In 2005, England’s men’s cricket team achieved a historic victory over Australia in the Ashes, ending a 19-year drought and sparking a nationwide celebration. But few people remember that England’s women’s team also won the Ashes that summer, ending a 42-year wait and overcoming a formidable Australian side.
This is the story of how England’s women won the ‘Forgotten Ashes’ of 2005, and why their achievement deserves more recognition and appreciation.
The Underdogs Against the World Champions
Australia was the undisputed champion of women’s cricket in 2005. They had won the World Cup in 2000 and 2005 and had dominated England for decades. They had a fearsome pace bowler in Cathryn Fitzpatrick, two world-class spinners in Shelley Nitschke and Karen Rolton, and a deep batting line-up that could score runs from any position.
England, on the other hand, was a young and inexperienced team, led by Clare Connor, who had endured a tough decade against Australia. They had not won an Ashes series since 1963 and had lost the previous one in 2003 by an innings and four runs.
The odds were stacked against them, but they had a new coach Richard Bates, who instilled a fresh mindset and confidence in the team. They also had some talented players who were ready to make their mark on the international stage, such as Katherine Sciver-Brunt, Arran Brindle, Charlotte Edwards, and Laura Newton.
The First Test: A Draw That Felt Like a Win
The first Test of the two-match series was played at Hove, Connor’s home ground. Australia won the toss and elected to bat first, and soon piled on the runs. Despite losing eight wickets for 191, they recovered to post 355, thanks to Nitschke’s unbeaten 81 from number 10.
England’s reply was shaky, as they lost three early wickets for 14 runs. However, Brindle and Edwards steadied the ship with a partnership of 132 runs, before Brindle went on to score a magnificent century. She batted for over six hours and faced 301 balls for her 101 not out, becoming only the second woman to carry her bat through an inning.
England managed to avoid the follow-on by scoring 273 but still trailed by 82 runs. Australia decided not to enforce it and batted again to set a target for England. They declared at 231-7, leaving England with a daunting chase of 314 runs in a little over two sessions.
England knew they had little chance of winning, so they focused on saving the match. They lost four wickets for 71 runs, but Newton and Connor dug in and batted out time. They added 84 runs for the fifth wicket before Connor was dismissed with nine overs left. Newton remained unbeaten on 77, as England finished at 166-6.
The match ended in a draw, but it felt like a win for England. They had shown resilience and character to deny Australia a victory and had given themselves a boost of confidence for the second Test.
The Second Test: A Historic Win at Worcester
The second Test was played at Worcester, where England had not lost a Test since 1984. Australia won the toss again and chose to bat first. This time, England’s bowlers were more disciplined and effective, as they dismissed Australia for 154. Sciver-Brunt was the star performer with five wickets for 40 runs.
England’s batsmen then took charge of the game, as they scored 344 in their first innings. Edwards scored her maiden Test century with a fluent knock of 117, while Newton (68) and Brindle (52) also contributed with half-centuries. England had a commanding lead of 190 runs.
Australia fought back in their second innings, as they scored 231-9 declared. Rolton scored an unbeaten century with 114 not out, while Nitschke (40) and Fitzpatrick (38) also chipped in with valuable runs. Australia set England a target of 42 runs to win the match and the series.
England lost two early wickets for nine runs, but Edwards and Connor saw them home with an unbroken stand of 33 runs. Edwards hit the winning boundary off Fitzpatrick and raised her arms in triumph as her teammates ran onto the field to celebrate.
England had won by eight wickets and had secured their first Ashes series win since 1963. They had also become only the second team after New Zealand to beat Australia in a Test series.
The Aftermath: A Bittersweet Celebration
England’s women had achieved a remarkable feat, but they did not receive the same attention and recognition as their male counterparts. They were invited to join the open-top bus parade in London, but they were overshadowed by the men’s team. Many people thought they were the wives and girlfriends of the men’s players, rather than the players themselves.
They also did not receive any financial rewards or sponsorship deals for their victory. Sciver-Brunt, who was the player of the series with 14 wickets and a half-century, only got a 50% discount from her kit supplier. Connor was the only one who received a CBE, while none of the other players got any honors.
They did, however, receive praise and respect from their peers and opponents. The Australian team congratulated them on their win and acknowledged their skill and spirit. The England men’s team also recognized their achievement and invited them to join their celebrations at Trafalgar Square.
England’s women had won the ‘Forgotten Ashes’ of 2005, but they had also laid the foundation for a brighter future for women’s cricket. They had inspired a new generation of girls to take up the game and had paved the way for more opportunities and support for women’s cricket.
They had also proved to themselves and the world that they could compete with and beat the best in the business.
They had made history, and they deserved to be remembered.