Paul Grayson is backing England’s women to continue their golden year with success in the Ashes series Down Under, which starts in Brisbane tomorrow (12.15am UK).
The Yorkshire Diamonds coach is confident his old mate Mark Robinson as coach and captain Heather Knight will lead their troops to a third notable triumph in 2017, adding to one-day World Cup glory in the summer and, most recently, their rise to number one in the ICC rankings.
But Grayson does reveal a note of caution for a squad including two Diamonds in Lauren Winfield and Katherine Brunt.
“They won’t like that, will they! The Aussies don’t like being second best at anything,” he said, with Australia currently holding the Urn after winning the last series in England in 2015.
“They’re a dangerous side packed with high quality players.
“You always know as a cricketer, male or female, that touring Australia is probably the hardest.
“But they are two of the best sides in world cricket, so the girls will be very confident after this summer. I’m sure they will be well prepared and ready to go.
“We’re obviously hoping our girls at Yorkshire do a good job.
“At the moment, women’s cricket is in the best place it’s been. It’s captured the imagination now, and let’s hope we have a fantastic series with some real tussles.
“I think we’ll just edge a really good series.”
In all, there are three Yorkshire players on tour.
Added to Winfield and Brunt is Danielle Hazell, although she is not under Grayson’s jurisdiction given she captains Lancashire in the Kia Super League.
The series, decided under a points system with Test, one-day and T20 cricket, starts with the first of three ODIs at Allan Border Field (televised on BT Sport).
Two points are on offer for each limited overs match, while four points go to the winner of next month’s Test in Sydney and two for the draw. There are also three T20s late next month.
“The early battles are going to be really important and who gains confidence from the first few games,” continued Grayson.
“We know in any sport how big and important momentum is.
“I’ve done a bit of work with Lauren, and she’s mostly preparing for the white ball cricket, but I know (coach) Mark Robinson is determined to play a really exciting brand of Test cricket as well.
“He’s very keen for the top order to play a very aggressive style.”
On the prospect of batsman Winfield and all-rounder Brunt shining, Grayson said: “Lauren has prepared well for the trip, and from her point of view she knows that she probably needs a good series against the Aussies; one for her own peace of mind and two for some confidence going forwards.
“She played ok this summer in all formats, but I know she’s desperate to kick on and make a real big contribution to that team.
“Katherine’s workloads are a bit different to Lauren’s.
“She has to make sure that she’s physically in the right condition for all that gruel as an all-rounder.
“I can certainly see England using her up the order a bit more like we did in T20 cricket.
“She’s in a very good place, and I just think Lauren needs one score and she’ll be away. If, as an opener, she can start the tour well, that will be good for her confidence.”
The Australians have suffered a significant loss through their talismanic captain Meg Lanning (shoulder surgery), with batsman Rachel Haynes taking on the mantle.
Former Diamonds players Alex Blackwell and Beth Mooney have been selected in Australia’s squads for the ODIs and Test Match.