Australia retain Ashes as England fall short despite Nat Sciver-Brunt century

Australia retained the Women’s Ashes after Nat Sciver-Brunt’s excellent innings of 111 not out could not prevent England suffering an agonising three-run defeat in the second ODI at the Ageas Bowl.

Victory in Bristol on Wednesday had levelled the multi-format series at 6-6, but Heather Knight’s side knew only a fourth consecutive win over the world champions would keep alive their hopes of winning back the urn.

Put into bat first in Hampshire, Australia posted 282 for seven with Ellyse Perry hitting 91 and Annabel Sutherland adding 50, but it was Georgia Wareham who changed the momentum with 26 runs off the final over.

Tammy Beaumont ensured England’s chase started strongly with 60 but wickets fell regularly with the recalled Alana King claiming three for 44 from her 10 overs.

Sciver-Brunt’s presence kept alive England’s faint hopes and she reached another century against Australia, but could not get the required 15 runs from Jess Jonassen’s final over.

It puts Australia 8-6 up in the series with only one ODI left to play in Taunton, which means the urn will remain with Alyssa Healy’s side.

England captain Knight had won the toss and saw her decision to bowl first immediately pay dividends with Lauren Bell able to claim the early wickets of Phoebe Litchfield and Healy in windy conditions in Hampshire.

Litchfield was pinned in front lbw and Healy inexplicably cut straight to Alice Capsey, but Perry and Beth Mooney rebuilt the innings and put on 61 for the third wicket.

Spin duo Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn kept Australia in check with Mooney sweeping the former to Bell at short fine leg for 33 and Tahlia McGrath out cheaply after edging behind.

Australia retained the Ashes
Australia retained the Ashes (Bradley Collyer/PA)

The outlook could have been even better for England with Perry dropped on 50 when Glenn put down a tough caught-and-bowled chance, which occurred the ball after the Aussie number three had survived a close lbw appeal.

Perry was given another life on 63 when she chipped Ecclestone to Kate Cross at mid-on, but the England seamer put down the opportunity and injured her right leg as a result.

Ashleigh Gardner was already out for 33 to Bell by this point, but Australia were able to kick on from 158 for five with Sutherland improving their tempo.

An important 81-run partnership for the sixth wicket was broken in the 47th over by Ecclestone, who claimed Perry for 91 and Sutherland for 50 with substitute fielder Charlie Dean and Capsey taking smart catches on the boundary rope.

Wareham crucially swung the momentum back in Australia’s favour though with a scintillating onslaught on Bell, smashing two sixes over midwicket after an earlier maximum in the last over of the innings to help her side post 282 for seven from their 50 overs.

It left England facing another record ODI chase, after achieving the same feat in Bristol on Wednesday, but Beaumont ensured they made a strong start with 66 put on with Sophia Dunkley, who was then bowled after a scratchy 13.

Beaumont had already celebrated fifty before four runs initially awarded to her were later changed to leg byes but the milestone was officially reached in the 14th over.

England’s progress was quickly ground to a halt by leg-spinner King after she won her battle against Knight, who was unhappy to walk off given out lbw for 12 after reviewing immediately.

King was in full flow now and Beaumont was bowled for a fine 60 with a wonderful spinning delivery that clipped off stump before Capsey holed out to deep midwicket where Gardner took the catch.

When Danni Wyatt succumbed to Gardner’s off-break with a slog sweep straight to Sutherland, England had gone from 107 for two to 144 for five.

The presence of Sciver-Brunt, who successfully reviewed an out lbw call on three, retained some hope and she moved to another half-century off 53 balls with a sweep for two.

Sciver-Brunt and Glenn took the fight to the final over
Sciver-Brunt and Glenn took the fight to the final over (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Sciver-Brunt desperately needed a partner to stick around and wicketkeeper Jones started to take the attack to Australia, hitting back-to-back fours against Wareham, but soon after being dropped on 34, she was out.

After putting on 57 for the sixth wicket to take England past the 200-mark, Jones top-edged her attempted reverse sweep and Ecclestone lasted just two balls – with Gardner picking up two wickets from the 39th over.

England still needed 80 runs for victory but Sciver-Brunt continued to get success with the sweep shot.

Glenn stuck around to bring the equation down to 15 off six balls, but Sciver-Brunt, who reached her century in the previous over, was only able to hit one boundary.

England fell short on 279 for seven after her attempted slog-sweep for six from Jonassen’s last delivery only went for one.