, 18-year-old Alice Capsey enjoyed two spectacular innings, at Lord’s and Bristol. Meanwhile, two 22-year-olds, pace bowler Lauren Filer and all-rounder Dani Gibson, made their debuts; Filer dismissed Ellyse Perry twice in the Test, in which Tammy Beaumont (now the team’s second-oldest player, at 32) made a double-century. England also attributed the turnaround in their fortunes to a change in mentality brought about by new head coach Jon Lewis, whose core message of “inspire and entertain” appeared to have released them from the mental pressures associated with the Ashes. This was epitomised by Sciver-Brunt: after a mental low in 2022, which led to her taking a break from cricket for a couple of months, she was at her best, scoring back-to-back hundreds in the Southampton and Taunton ODIs.

Just after the Test, the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket released its report, outlining the “routine marginalisation” of the women’s game in England. But, for the first time, the ECB had made a genuine attempt to integrate the women’s matches into the broader Ashes narrative, with a marketing campaign titled “Ashes, two Ashes”, and the slogan “The only thing better than an Ashes series? Two.” Images of Knight and Ben Stokes were projected side by side on to Tower Bridge in June, symbolising the sense of increased inclusion felt by England’s women players.

The schedule also reflected a new ambition: all seven matches were played at men’s international venues, five at Test grounds, with Trent Bridge hosting the first five-day women’s Test in England. Evening T20s reduced the overlap in the two fixtures which clashed with the men’s Ashes, and huge crowds fully justified the bigger venues: Edgbaston, The Oval and Lord’s each raised the record attendance for non-World Cup matches in England, while the ODIs, including a Sunday game at Southampton, were the first women’s series to sell out. The overall attendance was around 103,000, up from just 32,000 for the last home Ashes, in 2019.

The awards for the Players of the Series went to Australian off-spinner Ash Gardner and to Sciver-Brunt. Gardner was the leading wicket-taker with 23 across seven matches, including a match-winning 12 in the Test, and also scored a handy 208 runs, while Sciver-Brunt’s aggregate of 404 at 57 put her a sniff ahead of Perry’s 401. Honourable mention went to Sophie Ecclestone, whose relentless left-arm spin brought her 20 wickets at 20.

Australia touring party: *AJ Healy, DR Brown, AK Gardner, KJ Garth, GM Harris, JL Jonassen, AM King, PES Litchfield, TM McGrath, BL Mooney, EA Perry, M Schutt, AJ Sutherland, GL Wareham. Coach: S Nitschke.
MM Lanning was originally named as captain, but withdrew from the squad for health reasons.