England wrapped up a good couple of days at Hove with a second ODI victory on Sunday to go with Friday's first. It means they now lead the ODI series 6-4 with the three T20s next week each counting for 2 points. To win the Ashes back England will need to win at least two of those T20s. A tied series will mean that the Ashes remain with the Aussies, who currently hold them.
After overnight and early morning rain, the match was reduced to a 36 over contest, eventually getting underway under sunny skies at 2pm. Australia brought in Alyssa Healey for the out of form Haynes and surprisingly Julie Hunter for Holly Ferling. England brought in Dani Hazell to replace Laura Marsh, who had a sore shoulder - whether this was the same shoulder that she had operated on in the winter was never clarified.
The Aussies won the toss and elected to bat, but got away to yet another horrible start when Healey was caught by Dani Hazell at square leg, clipping Anya Shrubsole's third ball straight to her. Had Hazell clung on to a similar chance off Meg Lanning (64) in Shrubsole's third over it could have been even worse. As it was Lanning and Jess Cameron (28) saw off the new ball and started to build nicely, with Cameron the main aggressor. It was a surprise when she was neatly stumped by Sarah Taylor off Hazell in the 14th over of the innings with the score on 53. With skipper Jodie Fields now in support Lanning took over the aggressor's role hitting both Hazell and Holly Colvin out of the England attack. She brought up her 50 off 55 balls and had just dispatched Katherine Brunt for an exquisite four over extra cover, when Colvin returned at the Cromwell Road End. This was make or break for England, and thanks to a an ill-advised missed reverse sweep by Lanning it was the former as the ball struck her leg stump. Ellyse Perry was promoted to five and when Sarah Taylor spotted Field's attempt at a reverse sweep at Hazell and dived high and wide to her right to pouch a stunning one-handed catch England again had the game under control.
That was until the 30th over. 180 had looked like a realistic score, but 11,12 and 13 off the 30th, 31st and 32nd overs raised the bar and Perry (45*) and Blackwell (35*) took Australia to a challenging 203/4 at the close.
England came out with positive intent through Charlotte Edwards and Heather Knight (69), and despite Edward's dismissal in the third over to a sharp catch by Blackwell at short extra cover, continued in that vein with Sarah Taylor (64) joining Knight at the crease. Knight looked in great touch from her first ball, and Taylor grew in confidence after some early nerves. In a 126 run partnership in 18 overs both reached their 50s in even time almost the same number of balls and England were cruising to victory. But both fell to horrendous deliveries - Knight slapped a waist-high full toss to mid-off and Taylor dragged a wide half-volley onto her stumps - and England supporters' nerves in the good-sized Hove crowd began to jangle. The Aussies put the squeeze on Lydia Greenway (18) and Arran Brindle (11) and were rewarded when Brindle was run out by a direct hit from Perry at midwicket. England still needed 38 from nine overs. But it was the incoming Nat Sciver (18*) that looked the calmest person in Hove. She cut and tickled the ball for singles and inspired Greenway with her confidence. Nine off the 32nd over from Sarah Coyte effectively sealed the England win, and having hit Osborne for 4 over the top Greenway tried to end the game with a 6, but only succeeded in holing out at mid-on. A wide from Perry in the next over ended the contest and summed up a rather depressing day for the Aussies.
And so to the T20s next week in Chelmsford (Tues), Southampton (Thurs) and Durham (Sat). England are in a great place. They have dominated the last two games. They missed Marsh in this ODI and they will hope she is fit for next week. They do have one dilemma however in that Heather Knight was not named as a member of the T20 squad. It may be that England were going to open the T20s with Laura Marsh and Charlotte Edwards. Surely those plans need to be put aside and Knight has to get the job. She is in sublime form and her confidence with the bat has rubbed off on those around her.
As for the Aussies they seem to be lacking in self-belief (unbelievably for Aussies). Perry and Ferling have been ineffective with the ball and Schutt and Hunter do not seem to pose too much of a threat. England also seem to have come to terms with spinners Osborne and Jonassen after initially struggling. On the flip side Brunt and Shrubsole have generally got England off to a good start with the ball which has put the Aussies on the back foot.
But T20 games can all revolve around one person - with bat or ball. The question is which side will they be playing for?