Dubai [UAE], Oct 20 (ANI): There will be a lot at stake when defending champions Australia take on world champions England in the ICC Women's Championship, which not only promises an early advantage to the winners but also the top place in the team rankings.
But the competitiveness between the two teams was lent additional interest as England displaced Australia from the top ranking for the first time, when the annual updates were carried out earlier this month.
Australia were comfortable winners of the inaugural edition of the ICC Women's Championship but face a fierce challenge upfront in the new cycle from 2017-2020 that runs on the same format as the first edition with all eight sides - India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the Windies being the other sides in the competition - taking on each other in a series of three ODIs on a home or away basis.
World Cup 2021 hosts New Zealand and the three other top teams from this championship will gain direct qualification for ICC's pinnacle 50-over event while the remaining four sides will get a second chance through the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier event. In the ICC Women's Championship, teams get two points for each win, one point for a tie or no-result and no points for a loss.
Rachael Haynes, who will lead Australia in the absence of injured captain Meg Lanning, admitted that this is going to be a challenging series.
Haynes said, "England and Australia have always been pretty big traditional rivals. To have the top two ranked teams come together and play in a series like this is going to make for a great spectacle.
"We have had some close games along the way. We had a pretty good lead-in from the domestic competitions, from our perspective we are shaping up very well. One of the strengths of Australian cricket is the depth that we have."
"It's really an exciting position to be in. It is going to be a really tough team to pick, so we would much rather be in that position than sort of wonder who is going to do what. We have a balanced team, while for England, Katherine Brunt and Any Shrubsole have a great record."
Meanwhile, England captain Heather Knight is expecting some close matches against their arch-rivals, but concedes the opposition has the home advantage.
Knight said, "It's always tough playing against Australia. They're a very strong outfit with a good mix of youth and experience. Playing them on their home soil makes it a bit tougher. Our game against Australia was one of the highlights of the World Cup. It was such a memorable game and we were thrilled to get over the line. I think there will be some similarly close games in this series."
"We're in a good place after the World Cup but we want to keep moving forward. We've got a nice mix of experience and younger players who will be playing in their first ashes series. Young or old, we want to keep on improving as cricketers and as a team."
"There's nothing different from our point of view. We know we are going to have to play extremely well to win over here. There are a number of match-winners on either side and it will be a close contest. We know we need to be at our best across the board to be in with a chance of winning the Ashes."
In the ICC Women's ODI Player rankings, Australia all-rounder Ellyse Perry is the leading batter in the absence of top-ranked Lanning, while vice-captain Alex Blackwell goes into the series ranked seventh. Among their bowlers, Jess Jonassen is ranked third while Perry is in 10th position.
For England, Natalie Sciver is the leading batter in eighth position while Sarah Taylor is ranked 10th. Among their bowlers, Katherine Brunt is ranked fifth while Anya Shrubsole is in seventh position.
As for the team rankings, which takes into account performances across formats, the winners will finish as the top ranked side at the end of the series.