NANTWICH all-rounder Laura Newton has been selected to play for England in the Women's Ashes.
Lancashire star Newton, who started her cricketing career in South Cheshire with Crewe Rolls-Royce, is preparing for the biggest series of her career as World Champions Australia aim to continue their dominance over England.
The Aussies have not lost a one-day game to England since 1993 and it is 21 years since they were beaten in a Test. But the 27-year-old mother-of-two is aiming to change all that, starting on Tuesday.
She said: 'I have never been on a winning side against Australia but I feel we have a good chance this time. I am very pleased to be picked.
'It is the first time I will have the chance to play Australia on home soil because the last two times they visited, I was pregnant.
'The Women's Ashes is the highlight of most careers and I don't think I will feel much different. We bowled Australia out for 78 in the first innings of a Test in 2002 and that was perhaps the most elated I have been on a cricket field. But we went on to lose that match which spoiled it a bit.'
Newton, who is mother of George, aged six, and Harry, three, opens England's batting order along with Charlotte Edwards. She looks to be hitting top form at the right time.
She hit a scintillating 162no in Lancashire's recent Women's County Championship victory over Kent and has led the inexperienced side well this season.
But she will be under no illusions about the size of the task ahead of the side skippered by Clare Connor, in the two Tests, five one-dayers and a Twenty20 international.
In April, the side from Down Under knocked England out of the World Cup at the semi-final stage with a five-wicket win. Newton disappointed after being clean-bowled by Cathryn Fitzpatrick for just four runs in England's innings.
She said: 'I am really looking forward to it and feel very excited. We learnt a lot from playing them in the World Cup and I think they can be beaten.
'If we can get their key players out with the fresh knowledge we have, their inexperienced players could suffer. If their big players don't step up to the mark, anything could happen.'
She added: 'I think we are catching Australia up in terms of standard, but they do play their sport at a higher level from an earlier age. There are changes in the English game which will bring us closer.
'I am seeing the ball very well at the moment and feel confident. I will get my eye-in in the couple of games before the first Test, and then I will be ready.'
England face an England U21 side at Portsmouth and an MCC outfit at Christ Hospital School, Lincoln, before the first Test at Hove begins Tuesday.
One-day internationals at Cheltenham (August 15), Kidderminster (Aug 19) and Stratford (Aug 21) follow before the second test starts on August 24 at Worcester.
The fourth and fifth one-day internationals are at Taunton on August 30 and September 1, and the Twenty20 international is on September 2 at the same venue.
Chairman of selectors Michael Griggs is confident. He said: 'This squad is for the whole series. It has been based upon continuity after five consecutive series wins and the recent place in the semi-final of the World Cup.
'We will head into the Ashes on the back of a very successful season and we are relishing the opportunity to challenge the number one team in the world.'