Geoff Lemon: Healy promises ‘to bring the bitch back’ to Women’s Ashes

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Warm English smiles, cold Australian shoulders, and a sodden Brisbane landscape are the three factors the day before the Women's Ashes begins at Allan Border Field on Sunday.

Rain has come down all week in the Queensland capital, confining both teams to training largely indoors, and washing out several practice matches.

Rain is forecast to clear in time to play a full One-Day International, a relief to all involved after the initial run of tickets sold out.

Two more ODIs follow in Coffs Harbour, before a Test match and three Twenty20s in Sydney and Canberra. But it already seems that the series will be an exercise in contrasting styles.

The English have committed to their cheerful approach that buoyed them to a World Cup title in July, while some of the Australians have vowed to make things unsociable on the field and bring the pressure of a hostile crowd to bear.

"Playing all these domestic competitions around the world has made everyone too nice," Australian wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy commented on a podcast, referring to the mix of nationalities playing in the Women's Big Bash and England's Super League.

"Personally I've vowed to bring the bitch back and return to my chirpy self behind the stumps and be a pest for the opposition."

English captain upbeat

England captain Heather Knight is instead seeing the advantage gained in the new franchise world, with a good chunk of her squad now having experience playing in Australia.

The WBBL was "definitely" a factor going into this series, she said.

"A lot of the girls have played in that competition," Knight said.

"Four or five have played [at Allan Border Field] before. A lot of us have played at Manuka and the other grounds.

"Coffs is the only one that no one in the team has played at … I don't think a lot of the Aussie girls will have played there either."

Knight has good reason to be upbeat after her tight-knit team won its global prize at Lord's in a triumph of good cheer and optimism.

Their intensity at indoor training drills the day before the game was not unusual, but the bonhomie on show between players and coaching staff is not always a given.

"They're obviously going to be gunning for us," the captain said.

"Having stolen their world number-one ranking and winning the World Cup. They're going to be hungry.

"We're ready for that. It's going to be really tough to win out here, we'll have to be right at the top of our game.

"The girls know that we've got this Ashes series, and once that's done, if we can be successful, 2017 can be a hell of a year."

England unshaken by promised aggression

As for Healy's promised aggression, which fast bowler Megan Schutt has also vowed to back up, Knight came back with a politely delivered burn of her own.

"We're really not that interested," she said.

"It wouldn't be an Ashes tour without a little bit of word from the Aussies.

"Obviously if that's the route Australia want to go down, they felt they need to do something different to try and unsettle us. But that's a sign of where we are and how successful we've been as a team."

Australian captain Rachael Haynes was diplomatically supportive of Healy, though more interested in aggressive play rather than interaction.

"I just want our players to get the most out of themselves individually," Haynes said.

"If that's something that fires them up and gets them ready to play, then so be it. So long as it's within the spirit of the game.

"Alyssa is probably one of the only players that can get away with coming out and saying that.

"We want to take it to any opposition we play. Particularly at this level, if you stand back and wait for the game to come to you, it will get taken away pretty quickly.

"We want to show initiative when we're out there playing, and I think you'll see that with our style throughout the series."

Reserve days stripped

Now all the contest needs is for the rain to stay away, and the ground staff to do their work.

Prayers to the weather gods are one thing, but the administrators who have recently stripped reserve days out of women's international series might be easier to reach.

A Cricket Australia spokesperson said that the recent change was to allow more flexibility in scheduling, while a critical England coach Mark Robinson said he had not been given an explanation.

"I don't know why, do you? Does anyone know why?" Robinson said.

"Our first game at home when Heather was captain we got rained off at home against Pakistan, but then we had a reserve day and we were off and running.

"Whether it's cost reasons, logistics — I don't actually know the reasons why, to make a comment. But it seems a shame sat here watching the rain come."


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