Lancashire and England stalwart Kate Cross believes a national side as strong as ever – and the home summer weather – will help deliver a third straight series win for the first time in women’s Ashes history.
Both teams will be feeling a weight of expectation going into the series which starts on July 21, with pundits such as ex-captain Clare Connor describing it as ‘the biggest, most-anticipated, high-profile women’s series there’s ever been’.
England start as favourites after winning the past two series while Australia have not enjoyed success since the series switched to its current points-based system, in which points are attained for victories in all three formats.
“I think the series will be very close, but I think we will just win it with home conditions favouring us,” said a confident Cross.
“I think this is probably the toughest selection that the selectors have had to make.
“We’ve all been fit and we’re all ready to play so it must have been quite a tough call.
“We’ve done a lot of training – the preparation for this series probably started about 12 months ago.”
Cross will spearhead the bowling attack having enjoyed a stellar couple of years, becoming the only Lancashire player to earn a professional contract in May 2014 shortly after making her test debut in the last Ashes series in Australia.
In 2015 she became the first woman to appear in the Central Lancashire men’s league – and she proved that she belonged at that level when she made international headlines in May, taking 8-47 against Unsworth CC.
Add to that the 23-year-old’s first steps into the media, and you would think that the rising star of women’s cricket would have felt confident of a berth in the squad for this month’s Ashes showdown.
“You are never confident of getting into a squad, never,” the Bury-born seamer insisted with a laugh.
“It’s obviously really special, I think whenever you’re involved in any sort of England squad then it’s amazing but to be involved in an Ashes squad then it’s something to be pleased about.
“We’re excited to start playing some cricket, we’ve not played any international stuff since we got back from New Zealand and we’re just excited to start the series now.”
The public profile of women’s cricket is on the rise, with both Sky and BBC broadcasting every ball of this summer’s series on TV and radio respectively.
Add to that the ECB’s creation of a Women’s Super League, what Cross described as ‘one of the biggest announcements of the last couple of years’,’ and Australia’s move to form a Women’s Big Bash, and the feeling that this is a sport on the up is undeniable.
Another form of women’s sport has been very much in the public limelight over the last couple of months, and Cross believes that it is crucial for her team to cash in on the spirit raised by England’s female footballers, after their third-placed finish in the World Cup.
“They’ve been absolutely brilliant the girls and they’ve gripped the nation haven’t they,” she said.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to jump on the back of the Lionesses success and hopefully people will realise that women’s sport is on the rise.
“Hopefully we’ll have a lot of support this summer and I think that will be key to our success as well because if we can fill some grounds and get a lot of people on our side then that will put pressure on the Aussies as well.”
Although Cross and her teammates will be busy perfecting their final preparations over the next couple of weeks, they will be forgiven for taking the occasional timeout to watch the men’s series, which kicks off today in Cardiff.
England’s men have enjoyed a swift turnaround in public perception since their enthralling battle against New Zealand earlier this year, and Cross was delighted to see talented individuals showing their true colours.
“As an England fan you’re always disappointed when you see the media jump on any sort of failure that the men have because you know that they’re such a talented squad,” she said.
“I think they proved against New Zealand that they can play the kind of cricket that everybody wants to watch.
“With that, they’ve obviously had the best preparation that they could have going in to the Ashes.
“We’ll obviously be quite busy ourselves and we won’t be too focused on what they’re doing but we’ll certainly be hoping that they do well
“If we can both have a successful summer then obviously it would be a really good one come the end of August.”
Main image courtesy of Quays News via YouTube, with thanks.