Australia stomped all over England at the Junction Oval in Melbourne on Sunday, winning the match with 88 balls to spare after bowling England out for 129 in 45.2 overs.
England had talked up the remaining two matches of the Ashes with the suggestion that their aim was to repeat their 2017/18 comeback, and draw the series on points. Perhaps it was for that reason that they chose to stick with an almost-identical XI to the first ODI (Katherine Brunt was rested with a “niggle”), refusing to hand match-practice to Lauren Bell or Freya Davies ahead of the World Cup, or tinker with their batting line-up. It seems pretty certain that England will be sticking with Lauren Winfield-Hill at the top of the order for the World Cup, come what may.
England reached 40 for 1 after 10 overs but it was downhill from there, as Ellyse Perry (3 for 12) pulled out the kind of disciplined bowling performance which leaves England fans waking up in a cold sweat with flashbacks of July 2019. There were two phenomenal catches from Australia – Alyssa Healy diving to her right behind the stumps to see off Tammy Beaumont, before Meg Lanning topped it with a screamer taken full-stretch to HER right at first slip.
They fought hard with the ball – Kate Cross once again dispelling the bizarrely persistent claims that she is a “red ball specialist” with a brilliant couple of spells – but as so often in this series, the bowlers couldn’t make up for the fact that the batters let England down – badly.
Watching the top-order today, you’d be hard-pressed to find any evidence of England’s pre-series “fighting fire with fire” strategy. Too often, they got stuck in the crease when they needed to be attacking the ball – five wickets fell LBW. England also, once again, used their DRS reviews poorly. Sophia Dunkley’s reluctance to make the “T” signal told a thousand stories; she really should have stood up to Amy Jones, who appeared to have talked her into the review. It probably didn’t make much difference in the end today – although Cross could have saved herself, with replays showing the LBW decision against her was actually missing leg-stump – but on another occasion (a World Cup semi-final, say) it could be crucial. England get far more practice with DRS than most other sides in the world, and need to get better at using it to their advantage.
So… what next? There are obvious parallels with the misery of the Canterbury ODI in July 2019, when Perry ran through England’s batters, finishing with 7 for 22, and effectively sealed England’s fate in the series. The media were unforgiving; and when England coach Mark Robinson was hastily dispatched at the end of the series, it seemed the blame for the humiliation of Canterbury was being laid square on his shoulders.
I think, ultimately, this defeat won’t “land” in quite the same way that one did. For one, England had already surrendered the Ashes this time around. For another, the fact that their World Cup defence will commence in a matter of weeks means that there is another immediate goal to focus on. There is no sense in beginning any post-mortems at this point.
But… that could simply be delaying the inevitable. Because if England play like they did today in New Zealand next month, their title is going to slip away quicker than you can say “Ellyse Perry”; and if there is one thing worse than losing the Ashes to Australia, it is losing the Ashes AND a World Cup crown to Australia in the space of two months.