As England men manage to retain the Ashes at a rather soggy Old Trafford the women are warming up for their own Ashes series (one Test, three ODIs and three T20s), which starts with the Test Match at Wormsley CC on Sunday (11th August). I will be there and tweeting and blogging live from the ground if you cannot get there yourselves. Better still get yourself a ticket and come along (http://www.wormsleycricket.co.uk/events2013/womens-ashes-2013.html).
The Aussie girls have landed and are due to play a two day warm-up game against England A starting today (subject to the vagaries of the English summer weather). They have very recently added left-arm pace bowler Gemma Triscari to their squad - apparently this is "so that we have adequate cover for our pace bowlers". Ellyse Perry is coming back from remedial ankle surgery, and her recovery was prolonged by an infection. Will she be fit enough to play in a four day Test Match?
England too have fitness concerns, particularly with their fast bowlers - Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole. Both have been named in the 18 player squad for the Ashes series (due to be trimmed to 15 for each format sometime this week) and England would dearly love them to play and spearhead the England attack. They looked a potent combination in the World Cup in February, but Brunt has hardly played since, and Shrubsole has struggled to retain her fitness throughout the domestic season. It will be a brave call to throw them both into a four day game. Fortunately it seems that Sarah Taylor, Holly Colvin and Laura Marsh are all now fit and available for selection. If all 18 are fit then this would be my 11 :-
10. Brunt (if not fit Sciver)
Heather Knight has had a great season at Berkshire. She is the leading run scorer in Division One with 604 runs in eight innings at an average of 100.67. Not only has she hit two centuries, but she has consistently scored runs in every innings - form which she has carried on into the shorter format of the game in the recent T20 qualifying competition. England need to find a long-term opener to bat with Charlotte Edwards and I think Knight deserves the chance to see if she can perform in this role at the highest level.
The other controversial pick is Georgia Elwiss in place of Jenny Gunn. Elwiss has been selected in the past as a medium/fast bowler, and she can certainly do a job in this role, but this year she has been opening the batting for Sussex and has proved her worth with the bat with a hundred and two fifties in five County Championship innings. I think she fits nicely as the new England all-rounder.
But all this is mere speculation. All will be revealed next Sunday morning as Charlotte Edwards and Jodie Fields shake hands at the toss, having handed the umpires their starting line-ups. It will be a great occasion. One can only hope that it is a both a cricketing and a commercial success, so that the next time the Aussies are here we get a three match Test Series, broadcast on television at grounds such as Hove, Taunton and Wormsley. That really would be an Ashes Series - a test of skill, endurance, fitness and cricketing nous.