Women's Ashes 2015: England and Australia face Taunton opener

Captains Meg Lanning and Charlotte Edwards with the Women's Ashes trophy
The multi-format Women's Ashes runs between 21 July and 31 August
Women's Ashes: England v Australia, first ODI
Venue: Taunton Date: Tuesday 20 July Start time: 10:30 BST
Coverage: Ball-by-ball commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Sport website & app, BBC iPlayer Radio app; live text commentary on BBC Sport website & mobile devices

The Women's Ashes begins on Tuesday, with England bidding for a third successive victory.

Taunton hosts the first of three one-day internationals as England return to action for the first time since beating New Zealand down under in February this year.

England captain Charlotte Edwards is expecting a fiercely-contested summer against the World Cup holders.

"This is the biggest series I have probably played in," she said.

"With how the last two have gone, and how the two teams have developed, it's going to be one of the most exciting series.

"To test yourself against the best team is what you want to do as a player so hopefully we will do that in the next few weeks."

England vice-captain Heather Knight
"It appears I'm not the only one in the squad who's looking forward to playing in the South West as Sarah Taylor has been practising her West Country accent at training every single week since April!"
Read more from Heather Knight's BBC Sport column

The best of rivals

While England won 12-4 on points on home soil in 2013 in the first multi-format Women's Ashes, and then retained the trophy by triumphing 10-8 in Australia in January 2014, the Southern Stars have been their nemesis in global tournaments in that time.

Australia won the 2013 World Cup, having defeated England in the Super Six stage along the way. Had that result gone the other way, England rather than Australia would have faced West Indies in the final.

The Southern Stars have also won the past three Women's World Twenty20 events, beating England in two of those finals - narrowly triumphing by four runs in Colombo in 2012, and then thrashing Edwards's side by six wickets in Mirpur two years later.

But like their male counterparts, Australia have not won the Ashes in England since 2001.

Australia celebrate winning the Women's World Twenty20 in 2014
Australia have beaten England in the finals of the last two Women's World T20 tournaments

How has the points system changed?

There was - not unpredictably - disquiet from Australia when England won the last Women's Ashes 10-8 as the Southern Stars had prevailed in four of the seven matches, but England took six points from winning the only Test.

The points system has been amended for this summer, with only four points for a win - and two for a draw - available from the Test, a system described as "fairer" by new Australia coach Matthew Mott.

The results of the three ODIs also count towards the ICC Women's Championship, which determines qualification for the 2017 World Cup.

Women's Ashes: England v Australia 2015
DateGameVenuePts for winPts for draw
21 Jul1st ODITaunton21
23 Jul2nd ODIBristol21
26 Jul3rd ODIWorcester21
11-14 AugTestCanterbury42
26 Aug1st T20Chelmsford2N/A
28 Aug2nd T20Hove2N/A
31 Aug3rd T20Cardiff2N/A
In the event of a tie in the T20 internationals, a super over will be played

Professionalism: One year on

It is 14 months since the names of the first 18 female players to be awarded full-time central contracts by the England and Wales Cricket Board were announced.

Since then, England suffered a shock Test defeat by India last summer but then won the ODI series 2-0, before beating South Africa 3-0 in a Twenty20 series - then in February, they enjoyed ODI (3-2) and T20 (2-1) series wins in New Zealand.

Wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor feels that becoming fully professional has given a huge lift to the squad.

"It's benefited us massively in terms of the contact time with coaches. That contact time has increased," Taylor told BBC Sport.

Women's Ashes 2015: Edwards expects hard fought series

"In terms of the training, not much has changed, but it's that comfort of knowing that we don't have to worry about the money side of things. The interest in women's cricket has rocketed."

Edwards added: "To spend the last four months together three days a week at Loughborough has been really valuable for us.

"It has been really hard work at times - but I think we are ready to get out there and hopefully showcase our skills in the biggest arena."

But does greater interest and full-time professionalism mean greater pressure for success?

"I don't think there's necessarily added expectation from within," pace bowler Anya Shrubsole said.

"Probably for those first series against India and South Africa after we turned professional, there was greater expectation from the media and from outside that suddenly we were going to blow everyone away, but realistically it's not like that.

"Other international teams may not be professional by name, but they train full-time, just as we did before we turned professional. By being England and being as successful as we have been, there's always been expectation."

Kristen Beams (right)
Kristen Beams will be one of the more unfamiliar faces to English cricket audiences

New kids on the block

Australia leg-spinner Kristen Beams is the only player in their ODI squad who has never faced England in a full international.

The same goes for all-rounder Delissa Kimmince, who has only been selected for the Twenty20 portion of the tour, while Beams, opener Nicole Bolton and all-rounder Jess Jonassen all have plenty of limited-overs experience but are awaiting their Test debuts.

"We are a really excited group of girls who are ready to go," said skipper Meg Lanning.

"It looks like it will be a pretty good wicket and hopefully there will be plenty of runs scored by both sides."

Among the England squad, left-arm spinner Rebecca Grundy has never played in an Ashes series - while Grundy, seamer Georgia Elwiss and keeper-batter Amy Jones have not yet featured in a Test.

England ODI squad: Charlotte Edwards (Kent, capt), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Kathryn Cross (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Lydia Greenway (Kent), Rebecca Grundy (Warwickshire), Jenny Gunn (Nottinghamshire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wk), Heather Knight (Berkshire), Laura Marsh (Kent), Natalie Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Sarah Taylor (Sussex, wk), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire).

Australia squad: Meg Lanning (capt), Alex Blackwell (vice-capt), Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton (Test and ODIs only), Jess Cameron, Sarah Coyte, Rene Farrell, Holly Ferling, Alyssa Healy (wk), Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince (T20 internationals only), Erin Osborne, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Elyse Villani.

Ex-England stars' Women's Ashes memories
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Women's Ashes trophy
Since winning back the Women's Ashes in 2005, England have won or retained the trophy on five of the six times it has been contested