International Cricket

MCG to host historic women’s Ashes Test between Australia and England

Australia will host England in a four-day pink-ball women’s Ashes Test at the MCG in January to mark the 90-year anniversary of the first women’s Test series but the debate continues as to whether four-day or five-day cricket remains the best format for the women to play.

Cricket Australia announced its schedule for the 2024-25 season on Tuesday with the multiformat women’s Ashes series to be held in January to cap off a home summer that includes a T20I series against New Zealand before the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in September, and a three-match ODI series against India in December which will run concurrently with India’s men’s Test tour of Australia.

CA has committed to playing the women’s Ashes at some major venues around the country after the previous two Ashes Tests were held at North Sydney Oval and Canberra. The single Test in the upcoming series will be the first women’s Test to be played at the MCG since 1948-49 and it will mark 90 years since the first women’s Test series between Australia and England in 1934-35.

It will also be the first women’s international match at the MCG since the 2020 T20 World Cup final between Australia and India. There are also T20Is scheduled for Adelaide Oval and the SCG. The latter has not hosted a women’s international since the 2020 T20 World Cup semi-final. Both the MCG and SCG hosted WBBL matches last summer.

Australia’s star allrounder Ellyse Perry was aware of the gravity of the fixture.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for the team to play at such an iconic Australian cricket venue and in such a big occasion like an Ashes series,” Perry said. “I think we all saw that fixture and thought what an amazing opportunity and how much possibility that also carries in terms of what it could do for the game.”

But there is still debate on whether women’s Tests should be four or five-day fixtures. The last Ashes Test played was a five-day game at Trent Bridge, which Australia won.

“My thoughts on that is that we probably need to do some more quantifiable work on what is most effective for the women’s game,” Perry said. “I’ve got a really small sample size of one five-day Test match. And we managed to get a result in that. So I suppose my bias skews towards that, having played a number of four-day games where we haven’t got results.

“But it’s so contextual to the venue that you play at, your opposition as well and just various other conditions. But I think going forward, this is going to be a question that keeps popping up until we’re able to really ascertain what is most effective for women’s Test matches.”

When pressed further on what that quantifiable work should be, Perry was pragmatic.

“I think we’re probably going to have to play some more five-day games to figure that out. And what level that’s at I’m not sure,” Perry said.

The four-day women’s Tests are played with 100 overs per day, which means the game is only 50 overs shorter in total than a traditional five-day Test with 90 overs per day.

Peter Roach, CA’s head of scheduling, was strong in stating CA’s preference for four-day games.

“There’s continual discussions on the right format for women’s Test cricket, and clearly we don’t have a great bank of recent history to draw upon because the women don’t play as many Tests as the men do,” he said. “We’re continually thinking about ways we can improve Test cricket but we’re really strongly of the view that four days is the right format.

“We believe [the players] understand the logic and there’ll be some players that are supportive of that and there’ll be some players that have a different view and we understand that. The job is to try and find the right balance in everything we do and to try and get the right outcome for cricket and women’s cricket in this example and current and future players to make this a game that is really attractive and people love to watch and support.”

Australia were very keen to continue playing Tests at the WACA ground after the success of the recent outing against South Africa. But Roach noted that the MCG pitch has had similar pace and bounce in men’s Test cricket in recent years and should be an equally good surface, while the opportunity to mark the 90-year anniversary of women’s Test cricket at the iconic venue was too good to pass up.

Perry said Australia’s current players were well aware of the historical significance given their connection to past players. There was a 50-year anniversary of Australia’s 1973 women’s World Cup team held in Melbourne last year when Australia played West Indies while a number of ex-players and women’s cricket administrators were celebrated at the 2020 World Cup final.

“It’s definitely something that as a team we’re really invested in, in terms of firstly recognising and also understanding the history of the game,” Perry said. “It was really lovely having everyone there at the Junction Oval during our series against the West Indies. We’ve got a lot of personal attachments to various players.

“Marg Jennings, who was part of that [1973] team, was the first Australian selector that selected me in my first tour. So I think things like that are so important in terms of connection throughout women’s cricket.

“The T20 World Cup final back in 2020, there were so many people connected to the women’s cricket family at that final who very much felt a part of it as well, just being there and taking it in. I know there’s some plans now that this fixture has been scheduled to do those things, especially celebrate the 90 years.”

Australia Women fixtures for 2024-25 season

T20I Series vs New Zealand
19 September: Great Barrier Reef Arena, Mackay (N)
22 September: Great Barrier Reef Arena, Mackay (N)
24 September: Allan Border Field, Brisbane (N)

ODI Series vs India
5 December: Allan Border Field, Brisbane (D/N)
8 December: Allan Border Field, Brisbane (D)
11 December: WACA Ground, Perth (D/N)

Women’s Ashes ODI Series vs England
12 January: North Sydney Oval, Sydney (D)
14 January: Junction Oval, Melbourne (D)
17 January: Bellerive Oval, Hobart (D)

Women’s Ashes T20I Series vs England
20 January: SCG, Sydney (N)
23 January: Manuka Oval, Canberra (N)
25 January: Adelaide Oval, Adelaide (N)

Women’s Ashes Test
30 January-2 February: MCG, Melbourne (D/N)

Alex Malcolm is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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