The Birmingham 2022 gold medallists have retained the Women’s Ashes, holding on with a three-run ODI win over England.
In the first final-ball finish of what has been a thrilling series, Australia denied Nat Sciver-Brunt’s bid to pull off a chase of 283 at Southampton.
Needing 15 to win off Jess Jonassen‘s final over, Sciver-Brunt got the equation down to five runs off one ball before she failed to find the boundary and England finished 7-279.
Georgia Wareham’s effort with the bat also proved decisive for Australia, slamming 26 off the final six balls from Lauren Bell to boost the target.
The result means even a loss in the final ODI on Tuesday would allow them to keep hold of the Ashes for a fifth straight time with a drawn series.
But this success has been far from comfortable for an Australian team that has traditionally been all conquering.
After winning the series-opening Test and first Twenty20, Australia needed only one win from the next five games to keep hold of the Ashes.
However, England claimed victory in the next three matches to go into the Southampton clash with the scoreline at 6-6 and with the series on the line.
Australia still need victory in Tuesday’s final ODI to claim the series outright, but some pressure is now off after this result.
“It’s not a relief,” captain Alyssa Healy insisted.
We still haven’t played our best cricket yet, which is a bit scary at times.
“We are obviously really chuffed. We came here to win the Ashes, and we’ve retained them so far.
“There is still one game to go, and we’ll be putting our best foot forward. But to know the Ashes are coming back with us is really exciting.”
— Australian Women’s Cricket Team 🏏 (@AusWomenCricket) July 16, 2023
The win keeps Australia’s record of holding every major trophy available to them, having not dropped one since the 2017 World Cup.
But at times on Sunday, it looked as if Healy’s team would be pushed all the way to the final match of the series at Taunton on Tuesday.
After being sent in, Australia slumped to 2-27 early and were 4-102 before Perry dug them out of a hole alongside Gardner (33) and Annabel Sutherland (50).
And at stages in the chase, England were in control.
It took a great ball from King to bowl Tammy Beaumont on 60 and with England 2-107 after 21 overs, as the spinner pitched it on leg and hit the top of off.
And while King (3-44) and Gardner (3-54) struck again through the middle overs, England appeared on track for victory at 5-201 with 12 overs remaining.
It was at that point Gardner stood up, having Amy Jones caught reverse-sweeping on 37 and removing Sophie Ecclestone lbw in the same over.
From there, Sciver-Brunt was always fighting up hill.
And while her and Sarah Glenn (22no) got the equation down to nine off three balls and seven off two, England’s incredible fightback to try and win back the Ashes was over.
“I thought we had it, Nat played an outstanding innings,” England captain Heather Knight said.
“It’s been an outstanding series, the best series ever in women’s cricket in my opinion.”
The final ODI between England and Australia will take place on Tuesday in Taunton.