England bounce back: Australia leads the Ashes 4-2

This article was first written for and published by The Roar.  

After a comprehensive defeat in the second ODI at Coffs Harbour the English Women’s Cricket Team have bounced back to trail the Australian Women’s Cricket team 4-2 in the Ashes series, with a 20-run win in Coffs Harbour yesterday.

It really was do-or-die for England in this game. With Australia only needing eight points to hold onto the Ashes and England trailing by four points, they could not afford to lose a third match in a row.

And it looked like they came out ready for a fight. Finally, we saw what England’s batters are capable of.

So far in this Ashes series, it’s fair to say that England have been disappointing with the bat, posting scores of 228 in Game I and 209 in Game II. Their highest score posted by one their batters was 52 scored by Katherine Brunt in Game II (and Brunt is more known for her ferocious bowling rather than her form with bat in hand). Up until yesterday’s match, Brunt had been the only English player to post a half century.

That all changed yesterday though when England posted a record-breaking 8-284. This was England’s highest ODI score in Australia against Australia, beating the previous record which was set four years ago in Hobart of 4-268.

It was positive to finally see the English batters find their feet. Captain Heather Knight was impressive, making 88* from 80 balls. Tammy Beaumont also made a half century and finished on 74 and Sarah Taylor (the wicket keeper with the fastest hands in women’s cricket) wasn’t far behind with 69.

Even Megan Schutt’s impressive bowling spell of 4-44 wasn’t enough to prevent England making a massive total. Megan was the best in a bowling performance which would have left many Australian fans disappointed. Jess Jonassen was the most expensive with an economy rate of 7.57, ending up on 1/53). Not far behind her was Tahlia McGrath who ended on figures of 0/27 and an economy rate of 6/75.

This game was in stark contrast to the second ODI, where everything Australia touched turn to gold.

Alex Blackwell Australia women's cricket

(AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Unfortunately, despite having six bowlers in the Australian line-up, captain Rachael Haynes simply did not get results with some magnificent ODI batting from Beaumont and Knight.

I knew this would be a tough run chase for Australia, particularly considering that England has never lost an ODI when they have posted a score of more than 270.

For the third game in a row, rain also played its part. I know plenty of English fans were expecting to arrive for a hot Australian summer – that has certainly not been the case so far. So far rain meant a disrupted preparation for both teams in Brisbane and two games cut short in Coffs Harbour.

After a rain delay, thanks to the Duckworth-Lewis system, Australia was set a revised target of 278 of 48 overs.

The rain interrupted and also disrupted the flow of what was a marvellous start for Alyssa Healy, who backed up her 56 run stand just three days ago with a flying start – scoring 30 off 23 balls. Alyssa continued to score her second half-century in a row and Australia’s highest total with 71 off 72, before being caught by Katherine Brunt.

Nicole Bolton was the only other Australian batter to impress, scoring 62 off 80 before being caught up Lauren Winfield.

This was Australia’s most impressive partnership – with an opening stand of 118 runs.

One other player I briefly wanted to mention was Alex Blackwell, whose 37 runs were much-needed but ultimately were not enough.

Yesterday’s game was game number 250 in Australian colours for Alec Blackwell. At age 34, Alex is the most experienced and longest-serving member of the Southern Stars. During the summer she also captains the Sydney Thunder WBBL team and also has a leadership role at the New South Wales Breakers.

I don’t think Alex quite understands yet the impact that she has had on women’s cricket. I have met countless women who say that the reason that they were first inspired to play cricket was because of Alex Blackwell. Many women currently dominating in the WBBL were fans of Alex Blackwell first before they were fans of cricket.

Alex’s Sydney Thunder and Breakers teammate Maisy Gibson shared a photo on her Instagram yesterday of an Alex Blackwell trading card. The caption read as follows – ‘you signed my card when I was 7 and am still star struck. Congratulations on 250 games Al. You are amazing and continually smash it.‘

I wonder how many other young women have been inspired to play cricket because of Alex Blackwell.

With this win, England now find themselves back in the series.

Australia now head to Canberra for a three-day pink-ball trial game against ACT but the next game in the Ashes series suddenly becomes very interesting. It begins on Thursday 9 November and goes until Sunday 12 November at North Sydney Oval.

If you are in Sydney, I encourage you to get down to this game to cheer on our Southern Stars. Not only is it the first ever women’s day/night Test, but should Australia win this game, they clinch the series.

Game on.

Player rankings
3 – Megan Schutt
2 – Alyssa Healy
1 – Nicole Bolton