Australia comfortably win first two matches to take series lead
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.
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