England challenge Australia but face uphill task in white-ball series

LONDON (BBC): So near, but so far. Once again between Australia and England, it came down to the crunch moments. We saw those instances of high pressure where the game could sway one way or the other, where one team would stand to gain slight psychological advantages.

And during the women’s Test match at Trent Bridge, it was Australia who edged them. From England having the visitors 238-6, only for Annabel Sutherland to smash a century from number eight, to losing four wickets for 15 runs to fall 10 short of first-innings parity. From missing an opportunity to dismiss captain Alyssa Healy first ball in the second innings after taking three wickets for three runs, and for her to go on to make a vital half-century.

And from racing to 55-0 inside 10 overs in the second innings, only for Australia to fight back in ridiculously assertive fashion to take five late wickets on Sunday to firmly dent England’s hopes.

By day five, there was still hope, but the outcome felt inevitable purely because of Australia’s ruthless tendency to win the small battles that mattered most. They also probably saved at least 50 runs through the magnificence of their fielding.

Ash Gardner did the rest, taking a magnificent 8-66 to skittle England and confirm an 89-run victory – but more significantly, a 4-0 points lead in the multi-format series.
This defeat feels crueller than England’s more recent struggles against Australia, especially after Tammy Beaumont’s historic double century and Sophie Ecclestone’s incredible 10 wickets in the match.

England this time, for the first time since the close Canberra test of January 2022, went toe to toe with Australia – and kept it going for four days.

England almost matched Australia’s first-innings 473, they triggered middle-order batting collapses and at times surprised the tourists with their intent with the bat.
So it is not necessarily the skill level that defines Australia’s dominance over England any more.

They are phenomenal, of course – Sutherland’s coming-of-age century, Gardner’s match-winning performance and the fact that they have won without inspirational leader Meg Lanning. England matched them for long stretches, through Beaumont, Ecclestone and the emergence of Lauren Filer, whose raw pace looks a real find for Heather Knight’s side as she visibly unsettled some of the Australia line-up. But the difference is Australia’s unwavering tenacity to win, and crucially, to know how to win.

And that comes from being used to it. History is always on their side.

They have come under pressure before – most recently in a close T20 semi-final against India in South Africa, but again won the small battles to creep through.

Australia also have the psychological upper hand over England, having dominated so much of the teams’ recent history, but the signs are there: the gap is slowly closing.
Before this match, both teams spoke of a desire to force a result in the five-day Test and risk losing it in order to win.

The only problem with that mindset for England is that Australia could afford to lose four points – a lot more than England could.

That is simply because of Australia’s barely believable white-ball record: they could lose the Test match and still realistically win enough white-ball games to overturn the deficit.

But now, England must win five out of six white-ball matches (or four, and hope for a no-result due to weather) against a team who have won 41 out of 42 one-day internationals in the last five years, and 56 out of 65 T20s.

It is not an impossible task for England – and Australia have shown weaknesses, particularly in the bowling, although experienced seamer Megan Schutt is likely to return. o attack, to try and rattle the world champions. They have shown that they can get the Australians on the back foot.

But next time, they must make sure they keep them there.