In 2005, England’s cricket team achieved a significant Test series victory over Australia, marking a monumental turning point. This triumph not only shed years of historical baggage and healed deep psychological scars but also laid the foundation for a greater movement. Surprisingly, it was not the renowned victory led by Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen, and Steve Harmison against Australia’s formidable team featuring Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, and Ricky Ponting. Instead, a few weeks prior to the men’s Ashes win, England’s women secured their first Test series victory against Australia in 42 years. Unfortunately, the women’s accomplishment received minimal attention at the time and has remained overshadowed since.
The 2005 heroes of the “Forgotten Ashes” were not treated with the same rock-star status as their male counterparts. They did not receive mass MBEs like the men’s team, except for captain Clare Connor who received a CBE. Despite being invited to the open-top bus celebratory tour in London, they were overshadowed by the men’s team. They were mistakenly mistaken as the wives and girlfriends of the players, known as Wags. Pace bowler Katherine Sciver-Brunt, who was the player of the series at the age of 20, recalls the lack of recognition and support they received compared to the men’s team.
The team’s victory in the Ashes series, the first since 1963, did not lead to lucrative sponsorship deals or significant rewards. Instead, they received only a 50% discount on Slazenger cricket gear and a simple high five for their achievement. This lack of celebration and recognition caused frustration and anger among the players. The limited media coverage at the time made it difficult for even the players’ families to stay updated on the matches.
Before their victory, Australia had established themselves as the dominant force in women’s cricket, holding the World Cup title. The England team faced a tough decade of defeats against Australia, making their triumph in the Ashes series all the more significant. Despite facing formidable opponents like Cathryn Fitzpatrick, known as the best and fastest bowler in the world at that time, and having strong spinners and batting depth, the young England players displayed resilience and belief.
For Katherine Sciver-Brunt, there was no fear, as she had not yet been burdened by the mental struggles that plagued her later in her career. The victory marked a turning point in the team’s journey, gradually shifting the balance of power and challenging Australia’s dominance. The burden of history began to lift as England’s women’s cricket team started to gain confidence and momentum.
England’s women’s cricket team achieved a remarkable milestone in 2005, securing their first one-day victory over Australia in 12 years. It marked the end of a losing streak that had persisted for 19 matches since the 1993 World Cup. The team celebrated as if they had won the World Cup, and just days later, they repeated the feat by winning the second and final Test of the series. Katherine Sciver-Brunt played a crucial role, taking nine wickets and contributing to a vital 10th-wicket partnership with Isa Guha. The triumph ended Australia’s 21-year unbeaten streak in Test matches.
The team’s celebrations far exceeded the media coverage they received. The lack of physical mementos from that summer, with only a few photos available, adds a sense of sadness. The Trafalgar Square celebrations, where thousands of people gathered to commemorate England’s Ashes success, left a lasting memory.
However, alongside the excitement and joy, there were mixed feelings within the team. They viewed the men’s team as their heroes and enjoyed socializing with them, but they also sensed a patronizing attitude towards women’s cricket, which persisted at the time and even years later. The perception of being secondary to the men’s team gradually shifted as efforts for equality in cricket and sports intensified.
Looking ahead, Sciver-Brunt highlights the significant progress made, with anticipated sold-out Ashes games at renowned venues like The Oval, Edgbaston, and Lord’s. Comparing the past to the present, she points out the improvements in facilities and conditions, including no longer wearing ill-fitting men’s Test kits and sharing rooms. The transformation reflects the changing landscape of women’s cricket and the ongoing pursuit of equity.
England’s women’s cricket team’s victory in the 2005 Ashes series kickstarted a transformative journey for the women’s game. Four years later, they topped the world rankings after a remarkable 2009 campaign that included retaining the Ashes, winning the World Cup, and clinching the World Twenty20 title. Despite being overshadowed at the time, the series played a significant role in the growth of women’s cricket.
Recently, Katherine Sciver-Brunt witnessed her wife and England teammate Nat Sciver become one of Britain’s highest-paid sportswomen, highlighting the increasing earning potential in the women’s game. While this growth comes as Sciver-Brunt nears her own retirement from international cricket in May, it does bring some frustrations.
For Brunt and her teammates, the ‘Forgotten Ashes’ will always hold a special place. The 2005 victory remains one of Brunt’s top cricketing memories, unmatched throughout her career. The significance of ending a 42-year wait to defeat their opponents made the achievement even sweeter, defying the odds stacked against them.