Tall Order Awaits England But Ashes Is Within Reach

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Tall order awaits England but Ashes is within reach. England will also face Australia in their first game of the ODI World Cup in New Zealand.

Tall Order Awaits England But Ashes Is Within ReachEngland will also face Australia in their first game of the ODI World Cup in New Zealand.

Such is the condensed schedule of the women's Ashes that there has been precious little time to take a breath after the frantic, brilliant, drama filled final day of the Test match at Manuka Oval. Already the ODI part of the series is upon us, with the first of three matches taking place in Canberra on Thursday (February 3), rounding off the multi-format concept. After failing to win the Test, which they really should have done, England need to whitewash Australia in the ODIs to reclaim the Ashes for the first time since 2013/14. It is a tall ask.

Not that the Ashes needs added context but an intriguing sub-plot to the ODIs will also be the looming 50-over World Cup in New Zealand. England are, of course, the holders but Australia will be the favourites and their opening match is against each other in Hamilton on March 5. While both captains were quick to say that they weren't thinking of the upcoming tournament in the lead-up to the opening match of this series, it will be fascinating to see how the respective sides shape up ahead of the World Cup.

Australia are an imposing ODI side. Their narrow defeat to India in the third game of the series between the two sides in September ended a remarkable 26-match unbeaten run for Meg Lanning's team. Part of that run included a 3-0 ODI series sweep in the 2019 Ashes. While England have been in good recent ODI form of their own – they beat New Zealand 4-1 at the end of last summer – dominating the Australians as they must over the next three matches is going to take a performance out of the very top drawer.

England's showing in the Test match and to a lesser extent with the bat in the first T20I should at least give them confidence that they can cause Australia problems and vindicated the aggressive approach that Heather Knight has advocated all the way through this series. It is the only way she believes England can beat this Australian team. The challenge for her side is to sustain that pressure and approach for a full match, something they have so far been unable to do in the two completed games of this series.

“Felt like we were in a great position to win it [the Test] and at the end there it felt a little bit like a loss but the way we went at that chase was awesome,” Knight said. “I certainly think they were the most relieved with the draw. It's shown that when we do go hard at them we can put them under pressure and create a few cracks. Real character from the girls to show that we can do that and want to go at the Australians. We've got to keep our eye on that first game and win that first game, it's as simple as that.”

Champion teams like Lanning's usually counterpunch hard, however, and the Australian captain seemed determined to pushback in the ODIs. “We want a contest, we want really competitive cricket and that's what it's been throughout the series so far,” she said. “We're expecting much of the same tomorrow. We understand there's going to be a difficult challenge against a side who has shown particularly over the last couple of weeks how good they can be. We've switched into one-day mode and understand how important these games are.”

Australia have had their share of injury issues with Tayla Vlaeminck joining Sophie Molineux and Georgia Wareham on the treatment table but their strength in depth means they can handle such absences better than most. Alana King's brilliant display of leg-spin on the final afternoon of her debut Test match proved as much and Lanning indicated she would likely be the first choice for the ODI series too. Megan Schutt was rested from the Test match but will return to new-ball duties for this series while Ellyse Perry will bat at number four.

Knight confirmed that England have a full complement of players to choose from. Danni Wyatt is in contention to come into the side after missing the Test match but if England are to achieve what they need to over the next three matches, the likes of Wyatt, Knight, Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver will need support from the younger players in the side. Charlie Dean had a tricky Test debut in Canberra but took ten wickets in five ODIs against New Zealand last year while Sophia Dunkley played a gem of an innings in the Test match, announcing herself on the Ashes stage.

“I saw her as a 13-year-old when she was opening the batting for Middlesex and thought that this girl can seriously strike a ball,” Knight said. “The thing that's impressed me the most the past couple of years is how she's worked on her composure, her mental game at the crease and how she deals with that pressure. It was really pleasing for her to show everyone what she can do in Australia.”

Dunkley played with the sort of fearless approach that Knight has demanded from her team and one that England will need to continue with, if not better, in the ODIs. The Ashes are still within their grasp. But they are going to have to do something truly special to win them. It is a heck of a challenge.

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