Australia’s performance in the Women’s Ashes Test win over England has been magnified with the news that two key players, including match-winner Ashleigh Gardner, nursed finger injuries through the series opener at Trent Bridge.
Test (Trent Bridge) — Australia wins by 89 runsJuly 2, 3:35am — 1st T20I (Edgbaston)July 6, 3:00am — 2nd T20I (The Oval)July 9, 3:35am — 3rd T20I (Lord’s)July 12, 10:00pm — 1st ODI (Bristol)July 16, 8:00pm — 2nd ODI (Southampton)July 18, 10:00pm — 3rd ODI (Taunton)
In the aftermath of the 89-run victory, skipper Alyssa Healy was adamant she would be fine to play in the six remaining white-ball matches despite playing the Test with a fractured finger on both hands.
A needled-up Healy dropped herself down to number eight in the order during Australia’s second innings on day four, before scoring a counter-attacking 50 to turn the match and set up the win.
It had initially been thought Australia’s captain made the call to move down after recording three straight ducks in Test cricket, before she was dropped again on zero on Sunday.
But the 33-year-old opted to come clean with the week-old injury on day five, growing tired of being sledged by England and criticised in the media for batting at number eight.
“It’s what happens as a wicketkeeper, you get knocks on the fingers,” Healy said.
“Unfortunately for me it was one on each hand and it made it difficult batting and being able to grip the bat, particularly after keeping for 110 overs.
“I had a hit in the nets early (on Sunday). Just to see what I could do after keeping for a while and keeping a lot up to the stumps.
“So I was in a bit of pain out there, but all for a good cause.”
Healy suffered the injury in a warm-up game against England A at Leicester last week, before scans confirmed fractures to her left index and right ring fingers.
Australia play England in a Twenty20 at Edgbaston on Saturday, before two other T20s and three ODIs follow.
Australia do have Beth Mooney as a back-up wicketkeeper in their XI if Healy cannot play, while Phoebe Litchfield could open in her spot with Tahlia McGrath made captain.
But asked whether she would be fine to play in the white-ball matches, Healy offered a defiant: “Yes”. The injuries also make Healy’s six dismissals and second-innings 50 more remarkable.
After coming to the crease amid a collapse of 6-49, she counter-attacked to give Australia something to bowl at.
Ultimately, it proved crucial, pushing the target set for England from a little over 200 to 268, allowing Australia to build up pressure on the final day and bowl England out for 178.
“I got reminded of (the three straight ducks) quite a bit walking out there and also copping a gobful coming in at number eight,” Healy said.
“It probably switched me on a little bit more than what I normally am.”
Gardner produces spin classic despite strained ligament
Gardner revealed her record-breaking 12 wickets against England came while battling ligament damage in her spinning finger.
Gardner was the star of Australia’s victory, bagging 8-66 in the fourth innings to help bowl England out.
Women’s cricket Tests
Best bowling (innings)
8-53 — Neetu David (IND) vs England, 19958-66 — Ashleigh Gardner (AUS) vs England, 20237-6 — Mary Duggan (ENG) vs Australia, 1958
Best bowling (match)
13-226 — Shaiza Khan (PAK) vs West Indies, 200412-165 — Ashleigh Gardner (AUS) vs England, 202311-16 — Betty Wilson (AUS) vs England, 1958
The haul left her with the best-ever figures by an Australian woman, and the second best of all time behind Neetu David’s 8-53 for India against England in 1995.
Gardner’s match figures of 12-165 were also the second best in history to Shaiza Khan’s 13-226 for Pakistan from 2004, and the best of any Australian woman.
But the more impressive part was the fact she did it with concerns over her right index finger.
Gardner was hit on the end of the finger during slips practice during Australia’s warm-up match against England A, denying her the chance to bowl before the Test.
“My finger obviously bent backwards where it’s probably not supposed to. It’s almost stretched that ligament a little bit,” Gardner said.
“Adrenaline does funny things and I completely forget about it as soon as the ball was in hand.
“So as soon as I wasn’t bowling (at Trent Bridge), I put a splint straight on it, just to protect it because in the field is where I’m more likely to get hit.
“It was quite frustrating but because I didn’t get that match practice in before the Test.
“It was about trusting what I’d already done, I wasn’t going to lose a skill overnight. And know my good stuff was good enough.”
Gardner took all five of England’s remaining wickets on day five to finish off the hosts, ending any chance of the chase and putting Australia in control of the multi-format series.
She also did it off little sleep, after her mind was fixated on finishing off the match.
“I was awake at 3am thinking about bowling, which was a bit tragic,” Gardner said.
“I was wide awake, literally thinking about how I was going to get the batters out and I’ve never done that before.”
Gardner’s performance marked a coming-of-age for her with the ball.
Bowling on a deteriorating day-five pitch for the first time, the 27-year-old took wickets with balls that went straight on, spun sharply, stayed low and reared up.
Once picked as a powerhouse batter, Gardner has now developed into a genuine all-rounder and a frontline spinner.
“It has been something that I’ve worked really hard on,” Gardner said.
“With both bat and ball, it’s about consistency.
“I feel like I can play both roles in attacking and then trying to defend with the ball as well. It’s asking the captain, ‘what do you want me to do?’ at that point in time.
“Today is something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life, and certainly for the rest of my career.”