Australia retain Ashes despite Natalie Sciver-Brunt's unbeaten ton

Natalie Sciver-Brunt's 111* goes in vain as England fall three runs short of the target

Nitin Singh
New Update

Australia take an unassailable 8-6 lead in the series © Getty

Australia retained the Ashes with a dramatic three-run victory in the second ODI at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Sunday (July 16).  Alana King and Ashleigh Gardner picked up three wickets each to level the ODI series and gave Australia an unassailable 8-6 lead going into the final match of Ashes. Natalie Sciver-Brunt scored a magnificent ton and kept England in the game until the last ball.

England's decision to bowl first seemed to be the right call as Lauren Bell struck in her first over, trappping Phoebe Litchfield with an inswinger. Skipper Alyssa Healy and Ellyse Perry hit a few boundaries before Healy fell to a soft dismissal as she hit one straight to Alice Capsey at short third. 

Ellyse Perry and Beth Mooney kept the scoreboard ticking, taking Australia to 71 for 2 after 15 overs. Mooney and Perry looked to take on the bowlers with Mooney sweeping Ecclestone and slogging Sciver-Brunt for boundaries. But Sophie Ecclestone had the last laugh as Mooney swept again but straight into Lauren Bell's hand at short fine leg, breaking the 61-run stand with Perry. Legspinner Sarah Glenn followed it up two overs later, picking up Tahlia McGrath’s wicket early.

Perry anchored the innings while Gardner looked to accelerate. Dropped on four by Ecclestone, Gardner made England pay it by hitting a boundary off Capsey's last ball of the over and a six in the next over off Glenn. Moments later Perry brought up her 30th ODI half-century in 64 balls.

Even though Perry stood firm at one end, she did not look comfortable but somehow survived owing to England's untidy fielding. In a lively 28th over, an umpire's call saved Perry even as England went up for the review and two balls later Glenn spilled a tough caught and bowled chance. 

With pace brought back into the attack post drinks, Perry hit a glorious boundary over mid-on. Gardner looked to do the same but miscued her shot and the Bell-Ecclestone duo combined again to pick up another wicket with Ecclestone grabbing a good catch at mid-off. That was Bell's third wicket of the match.

Walking in at seven, Annabel Sutherland wasted no time, flicking Bell for a boundary off her second ball. Following it up with three boundaries in the next over bowled by the swing bowler.

Perry took the reigns of the Australian innings and produced yet another 50-run partnership, this time with Sutherland who brought up her maiden ODI half-century in 47 balls. It was Ecclestone who chimed in with two wickets, dismissing both the set batters. Perry, looking to clear the rope, handed an easy catch to Capsey at long-off. Sutherland was caught at long-on in a similar fashion. 

Bell's dream start with the ball was brought to a nightmare end. Georgia Wareham hit an already expensive Bell for six, six, four, six, and four, garnering 26 from the final over. Wareham's 37 off 14 and Perry's 91 helped Australia put a commanding 282 on the board asking the hosts to chase a record total yet again. 

ALSO READ: Marufa Akter, spinners help Bangladesh to historic win against India

Chasing 283, in-form Tammy Beaumont had her foot on the gas straight away, hammering eight boundaries in the first nine overs. England were cruising with the score reading 62 for no loss at the end of the power play. But Beaumont's opening partner Sophia Dunkley was struggling at the other end. Wareham picked up right from where she left with the bat and cleaned up Dunkley.

Beaumont extended her form with a 45-ball half-century. On the other end, King, who was playing her first match of the series after the one-off Test, sent skipper Heather Knight packing. The protagonist of the Bristol chase, Knight instantly reviewed the lbw decision but she was plumb in front and she could score only 12 off 19 deliveries.

King spun her magic again, delivering a peach to a set Beaumont. Capsey looking to take charge holed out at deep mid-wicket. At this stage, King had three wickets from her four overs.

Sciver-Brunt kept adding runs at a reasonable pace before Australia's spin-heavy attack fetched another wicket. Danielle Wyatt swept and edged it, presenting an easy catch for Sutherland at long-on.

Wicket-keeper Amy Jones and Sciver-Brunt gave England the much-needed partnership. With the required run rate rising steeply, Jones took on Megan Schutt and hit for back-to-back boundaries. The duo's 57-run stand came to an end when Jones's reverse sweep off Gardner landed in the hands of Schutt at short third. Ecclestone followed Jones to the dugout two balls later after missing a full-length ball and was trapped in front of the wicket. However, the replay showed the ball was missing the wicket.

It was all down to Sciver-Brunt and Glenn to run the hard yards. England were 205 for 7 at the end of the 40th, needing 73 off the last ten overs. Sciver-Brunt went about her business smartly, rotating the strike with Glenn and picking up occasional boundaries. 

King and Gardner gave away only ten runs in the 46th and 47th over. With 21 balls needed from 12 balls, Sciver-Brunt had to go for the big shots in the penultimate over. Wareham dropped Sciver-Brunt at 97 at deep mid-wicket with Sciver-Brunt bringing up her seventh ODI ton in the very next ball. However, with the Ashes on the line, the job was not finished.

15 runs needed off six balls, Sciver-Brunt's hit a slog sweep for a boundary followed by two doubles. With needing a maximum off Jess Jonassen's final delivery, Sciver-Brunt could manage only a single to wide long-on. Eventually her knock of 111 not out from 99 balls wasn't enoujgh and England fell agonizingly short of a record run chase. Australia now have eight points with one match left to play and will once again keep the Ashes urn in their trophy cabinet.

Brief Scores: Australia 282/7 in 50 overs (Ellyse Perry 91, Annabel Sutherland 50; Sophie Ecclestone  3/40, Lauren Bell 3/85) beat England 279/7 in 50 overs (Natalie Sciver-Brunt 111*, Tammy Beaumont 60; Alana King 3/44, Ashleigh Gardner 3/42) by 3 runs POTM: Alana King