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Alyssa Healy says drawn Ashes a reset moment for Australia


Stand-in captain Alyssa Healy believes Australia’s hard-fought retention of the Ashes could be their “reset moment”.

After drawing the multi-format series with England on eight points each, the Australians kept the trophy they have held since 2015. But their grip is tenuous with Healy describing the result despite losing both the T20I and ODI legs 2-1 as feeling “a bit dirty” in the immediate aftermath of the final match in Taunton.

Addressing a press conference once the dust had settled on their 69-run defeat in the rain-affected third ODI on Tuesday, Healy’s comments were more circumspect in light of suggestions Australia had lost their trademark fighting spirit and ruthlessness.

“I think what this fighting spirit and what this ruthlessness of this team is going to look like moving forward might be slightly different to what we’ve seen in the past,” Healy said. “For us, it’s a great opportunity to sort of reflect and almost have a little mini reset moment of what this group is and what we look like now and what we want to achieve over the next four or five years in particular. I think it’s a really cool moment to do that.”

Australia went ahead in the multi-format Ashes with an 89-run victory in the one-off Test at Trent Bridge which was worth four points, double that of each limited-overs fixture. They extended their lead to 6-0 by winning the first T20I at Edgbaston by four wickets with just one ball to spare. In both matches, the Australians were less clinical than they had been in recent years, which ultimately left them exposed as they lost the next three games.

“I wouldn’t say an end of an era. I think it’s probably maybe a little bit of a moment that we potentially needed. We looked back on the T20 series and we felt like that might have been coming for a little while … I think we were going to need to look at how to adapt and continue to grow as a T20 side. But the one-day format probably hurt us a little bit because I think we’re still a really strong outfit and to play the way we did was obviously disappointing.

Alyssa Healy

And despite Australia’s much-vaunted depth, Healy pointed out that the loss of Rachael Haynes to retirement and Meg Lanning, a late withdrawal from the tour for undisclosed medical reasons, had left a big hole in her side, which still managed to muster enough of their trademark mettle to clinch the second ODI in Southampton by three runs on the final ball, thus ensuring they retained the Ashes.

“You look at some of the changes that this group has seen over the last 12 months in particular, we’ve lost two of our most senior players, top-order batters in particular, in the space of 12 months,” Healy said. “We’re not sure if or when one of those might be coming back so we’ve had a little bit of chopping and changing. I guess the positive side is that we’re giving some experience to some young players that we’ve always seen the opportunity to play for Australia at some point, but they’re getting the opportunity probably a little sooner than they’d anticipated, so that’s a great thing.

“There’s a few different feelings for me at the moment. Pride… we came here to do a job and we didn’t quite do it but we’ve got the trophy back within our grasp, which is obviously job number one done. We couldn’t quite get ourselves over the line in the white-ball stuff but overall I’m really proud of the way that the series unfolded. It’s been an amazing spectacle for cricket in general and it’s been really cool to be a part of. I sit here slightly excited and then slightly disappointed at the same time.”

The difference has been that Australia came up against an England side who believed they could beat their all-conquering opponents and played accordingly, holding their nerve in some clutch moments more consistently than they had managed in the past. Having stripped Australia of their aura, or dented it at the very least, England went some way – how far depends on who you talk to – towards closing the gap between the sides

But Healy, captain on this tour in Lanning’s absence, revealed the Australians felt they were more vulnerable in the T20s. They had been pushed by India in the semi-finals of the World Cup in February and the final of last year’s Commonwealth Games, and to them in a Super Over in December, which was their only defeat in their last 24 completed T20Is before they were beaten by England at The Oval and Lord’s. Their loss in the first ODI in Bristol ended a 15-game winning streak in the format and the Taunton result arrested a run of 21 victories while chasing in ODIs dating back to the 2017 Ashes when they also lost a rain-affected clash with England.

“I wouldn’t say an end of an era,” Healy said. “I think it’s probably maybe a little bit of a moment that we potentially needed.

“We looked back on the T20 series and we felt like that might have been coming for a little while… I think we were going to need to look at how to adapt and continue to grow as a T20 side. But the one-day format probably hurt us a little bit because I think we’re still a really strong outfit and to play the way we did was obviously disappointing.

“I think it’s a start of an era of English cricket. Definitely what they’re producing at the moment and the way they’re enjoying their cricket is great to watch and you can see other people turning up to come and see their team play, so that’s really exciting and for us, we’ll just learn from it and continue on hopefully being great.”

Opposite number Heather Knight took no issue with the extra points weighting for the Test, saying it was the rules both sides played under, but she did believe that by winning both white-ball series, England had only confirmed her belief that there was no “gap” between the teams.

“We’ve experienced quite a lot of hurt against Australia,” Knight said. “Obviously we haven’t got the Ashes but to play like we have done this summer has been hugely pleasing and the most exciting thing is we haven’t played our best cricket. Today was probably the closest but I think we’ve got a huge ceiling for this team to keep moving forward and keep improving.

“The mindset we’ve got onto that works really well for us is definitely right but I still think we can learn how to do it slightly better in different situations at different points. But the way we’ve won really important key moments in games has been the biggest thing. That’s probably been the biggest gap between the two sides previously. We’ve worked a hell of a lot on that as a group and to see us really thrive in those moments and win them and be really calm and clear on what we need to do for the team in that moment has been hugely pleasing.”

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women’s cricket, at ESPNcricinfo


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