England’s Ashes hopes went up in smoke at Manuka Oval in Canberra, despite having the Aussies on the ropes as they posted just 205-9 from their 50 overs – well short of the 287 that Australia have averaged batting first since the last World Cup.
Alyssa Healy, interviewed pitch-side about half way through Australia’s innings, said they were looking for 220-240, but they were frustrated by another disciplined bowling performance from England, with Katherine Brunt taking 3-40 and Kate Cross 3-33. Since her return to the side in 2021, after a couple of years on the sidelines, Cross has averaged 2 wickets per game in ODIs, a significant step up from the earlier in her career.
Australia’s batters struggled as a unit, but in a low(ish) scoring match if one person can stand up, that can be enough. Beth Mooney was that player for Australia – she was the only Aussie batter to pass 30, but she pushed on to make 73, and crucially made sure she was still at the crease to face the final ball.
So the key question was… could anyone from England do the same?
Although England lost two early wickets, Lauren Winfield-Hill and Nat Sciver stabilised things and looked to be building a solid platform at 39-2 after 10 overs. Winfield-Hill played some of the nice shots we know she can play, and hopes were high that this might be the day she’d finally break the “duck” that has seen her go 5 years and 46 international innings across all formats without passing 50.
Winfield-Hill was out the very next ball, but Sciver was still in a position to do what Mooney had done, and with the support of Amy Jones she continued to make progress.
Jones’s wicket is one that will continue to generate debate – it was definitely 50/50, and if it had been given the other way, it certainly wouldn’t have counted as a “howler”. One of the issues is clearly that the law is a bit vague, because waist heights are a bit vague (ask any woman who has ever bought a pair of jeans!) so it is too open to interpretation, even if (as a few people on social media suggested) we used the ball tracking tech rather than asking the Third Umpire to draw lines on the screen with their eyes.
By the time we got down to the Sciver-Wyatt partnership, it felt like it was “S*** or Bust”! The problem with playing the extra batter is that you only really need them when you are in trouble, and if you’re in trouble… then you are already in trouble, so it rarely works out, especially chasing.
Sciver’s dismissal for 45 was the moment when “decline” became “fall” – there was a gap of 28 runs between what Sciver made and what Mooney had made. And how many runs more did England need to win the match? Exactly 28! That’s not to blame Nat Sciver – the batting unit failed collectively, and the responsibility must be collective – Australia’s attack wore them down, good ball by good ball, until there was nothing left – bowled out, despite being ahead of the worm.
So we’ve lost the Ashes. Again. England might be one of the top two sides in the world, but they definitely aren’t in the top one.
We probably knew that already, to be fair; but if we needed a reminder, today was it.
“So we’ve lost the Ashes” – strictly speaking England haven’t. They have definitely failed to win The Ashes. At the moment all we know is that Australia have retained The Ashes. I’d argue that Australia will win The Ashes if England fail to win either of the remaining matches. It might make the Ashes more interesting if retention didn’t exist and both teams started each Ashes Series as equals. As this Series stands, England could win the remaining matches and Australia retain The Ashes due to something that happened 3 years ago.
England A lost their T20 and ODI series without winning a match. England have, so far, failed to win a match – so England have every incentive to (a) win the ODI Series or, failing that (b) avoid a complete whitewash. This is a big incentive because neither England or England A winning a match would be a big statement about ‘the gap’ between the two nations and how long its likely to last.
Finally congratulations to Heather who didn’t use either “we’ll take the positives” or “we’ll come back stronger” in her post match interview ………….I was gutted !
Well let’s hope England do come back stronger, because they’ll definitely need to. A good bowling performance this time restricted Australia to one of their lower scores of recent years, and England must have been hopeful of chasing that down.
But the batting was a bit disappointing again and it turned out that there was a bit in that Canberra pitch. England lost too many early wickets hitting in the air again and weren’t in a position to be able to make the final push to chase the score. In the end the tail did well to get anywhere close. It’s a familiarly depressing tale but England have put pressure on themselves to win one of these last 2 games now, or will have really flattered to deceive in this series.
It’s a shame because we’ve been so much more competitive overall than in 2019, showing good fight throughout, but that needs to be followed up with more points or it will look like an empty argument. I’ll say again that the way the series has been structured has really not helped England.
Australia have looked panicky at times, in my opinion, and have had that bit of luck they need so far on every occasion. The big moments just keep going their way. I think they’ll need to improve to win the upcoming WC though.