|Women’s Ashes: Australia v England|
|Venues: Brisbane, Coffs Harbour, Sydney, Canberra Dates: 22 October – 21 November – full schedule here|
|Coverage details: Ball-by-ball commentary of the series on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text commentary on the Tests & T20s on the BBC Sport website and app|
Even when you have won the World Cup in the most-watched game of women’s cricket of all time, finding somewhere to celebrate isn’t as easy as you might think.
Yes, there was the emotion of family and friends joining the victorious England team on the Lord’s outfield, and the singing of the team song in the dressing room was so loud it “made the walls shake”.
But winning a World Cup on a Sunday is not ideal for finding a venue to keep the party going long into the night – the team’s Kensington hotel had to be persuaded to reopen their bar when England returned.
While they waited, some players ordered cheese toasties, while others visited the takeaway across the road.
Captain Heather Knight was laid low with food poisoning, while match-winner Anya Shrubsole purposely kept a clear head for the early morning media appointments the following day.
Later on, a group who went looking for a nightclub – still wearing their kit – were left disappointed.
“It was Katherine Brunt’s idea, but nowhere was open,” said all-rounder Nat Sciver. “We had a taxi ride around London, got back to the hotel and no-one was left in the bar, so we went to bed.”
The enormity of what happened on that grey July day dawned on coach Mark Robinson before he left Lord’s, when he saw BBC News at Ten broadcasting live from the Grace Gates.
For the rest of the team, it would be revealed over the days and weeks that followed, both publicly and privately.
Knight saw pictures of herself on big screens as she passed through Euston Station. Jenny Gunn’s welcome home was a banner on the front of her house. Shrubsole was guest of honour at her beloved Portsmouth. Danielle Wyatt paraded the trophy at Stoke City.
Tammy Beaumont, the player of the tournament, has since commentated on men’s Twenty20 matches for Sky, while Knight temporarily lost the trophy when she appeared on BBC Test Match Special. The whole squad were invited to an NFL game at Wembley.
For spinner Alex Hartley, returning home to Manchester presented the unique challenge of keeping her medal from boyfriend and Lancashire wicketkeeper Alex Davies.
“After I got back, I had my medal on,” she said. “He took it off me and said, ‘Right, that’s enough now. It’s my turn to wear it.’ So he wore it for half the day. We shared it for a while. We’re a bit sad like that.”
Sciver’s problems were more practical. The house that she co-owns with Brunt, nicknamed ‘Alan’ because of the road on which it sits, is no longer home to Sciver, Brunt, Fran Wilson, Beth Langston, Amy Jones and Bailey the dog.
They have all vacated, replaced by Loughborough students, with Wilson now living with Tash Farrant.
Sciver, Brunt, Langston and Jones have relocated to a temporary abode while they wait for another Sciver-Brunt property to have an extension built. The result has been two house-moves in three months.
“Our time spent at home after the World Cup was actually time spent moving out,” said Sciver.
“Hopefully the new house will be ready when we get back from the Ashes. We’re missing the stressful part of the extension being built – Katherine’s dad is being the project manager.”
‘A fan proposed to me’
Busy with multiple moves, Sciver was not even aware of her place on the Cricketer magazine’s list of the 50 most powerful people in English cricket – she came in at 48th, with Knight 33rd.
“I haven’t had a lot of time to look at things like that,” she said. “I don’t think it will give me any more influence, or let me skip ahead in the queue for the bathroom.”
Powerful or not, Sciver says she has only been recognised away from cricket once, and that was standing outside her front door: “We have to be careful not to make too much noise, because now the new neighbours know who we are.”
For Hartley, being recognised at Old Trafford is not unusual. Being proposed to is.
“I was walking out after a Super League game, putting some stuff in the car, and I got shouted at by a group from a cricket club.
“One minute I was having a selfie with one of them, the next I was having a picture with the whole team. One of them proposed to me. It was a surreal moment.”
The prime minister’s shoes
With the Super League beginning little more than two weeks after the World Cup was won, the squad disbanded to their domestic teams and only reunited at the end of August for a trip to Downing Street to meet Prime Minister Theresa May.
“I had to back the more politically left-wing in the group to keep their opinions to themselves,” said Robinson.
“Ali Maiden, the assistant coach, was convinced he could sort Brexit out given half an hour with the PM, but he never got his opportunity.
“The biggest problem was getting everyone in there and making sure they all had the right outfit on. Jenny Gunn put the wrong suit on and was a bit embarrassed.”
Gunn actually had two suits with her in London, neither of which were right. That, though, wasn’t the only problem with the team’s outfits, as the prime minister would learn.
“We were all wearing heels and were in the garden, sinking into the ground. Once you were in one position you couldn’t move off too quickly,” said Sciver.
Hartley added: “There was a photo of me pointing at the prime minister’s shoes because she had leopard-print flats. She knew what she was doing. I was telling her that her lawn isn’t practical for heels.
“Apart from that, we were all on our best behaviour. No-one did a Matthew Hoggard.
“When I got inside I took my shoes off to feel what the carpet was like. It wasn’t that soft. I was quite disappointed.”
‘People first and cricketers second’
Robinson admits the increased attention and demands on their time has “hit the players like a hurricane”. When they met up to begin their preparations for the Ashes, which begin on Sunday, he said he found them to be “jaded, not as fresh as we would like them to be”.
Before that World Cup win – the moment that changed their lives if not forever, then certainly for the foreseeable future – Robinson described his players as “lovely”.
Has success, the limelight and adulation had an effect?
“They are definitely still the same people,” he says. “They know that, as a team, they are not yet where they want to be, so we will make sure we keep striving.
“We wanted to win the World Cup and we want to win the Ashes, but it is not the be-all and end-all. Winning is the best feeling in the world, and you’re a mug if you don’t want that feeling, but winning does not define us.
“They are people first and cricketers second.”
People first, cricketers second. Always World Cup winners.