Raf Nicholson was in Hobart to watch Charlotte Edwards take her side home in the first Twenty20 international and clinch the Women’s Ashes for England.
It’s the 18th over of England’s innings in the first Twenty20 at Hobart. They are chasing 151 for victory, and Charlotte Edwards is at the crease, facing the fifth ball of Erin Osborne’s over. Edwards dispatches it to the boundary. It’s a shot that is characteristic of her innings: stroked through mid-wicket, and splitting the Australian fielders. But it is a particularly special one. With it, England win this match, and in some style: a nine-wicket victory, with 13 balls to spare.
It puts England 10-4 up in the series, an unassailable lead: they have retained the Ashes.
It’s a historic moment, and the records have tumbled. Edwards has just played one of the innings of her career, racing her way to 92* off 59 balls, which also happens to be the highest ever score in a women’s T20I by an England player. “It was a good pitch… you needed a batter in there to really take advantage. And I took it upon myself to,” she said of her innings after play ended. “I wasn’t going to give away the Ashes.”
Here’s another record: this team is only the third ever to win the Women’s Ashes in Australia. The first was in 1934/35 on the first international women’s cricket tour. The second was back in 2008, when England won the Test match at Bowral.
And another record: Edwards was captain back in 2008, too, meaning she has become the only captain to ever win the Ashes in Australia twice.
But I’m guessing that records aren’t really what England are thinking about, as they race onto the pitch from the dug-out to congratulate their captain and her partner at the crease, Sarah Taylor. Right here, right now, this is their moment. They have beaten Australia, and it is the best feeling in the world.
It is evident that records aren’t what concerns Edwards when she speaks to the press after the match. “The runs mean a lot,” she said, “but the win today means the most to me… You don’t win the Ashes every day in Australia, and we’re going to enjoy it, because this is why we play cricket, to hopefully experience achievements like this.”
She is characteristically full of praise for her team today: “I couldn’t ask any more of them. I think it’s what they deserved.” That is undoubtedly true; and one of the encouraging things in this series is the way so many young players have come in and performed: Natalie Sciver and Kate Cross at Perth, and here at Hobart, 17-year-old Tash Farrant, whose figures of 0-29 in four overs didn’t do justice to the way she confined the Australian batters throughout their innings.
But Edwards herself deserves all the plaudits that are coming her way after this victory – and many more besides. As I watched her innings, I wondered: am I watching the best female cricketer there has ever been? The answer to that is almost certainly yes – in all three formats. One last record for you: Edwards has more Ashes runs than any other woman, ever. I guess that’s not really surprising.
She’s now played in five victorious Ashes sides, but this win ranks “right at the top” for her. “The new Ashes format is by far the toughest… To play the type of cricket we’ve played and win in the fashion we’ve won, I think makes this extra special.”
Judging by England’s reactions as she hit that last boundary, I think that about sums it up.