England will ‘leave nothing in the changing room’ in tonight’s first Ashes T20I at Edgbaston, with Heather Knight vowing her team will throw everything they have at ending their winless streak against Australia.
Australia, meanwhile, have vowed to fight fire with fire, setting the scene for a blockbuster T20 in front of what looms as a record-breaking crowd in Birmingham, with more than 20,000 tickets sold.
England sorely need to get on the board in the multi-format series after Australia’s Test win in Trent Bridge gave the tourists, who have held the trophy since 2015, an early four-nil lead.
Their last win against Australia in any format came in the final T20I of the 2019 Ashes, and England are now confronted with an unenviable scenario that sees them needing to win five of the remaining six white-ball games.
But England have reinvented themselves in the shortest format since the arrival of coach Jon Lewis late last year and brought a new flair to the T20 World Cup in South Africa in February.
While their tournament ended with an upset semi-final loss to the Proteas, they lived up to their pledge to bat with aggression, finishing the tournament with the highest strike rate of any team, with their 141.5 ahead of champions Australia’s 127.2.
England were also the only team to post a total above 200 throughout the tournament, smashing 5-213 against Pakistan at Newlands.
“I think it’s probably been our strongest format over the last couple of years and we’ve really made a shift in how we do things,” Knight told reporters in Birmingham on Friday.
“I think the World Cup in the group stages was a sign of how we want to play our T20 cricket and there’s some exciting youngsters as well.
“We haven’t played (Australia) for a long time in T20 cricket, in the last Ashes (in January 2022) we played one game and the other two were rained off.
“We’re super excited, they’re a really strong T20 team that are world champions so we’re going have to really take them on, try and play to our strengths and do the things that have worked so well for us in T20s.
“In T20 cricket you’ve got no other way than to be aggressive … that’s really important, to take the game on and not have any doubts that you’re looking to score and you’re looking to take wickets.
“That’s our philosophy as a team and we’ll do that against any team that we come up against.”
Fearlessness has been a core value for Australia since they started their own period of transformation in 2018.
Speaking to cricket.com.au in Birmingham on Friday, explosive middle-order batter Grace Harris said the tourists would look to match whatever England threw their way.
“We’ve seen some stats and some trends in (England’s) last 12-month period of white-ball games and they do seem to come out really hard,” Harris said.
“They talk a lot about playing an aggressive brand.
“So instead of being on the ropes and trying to counterpunch, we’re just going to try and come out and attack from the get go.
“Let’s see what they come out with … and then we’ll try and better them.”
England have yet to settle on their XI for the opening T20, with a bumper squad of 16 to choose from.
They will make at least one change from their most recent T20I XI that played in the World Cup semi-final in South Africa, following the retirement of Katherine Sciver-Brunt.
Natalie Sciver-Brunt will be available to play at Edgbaston despite being hampered by an ongoing knee issue, but it remains unclear whether she will be able to play as an allrounder.
The England vice-captain was restricted to bowling just 14 overs in the Trent Bridge Test.
“She’s had a little assessment, she’s fine to play,” Knight said.
“The question is whether she can play a full role as an allrounder.
“We’re going to have a little look at her today, she’s going to have a little bowl and see how we go.
“But the most important thing is Nat is there on the pitch as a batter, we don’t want to push her too far and sacrifice the amazing role that she plays with the bat as one of the best players in the world.”
Australia likewise have yet to settle on their XI, but they are optimistic captain Alyssa Healy will be right to play as she manages two fractured fingers.
Knight said her playing group has brushed off the disappointment of losing the one-off Test in Nottingham, despite the defeat leaving them with little room for error if they want to regain the Ashes.
“We had a couple of days at home to recharge and refresh (and) everyone’s in pretty good spirits,” she said.
“We’ve added a few new faces to the squad and they’ve brought a lot of energy into the group as well.
“I think it was important to get that mental space for a couple of days away from cricket and everyone’s come back and ready to get stuck into T20 format.
“It’s a format that brings its own energy and playing in front of a massive crowd tomorrow, you don’t need to get yourself up for at all, that’ll take care of itself.”
CommBank Ashes Tour of the UK 2023
Australia squad: Alyssa Healy (c), Tahlia McGrath (vc), Darcie Brown, Ashleigh Gardner, Kim Garth, Grace Harris, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Phoebe Litchfield, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Georgia Wareham
England Test squad: Heather Knight (c), Natalie Sciver-Brunt (vc), Tammy Beaumont, Lauren Bell, Kate Cross, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Lauren Filer, Danielle Gibson, Amy Jones, Emma Lamb, Issy Wong, Danielle Wyatt
Australia lead the multi-format series 4-0
Test: Australia won by 89 runs
First T20I: July 1 at Edgbaston, Birmingham, 6.35pm (3.35am July 2 AEST)
Second T20I: July 5 at The Oval, London, 6.35pm (3.35am July 6 AEST)
Third T20I: July 8 at Lord’s, London, 6.35pm (3.35am July 9 AEST)
First ODI: July 12 at The County Ground, Bristol, 1pm (10pm AEST)
Second ODI: July 16 at The Rose Bowl, Southampton, 11am (7pm AEST)
Third ODI: July 18 at The County Ground, Taunton, 1pm (10pm AEST)