Connor delighted with life in parallel universe

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As Clare Connor, captain of the England women's team, said: "As with the men, Australia have been dominant for the last 10 years, winning two World Cups and reaching the final of another and becoming extremely hard to beat. Like the men we have a young side who are growing together and have many more years' cricket ahead of them, whereas the Australians have a fair number of long-serving, although brilliant players who are coming to the end of their career. In turn we have upset some of their plans with our brand of cricket and we have worked extremely hard on getting our strategy right."

The result has been that the Ashes - the female version of them - were won by England for the first time in 42 years. Their nerve-tingling victory in the Second and final Test as they chased a small target also had comparisons elsewhere.

The one-day series has been just as tight. England went behind 2-0, came back to 2-2, starting with a two-run win. In another unbearably tense finale on Thursday they lost the match, and therefore the series, by four runs. They were naturally upset, not least Connor, who went for a big hit early in the final over, when nudged singles might have been more advisable.

Still, until this summer, England had not defeated Australia in a one-dayer for 23 matches covering the past 12 years. It is almost heresy to suggest but their one-day form has been quite as important as regaining the Ashes. One-day cricket is the real future of the women's game.

"It's what all our training is geared towards," said Connor. "We don't have any four-day cricket outside Test matches because there isn't the time and there are other constraints against the longer game. That isn't to say we didn't enjoy it, we did very much, and to create our own little bit of history was truly tremendous. But you could say that if we didn't play any Tests that would leave time for a few more one-dayers." Perhaps someone ought to make the revisionist leap, not least since most women's Tests finish in draws, that the Ashes ought to be at stake for limited-overs series.

All of this will persuade more women not simply to follow the game but to play it. That might lead who knows where - women in the men's team? Connor, whose own passion was encouraged by her club cricketer dad, has been as overwhelmed by events as everybody else, including Michael Vaughan. "I have never had a cricketing experience like this. It has been fantastic and exciting."

The disappointment of Thursday's defeat will fade with the recognition that England have built a squad for the future. This summer's matches have represented a tremendous comeback since their disappointing World Cup campaign in February when they were comfortably beaten by the eventual champions, Australia, in the semi-final.

"Reaching the last four was the minimum target so it wasn't an outstanding success," said Connor. "But we came back and realised where and how we could improve with out strategy particularly. This took the Aussies by surprise and although they won the first two one-dayers we took the third and that gave us the springboard for the Second Test. In turn that led to levelling the one-day series.

"It was a bit of a concern starting this season without our opening bowler, Lucy Pearson, who had retired, but 18 months ago we adopted a policy of identifying young players, selecting them and sticking with them. Katherine Brunt has come in for Pearson and immediately impressed with her attitude. She comes from Yorkshire and she's like a female version of Darren Gough. Bowls well too."

It was Brunt's nine wickets in the Second Test which set up the platform for English victory. At 19, she will be around for another 10 years and the way Connor tells it, her cheeky personality could well endear her to the public as Gough's did.

England won the World Cup in 1993 but they had fallen behind as New Zealand and Australia grew strong. Connor has had to be patient in waiting for the right blend to be found.

"This has been an evolutionary process. We had to learn to win and when we did that against New Zealand and South Africa that was progress. It has been tremendous to be a part of this summer, if only a small one. We have followed the men as closely as we can. We've had to play our own game but of course it's inspired us. It's inspired the whole country."

The one-day series proved elusive but English cricket, whatever gender is involved, has made significant breakthroughs.

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