Women’s Ashes 2023 – Australia have flaws England can exploit Lauren Winfield-Hill says

Women’s Ashes 2023 – Australia have flaws England can exploit Lauren Winfield-Hill says

As a cricketer with 23 caps against Australia, Lauren Winfield-Hill remains sure of one thing. They have flaws to exploit.

It is something she and her England team-mates have seen first-hand. The issue, however, has been an inability to take advantage when those flaws have presented themselves. Something must change to ensure the upcoming women’s Ashes do not play to type.

Australia have triumphed in three out of the last four series, and arrive as defending World Champions in both ODI and T20I formats. Winfield-Hill herself has only tasted success in four of those 23 matches against them.

The tourists are undoubtedly favourites going into the multi-format series, which begins with a five-day Test match at Trent Bridge on June 22. The key for Winfield-Hill, however, is to ensure England approach the series without any baggage. Only then can England take the pressure moments that present themselves within games, something they have often failed to do in the past.

“There’s absolutely nowhere to hide,” said Winfield-Hill. “An Ashes series is the toughest thing you will ever play.

“I think the belief we have to connect with, and the thing we have to do better, is when they’re a collective and we’re a collective is to have a little bit more belief, get in the dogfight a little bit more. Probably the biggest difference in the past is not necessarily being skills, it’s probably cricket smarts.

“But I think it’s probably playing the game situation more logically and riding those high-pressure moments better than we have done in the past because when you look at previous Ashes series, they’ve just held on that little bit longer and then the pressure will subside and you get a window. Whereas we’ve potentially not held onto that and cracked too early and then the floodgates open.

“They have flaws as well. We’ve seen when they’ve been put under pressure in finals they’ve shown the same weaknesses if you can match them for long enough. It’s relentless.”

One aspect seen as a potential plus point for England is a relatively new squad. The transition over the last two years, not least with the retirement of stalwart Katherine Sciver-Brunt, has seen new talent come to the fore on the international stage.

The likes of Issy Wong, Lauren Bell, Charlie Dean and the more experienced Alice Davidson-Richards have assumed greater roles within the England set-up across formats. Aligned with skipper Heather Knight, vice-captain Nat Sciver-Brunt and the older heads like Winfield-Hill there is scope for a new chapter in this rivalry driven by those without bad memories of playing Australia.

“You need balance,” said Winfield-Hill. “A good changing room environment has good balance between senior players and youth. I think that is a really big thing, to have enough players that don’t have battle scars, going in with that naivety that it is just cricket, there is no history because they haven’t played in the Ashes before.

“It’s a good thing, to be open-minded. They know what to expect because they have watched it, but it’s different being out there. I think that’s a strength of the squad. You can’t hide, there are scars. We have had some really tough Ashes series in the past. You need youngsters to go in and give it a red hot crack because they don’t have that history.”

As for her own role this summer, the 32-year-old is more at ease. She expects to play some part, most likely in the three T20s sandwiched between the Test match and the three ODIs.

Winfield-Hill was part of the squad which travelled to South Africa for the T20 World Cup in February, although her last appearances for England were in four of the five T20Is on the tour of West Indies at the end of 2022 and she is not an England contracted player.

Following her stint for Oval Invincibles in the Hundred during the last English summer, she went on to play in the Big Bash League for Melbourne Stars, PSL and FairBreak Invitational tournament. That allowed her to continue testing herself against high-level opposition while her international appearances were limited. Without those competitions, she feels she would not have been able to regain her place in the England squad after being dropped midway through the 50-over World Cup early last year.

“Without the game growing in a franchise space I’d be long gone probably,” Winfield-Hill said. “But because I had the opportunity to go and play in different competitions, I managed to just keep my foot in the door and they’re obviously seen as well-respected competitions. If you score some decent runs in that you’re obviously in a very good space.”

Regarding for her role now, she senses a level of duty when it comes to England, who will name their Ashes squad next week. While she is focusing on getting the best out of herself, she acknowledges her status as a senior player and knows the importance of embracing it for the rest of the group.

“It’s a fine line really because I’m not a constant in that England set-up, I’m not a contracted player anymore so it’s just striking that balance.

“The youngsters, their job is to play, flourish and learn on the job really. I think the way I try to do it is just the way I am in terms of how I operate, how I communicate. I enjoy helping the youngsters on their way and I think a lot of the time it’s not something that needs to be forced on you – you’re a senior player so you have to be someone to look up to.

“You spend a lot of your career being really selfish and just wanting to punch out performances, don’t you? And you’re very tunnel vision in terms of ‘I need a score’ and I think something that’s enabled me to play as well as I have the last couple of years is letting go of that. I’m still very ambitious, I still have lots of desire to keep playing for a long time but I have probably taken the pressure off myself. In terms of going into other environments as well, you can’t just go in and be focused on yourself and your own job.

“You have to get around the new team, meet new people and help youngsters. I think that’s been really good for me. I’ve played in quite a few teams – I keep thinking it’s the teams but it’s me getting old – where I am thinking there are loads of youngsters where actually I’m the common denominator here.”

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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