This article was first written for and published by The Roar.
Coming into the Women’s Ashes this year, England and Australia were ranked one and two in the world.
It comes as no surprise then that this really has been a very tightly contested Ashes series, with England bouncing back yesterday to win the second T20 in Manuka by 40 runs.
This means heading into the final T20 on Tuesday evening, Australia lead the series 8-6.
In the first T20 at North Sydney Oval on Friday night, it was the England batting line-up which collapsed. At one point, the tourists were 4/16 and had it not been for Dani Wyatt and her half-century, then the contest could have been over even earlier.
In yesterday’s match, we saw the complete opposite – the Aussies collapsing into a giant heap.
Each team had a couple of changes to their line-up. England saw seam bowler Anya Shrubsole replace spinner Alex Hartley. For Australia, off-spinner Molly Strano was given her opportunity at the expense of leg-spinner Amanda Jade-Wellington.
In their innings, England managed to set a target of 153 for Australia and for the first five overs, it looked like it would be smooth sailing for the hosts. At this point, they were 0-45, but then came a dramatic collapse of 4-7 in 16 balls, putting Australia in a very vulnerable position.
They ended up all out for 112 with 12 balls remaining.
On Friday night, it was Beth Mooney who stole the show, but this time it was England’s bowler Katherine Brunt who was the stand-out, making a statement after a disappointing golden duck in the previous T20 (after being promoted to fifth in the batting line-up) and bowling figures of 1/33 with an economy rate of 11. Alex Hartley was the only English bowler that had less luck than Brunt last week.
Brunt is a feisty player who was visibly angry after the match last Friday. But she responded in the best possible way with 32 off 24 balls and 2/10 off four overs.
Other stand-outs with the bat for England were Danni Wyatt, who hit four boundaries in the opening three overs – eventually being dismissed for 19 by a Rachael Haynes catch (Haynes fumbled the catch and only just caught it between her legs).
Fumbles in this field also characterised Australia’s performance yesterday. Like the game at North Sydney where Australia dropped six catches, there were another couple of drops in this time around. Most notably, Ashleigh Gardner dropped Tammy Beaumont, but fortunately for Australia, the English opener found herself out LBW just five runs later.
Sarah Taylor, the talented batter and wicketkeeper, was run out on 30 and Nat Sciver made 38 before being caught by Rachael Haynes.
Heather Knight was dismissed after three balls, which is her third disappointing innings in a row – managing only four and two ducks in her previous three performances.
For the Australians, Megan Schutt was again the stand-out bowler and also the most economical. She ended with 2/16. At the other end of the spectrum were Sarah Aley (0/33) and Delissa Kimmince (1/24).
With England all out for 153, Australia must have gone in feeling confident.
Beth Mooney and Alyssa Healy got the home team off to a great start and at the end of the first five overs, were 0/42.
Mooney was eventually run out soon after after a perfect direct hit from Jenny Gunn. This was the beginning of the end for Australia, with Mooney’s wicket signalling the start of the collapse.
Next to go was Elyse Villani, who has struggled with bat in hand the entire series. Villani went for one off six balls after being stumped by Sarah Taylor off a Brunt delivery.
Healy followed soon after on 24 – caught by Anya Shrubsole – before Ellyse Perry was bowled by Brunt for five.
Similar to the game on Friday night, Ashleigh Gardner started strong and showed what she could do – beginning her innings by hitting Danielle Hazell for six – but her innings ended not long after, caught by Brunt on eight.
Haynes and Kimmince did their best to get Australia back into the match with a partnership of 25 before Haynes was caught by opposing captain Heather Knight. Kimmince followed shortly after on 17.
Australia all out for 112, with Healy being the top scorer on 24.
For the visitors, their most effective bowler was Katherine Brunt who ended up with figures of 2/10 and an economy of 2.30. Not far behind her was Jenny Gunn with 4/13.
The two teams will meet again on Tuesday.
Regardless of what happens in Manuka, Australia will retain the Ashes simply because they last won the Ashes the last time they were contested.
By end of the Tuesday, we could have a drawn Ashes series, which would only reinforce that England and Australia really are the top-performing countries in the world when it comes to women’s cricket.
England have plenty to play for and will certainly hope to finish the series on a high.