Women’s Ashes ODIs preview: England face familiar feeling of regret with Australia on the brink

A wild Test match in Canberra showed that Australia are fallible but England need to win all three one-day games to regain the Ashes, with every ball exclusively live on BT Sport.

By Tim Williams Published: 2 February 2022 - 4.21pm

In all probability, England will have spent the intervening days between the Test match and one-day leg of the Ashes tour trying to shake a lingering feeling that things could be so much different.

The points were shared after a wild final day in Canberra, leaving Australia leading the multi-format series 6-4 on points and closing in on another Ashes triumph.

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A passing reference can’t do justice to a classic Test at the Manuka Oval, one which underlined that the format which continues to be shunted to the margins of the global game remains in rude health.

The pendulum swung back and forth on a final day that will never be forgotten, as England looked set to complete the biggest fourth-innings chase in history before the hosts roared back to bowl themselves to the brink of a famous victory.

At one stage, the tourists required 45 runs off the final 60 balls with seven wickets in hand. In the blink of an eye, Australia needed just one more wicket to clinch the Ashes. But England batted out the final two overs to salvage an extraordinary draw and keep the series alive.

The dramatic denouement was testament to an aggressive declaration from Meg Lanning and a collective willingness by both teams to take the game on.

But after the dust settled, Heather Knight and England will surely have been left with an unshakable feeling that their best chance of beating Australia might have slipped from their grasp.

There was a sense of frustration around the camp after two of the three Twenty20 matches were washed out as they watched their chance to seize the early initiative fade away.

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That feeling must have returned after the Test as a combination of dropped catches, inclement weather and an ill-timed batting collapse left them with it all to do in the one-day games.

“An opportunity missed is the overriding feeling,” said Knight. “I feel more sad than happy at the minute,” was Nat Sciver’s assessment. Lanning’s admission that Australia felt “we might have got away with one a little bit” is telling.

With a one-day victory worth two points, England need to win all three matches to make sure of regaining the Ashes and captain Knight is taking the positives from the red-ball match ahead of the opener in Canberra.

“I think it’s shown that we can fight back and, when we do, go hard at them and put them under pressure and really create a few cracks,” she said.

“I think it gives us a real confidence, particularly in that second innings. It really was like a one-day chase in 48 overs.

“All of the top five also found a little bit of nick. We haven’t had a huge amount of time in the middle, with the weather and the preparation, so that’s a really good sign of something.”

England are the reigning world champions in one-day internationals having beaten India at Lord’s in 2017 but Australia are currently the team to beat.

They are the highest ranked side and recently won 26 consecutive matches, including three against England in the 2019 Ashes series.

India finally ended the streak in September, but Australia are supremely confident playing the 50-over game and they have the number one ranked batter and bowler in the format in Alyssa Healy and spinner Jess Jonassen.

Ellyse Perry, who became the leading run-scorer and wicket-taker in Women’s Ashes history after her performance in the Test match, averages over 50 with the bat and will be England’s most prized wicket.

The return of fast bowler Megan Schutt will be a huge boost for the hosts after she was left out of the Test, with Lanning describing her as “keen as mustard” to be involved.

Despite their imperious form, Lanning is expecting a fast start from both sides in Canberra.

“I think they’ll come at us pretty hard and we’ll do the same thing, but if we can settle into the contest really nicely early and just settle the nerves a little bit,” the Australia captain said.

“Both teams will have (nerves), but if we can settle into our work as quickly as we can we feel like we can get some momentum and hopefully put them under pressure.”

England looked comfortable for most of the final day of the Test which turned into a de facto one-dayer, with opener Tammy Beaumont proving why she is pivotal at the top of the order and Katherine Brunt, a true titan of the women’s game, showing she remains indispensable.

Knight also found form with a glorious unbeaten 168 and will be hoping her form carries over to the white-ball game. She also indicated that there are no new injury concerns in her squad.

Sophia Dunkley played with admirable intent in Canberra and will have a similar role to play here. England will also need spinners Sophie Ecclestone and Charlie Dean, who was the leading wicket-taker in the series win against New Zealand last year, to have a big impact.

After a Test match that had it all, it’s make or break for England as they look to shake that familiar feeling of regret and force their way back into the series.

Watch the first ODI between Australia and England from 2.45am on BT Sport 1HD on Thursday 3 February.