When Michael Vaughan’s England won arguably the greatest Ashes series of all time in 2005, it was a victory that not only wrestled back the urn for the first time in 16 years but also condemned one of the most talented teams in history to a rare defeat.
Ahead of the series England were a team on the rise, but Vaughan had wanted a group of players that had not been scarred by more than a decade of demoralising defeats to Australia, instead he wanted his side to take the fight to their opponents – there are certainly parallels to be drawn with the task facing England’s women this summer.
Across all formats Heather Knight’s team must try and take down an irresistible force, a winning machine that can certainly lay claim to being one of the most dominant units in world sport.
Australia beat South Africa to win a sixth World T20 title at Newlands in February, they have won 22 of their last 23 matches in the shortest form of the game and have lost one of their last 42 50-over matches as they prepare to face England, starting with a five-day Test at Trent Bridge.
The England squad will include 18-year-old all-rounder Alice Capsey, who will experience Ashes cricket for the first time, and she believes an attacking, positive approach can help them to a first victory against Australia since 2014.
“The shift in our mindset is going to be a big thing, we’ve got to fully commit to that and everyone buy into that and I think we started to see that in the World Cup, in the semi-final I think we went back to our old ways a little bit so there’ll be a lot of reflection on that and moving forward and trying to kind of gel together and commit to this mindset,” Capsey told Sky Sports.
“As a player I think this is the best chance we’ve got to really compete with the Aussies, we were looking forward to doing that in the World Cup but unfortunately we fell out in the semi-final but I think we’re in a good place to go hard at them.
“They’ve [Australia] been the leading country for five or 10 years now and it’ll be a real challenge, they’re coming off the back of another T20 World Cup win but I think that’s really exciting to be able to go into that challenge, our first major challenge after the loss in the semi-final and it’ll be about bouncing back and how we go about it as a team.
“When you put pressure on the Aussies they can kind of, not crumble, but there are weaknesses and it’s about really exploiting that and when we’re up on top really making sure we make the most of it.”
Capsey’s first Ashes series will get under way four months after her first World Cup experience in South Africa, the teenager will look to continue her meteoric rise which includes successive Hundred titles with the Oval Invincibles.
Last summer saw Capsey make her England debut, play in the Commonwealth Games before a winter that included stints in the Women’s Big Bash and the new Women’s Premier League where her franchise Delhi Capitals were beaten finalists.
But Capsey admits she is still learning to deal with the expectation that often rests on her young shoulders, and balancing that with the natural unpredictability of the shortest forms of cricket.
“After that year there was kind of that expectation, I think more on myself than other people giving it to me, I had that expectation that I wanted to do better next year which I think is healthy because you want to keep on improving,” said Capsey.
“But that year I went out to Australia, did ok but came back and was like ‘that didn’t go as I wanted it to’ and going into the first couple of rounds of regional stuff I wasn’t really scoring the runs I wanted to and it was that mental of shift of saying ‘yeah I’m not going to perform every time’ which I think was quite tricky to begin with.
“Looking back I wasn’t in great form when I got my call up but that was a real changing point last year where when I got that call up something just seemed to click and I was scoring runs quite fluently and feeling pretty good at the crease so it only takes that one thing.
“Cricket is a stupid sport really because you’re going to fail more than you succeed but that’s the beauty of it as well because you go through those highs and lows.”
The last couple of years have seen something of a transition in England’s squad, and that change will continue following the international retirement of Katherine Sciver-Brunt.
She bids farewell after a stellar international career including 335 wickets, more than any other English woman, along with three Ashes victories and three world titles to look back on.
It means Lauren Bell and Issy Wong may have a big part to play in leading England’s attack in their first series against Australia, while head coach Jon Lewis’ arrival has been described as a “breath of fresh air” and Capsey said the former Gloucestershire seamer has challenged his team to express themselves in their bid for victory.
“This will be the first time I’ve played against Australia, this is how I start my international career against them which is hugely exciting, from the youngsters point of view me, Wongy (Issy Wong), Belly (Lauren Bell) who I think will play a big part this summer for England it’s that kind of fearlessness,” Capsey explained.
“With my style of play I’m going to get it wrong more than I get it right and that’s just something I’ve got to understand and I’ve been given the freedom from all of my coaches so far to go out there and express myself and play I’d normally play and there’s been no ‘you’ve got three low scores you need to get a big score,’ I’ve never had the said to me.
“Our new head coach Jon Lewis has been absolutely brilliant, he’s given everyone a new lease of life really and they’re really enjoying their cricket so it’s been brilliant to see how the team has been developing.
“I think it’s going to be really exciting the Ashes, we’re all pretty excited to see how we can take our new mindset into facing the Aussies.”
The Women’s Ashes takes place in June and July, starting with a five-day Test at Trent Bridge before three T20s and three ODIs, and is live on Sky Sports.