Aus­tralia com­fort­ably win first two matches to take se­ries lead

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Adam Collins sees the home side take a four point lead in the Ashes and leave Eng­land in need of a quick re­sponse

Math­e­mat­i­cally pos­si­ble, real­is­ti­cally im­prob­a­ble. That’s the harsh re­al­ity for Eng­land if they can­not get their act to­gether in this Women’s Ashes, af­ter los­ing the first two ODIs with a pair of per­for­mances they must quickly delete from mem­ory.

In Coffs Har­bour yes­ter­day, Heather Knight gave Aus­tralia the chance to bat first in con­di­tions that looked cherry ripe. Aus­tralia set 297, which be­came 285 af­ter rain briefly struck. Eng­land were never in the game.

For Aus­tralia’s part, there is no greater suc­cess story from the sec­ond match than Rachael Haynes. The stand-in skip­per for Meg Lan­ning faced jus­ti­fi­able scru­tiny when el­e­vated to lead the team af­ter not fea­tur­ing in their best XI at the World Cup. On Thurs­day, she was mag­nif­i­cent with an un­beaten 89 in 56 balls.

Haynes – left out of the na­tional team for the bet­ter part of four years – ex­plained how close she came to giv­ing the game away. At age 30, it looked like her chances of rep­re­sent­ing Aus­tralia again were gone.

Less than a year on, she’s a cou­ple of wins away from a home Ashes tri­umph, hav­ing led the way with an in­nings in­clud­ing three sixes and nine fours.

“That ac­tu­ally did come into my mind at one point when I was bat­ting,” she said of her rapid jour­ney back to the top. “I was think­ing ‘how good is this, I could be sit­ting be­hind a desk’. I just want to make sure I en­joy my cricket be­cause sport is pretty fickle, you never know what’s around the cor­ner and days like that don’t often come around.”

Far from an at­tack-slayer in her pre­vi­ous life as an in­ter­na­tional, Haynes at­tributes the semi-pro Women’s Big Bash League as the cat­a­lyst in retrofitting her own game. This was ev­i­denced as much by her re­flex­ive laps and pad­dles as big hit­ting.

Com­ing in at No.5 af­ter Aus­tralia lost two wick­ets in nine balls, she had an hour to make it count, but a base to work from. Ell­yse Perry’s record con­tin­ues to grow with the bat, with 23 fifties in her last 34 at­tempts. There’s no bet­ter op­er­a­tor in the overs span­ning the power-plays.

Aus­tralia had their act to­gether at the top of the list. Alyssa Healy’s ODI record is poor on pa­per, but she had faith shown in her to open in favour of Beth Mooney, who didn’t do an aw­ful lot wrong in the World Cup. The feisty wick­et­keeper was the most vo­cal in the pre-se­ries Phoney War, and backed that up with a run-a-ball fifty that re­lied more on tim­ing than force.

Ni­cole Bolton was less em­phatic, but the re­sult was the same. She was the slow­est to the half-cen­tury mark, but played an im­por­tant role in get­ting the board to 200 be­fore the fi­nal 10-over on­slaught of 96 with Haynes at the wheel.

What this Aus­tralian side know is how to turn the screws. Their bowlers did pre­cisely that in de­fence of the big score even af­ter Perry was taken out of the at­tack

Once again, Eng­land did them­selves no favours in the field. Alex Hart­ley was the cul­prit for a costly dropped chance off her own bowl­ing in Bris­bane, putting down Alex Black­well who went on to be Aus­tralia’s match­win­ner. This time it was Kather­ine Brunt’s turn, grass­ing a chance not much harder when Perry was 41.

Sarah Tay­lor com­pleted a fine stump­ing to fin­ish off Perry for 67 af­ter Jenny Gunn opened her up. But an­other drop was im­mi­nent. Tammy Beau­mont has a fan­tas­tic pair of hands, shown at Lord’s in the World Cup fi­nal when tak­ing a clutch out­field chance. She put down Haynes on 61, who only added to the tab that Eng­land had to pay.

“We had a team chat about it,” Gunn said of Knight’s de­ci­sion at the toss. “It just didn’t work out.” Had it rained more, they might have been right.

They will need to bounce back fast. The loss in Bris­bane was par­tially ex­cused be­cause weather had all but de­stroyed any chance to prac­tise out­doors. Eng­land drew the short straw and still nearly won. This time, though, they were smashed from start to fin­ish.

Gunn’s four wick­ets were a pos­i­tive, an­other was So­phie Ec­cle­stone. The 18year-old left-arm spin­ner was brought into the team at Laura Marsh’s ex­pense and im­me­di­ately looked at home, much as Amanda-Jade Welling­ton, Aus­tralia’s young leg-spin­ner, did in the open­ing match. But what Eng­land have is a bowl­ing at­tack with the ex­pe­ri­ence to bounce back. The open­ing com­bi­na­tion of Brunt and Anya Shrub­sole has been the best in the world for the bet­ter part of five years, and form will surely come. Like­wise, with the bat. While none of the top six have posted a 50 in the se­ries, all have fash­ioned a start. “We are not too far away,” urged Gunn, keep­ing the faith.

What this Aus­tralian side know is how to turn the screws. Their bowlers did pre­cisely that in de­fence of the big score, even af­ter Perry was taken out of the at­tack by the umpire af­ter two high full tosses in slip­pery con­di­tions.

So far, the Aus­tralians have not put a foot wrong. “We cer­tainly don’t want to let them into the se­ries,” Haynes said.

Eng­land’s job: find­ing a way, start­ing with the third and fi­nal ODI on Sun­day be­fore the multi-for­mat se­ries con­tin­ues with one Test and three T201s.

PIC­TURES: Getty Im­ages

In com­mand: Aus­tralia have won the first two matches of the Ashes

Lead­ing the charge: Aus­tralia cap­tain Rachael Haynes top scored with 89

De­ci­sion: Heather Knight won the toss but couldn’t ben­e­fit

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