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Women’s Ashes 2023

There’s work to be done for true parity, but Women’s Ashes equal billing is a sign of the progress made

Women's Ashes trophy
by Karunya Keshav 15 minute read

The 2023 women’s Ashes is going to be played simultaneously with, and on the same footing, as its men’s counterparts, writes Karunya Keshav.

Even as Joe Root was reverse-scooping six on his way to a hundred on the opening day of the men’s Ashes, three other English cricketers were making centuries against the visiting Australians.

Tammy Beaumont, Lauren Winfield-Hill and the uncapped Paige Scholfield brought up three figures across two warm-up games for the women’s Ashes. England Women, in fact, reeled off 500 runs in a day against Australia A at Derby, while England A too passed 500 in taking on Australia’s first-string side in Leicester. (Pithy nomenclature for this brisk rate of run-scoring is awaited.)


This edition of the women’s multi-format Ashes is set to run in parallel to the men’s contest. And the image of four England cricketers in whites, raising their bats in seeming unison, was the perfect advertisement for a couple of months of cricket where the profile of women’s cricket in England is set to rise further.

In fact, the ECB could scarcely have planned it better. They likely paid good money for very similar images as part of a clever marketing campaign to give the women equal billing to the men.

The “Ashes, Two Ashes” campaign, nominated as UK Campaign of the Year at the Sport Industry Awards, aimed to “promote the two series on equal footing and push equality to the fore,” said Matta, the creative agency behind it.

As part of the commitment to equality, England’s male and female cricketers both appeared in tournament promotions. Earlier this month, both captains Ben Stokes and Heather Knight had their likeness projected onto Tower Bridge.

Beyond the publicity blitz and the bright lights, though, are a few decisions of greater significance. First, the women’s matches have been scheduled at traditional men’s Test venues, rather than the more intimate county grounds they were often at. Ten years ago, the first multi-format women’s Ashes began with an untelevised red-ball game at Wormsley. This time, the rivalry resumes at Trent Bridge.

The ground, one of the most prestigious cricket venues in the country, will host its first women’s Test match since 1979. In fact, it has hosted a grand total of five women’s internationals so far, and none since 2009. Which means Knight, who began her top-flight career in 2010, has never played at this ground.

Knight said in an ECB statement, “To be side by side with men’s team and to have more games in major venues is so exciting. It’s massive for us to play in front of such big crowds and the record-breaking ticket sales will really give us an extra boost when we’re out there on the field.”

Second, the Test match will be played over five days, rather than four days as has been the norm.

“We’ve been fighting for five days for a long time,” said the skipper.

The theory is that the extra day allows for time to get a result: the teams have played out a draw in the last three editions. It also sheds some of the pressure that always accompanies these rare women’s Tests, to constantly prove that women ‘deserve’ to play red-ball cricket.

Happily this time, the women go into the Test knowing that irrespective of how the game goes, the next two home Ashes Tests will be held in the equally prominent grounds of Headingley (2027) and in Southampton (2031).

Coach Jon Lewis put it succinctly: This equal billing, he told the press, “feels like the right thing to do.”

It is also the smart thing to do. Women’s sport has seen tremendous success in England over the last few years. Cricket itself has got a boost from the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and The Hundred. The larger platform offered to the women’s Ashes seeks to carve out more space for it by capitalising on the overall success of women’s sport.

“It’s a huge summer for women’s sport in England,” said Lewis. “Last year it was with the Lionesses winning the Euros, there was a massive following for them. This summer it’s the Ashes.

“The girls have a real sense of responsibility for growing the game and inspiring future cricketers and they also feel like it’s important to entertain the crowd.

“So hopefully over the course of the summer we’ll entertain people so that they’re willing to put their hand in the pocket and come and watch us play cricket. That’s the aim of the game.”

Of course, putting both the men and women on a poster shouldn’t convince anyone that true equality – of opportunity and reward – is a done deal. Equal billing is a welcome step, but one need look no further than the Test itself, starting on June 22, for a reminder of the strides administrators of the women’s game still need to make.

As Lewis pointed out, “Our most experienced Test cricketer, I think has played 10 Tests. Looking back at my own experience as a young male cricketer, I played probably 10 four-day games within the first year of me playing. It’s a disproportionate amount of red-ball cricket played in the men’s game to the women’s game.

“Should we play some more [multi-day cricket]? Yeah, I think we should in time. But we’re three years into professionalism at a reasonable level, so I think given time, things will play out.”

Back in 2005, when England claimed the women’s Ashes from Australia for the first time in 42 years, a little before the men’s own historic win, the two victorious teams were taken in an open-bus parade in London. But despite appearances, the two teams inhabited different worlds.

In a recent chat with the BBC, Katherine Sciver-Brunt, the player of the series then, remembered: “Our bus was behind and everyone thought we were the WAGs.” She spoke of wearing men’s hand-me-downs for the Test and always being seen as second to the men.

That won’t cut it today. Women’s cricket in England is still in the early days of professionalism, but it’s at least now arrived to be on the same page as the men.

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