Alana King refuses to be dethroned as Australia reassert Ashes dominance

This Australian side isn’t going away any time soon. That was the message from Alana King after helping her side to an Ashes-retaining victory with three crucial wickets in the second ODI in Southampton.

The nail-biting win, by three runs off the final ball, broke a three-game losing streak in the series which had allowed England to draw level on six points all and give themselves a chance of winning back the Ashes, held by Australia since 2015.

But with England needing to stage their second record run-chase in as many matches after their successful pursuit of 264 in the first ODI in Bristol, this time needing 283, King blew the game open with a crucial spell yielding the key wickets of in-form opener Tammy Beaumont, captain Heather Knight and Alice Capsey for 15 runs in the space of 23 balls.

And, despite Nat Sciver-Brunt’s unbeaten 111, Australia’s four-pronged spin attack, chosen for the conditions but also to change things up and “throw something different at England”, as King put it, prevailed. Ashleigh Gardner took three wickets and bowled a miserly penultimate over while Jess Jonassen typically held her nerve at the death with England needing five off her final delivery and Sciver-Brunt managing just one.

“They’ve been really close games, and we’re glad that we got the win today,” King said. “It just shows that this team is not going anywhere, no matter what everyone throws at us.”

A theme of this multi-format series has been whether the gap between Australia, dominant for so long, and England is closing, given the close nature of all the contests so far. Australia won the Test by 89 runs but were pushed at various stages before winning the first T20I by four wickets with just one ball to spare and losing three more close encounters. But King still believes Australia are a step ahead.

“Yeah, I think there is,” she said when asked if there was still a gap between the sides. “And I think we’re still going to try and be ahead of the game. Yes, we want to bring other countries along because it’s going to improve the game worldwide, but I don’t see us slowing down anytime soon. I think we still want to be ahead and make sure that gap keeps getting bigger. So I don’t see it closing anytime soon.”

Australia have maintained all along that their goal is to win the Ashes, not simply retain them, and that hadn’t changed after Sunday’s achievement.

“We’ve come here to win the Ashes,” King said. “No-one really wanted to retain it but it’s great that we’ve ticked that box. If we win the Ashes that will be a job done for us and I think we keep stretching that. Yes, we want people to come with us but also we don’t want them to get too close. We want to still be ahead in world cricket and hopefully we can keep showing that.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s an exciting time, we’ve won a game in the Ashes series and it’s great that we’ve retained it, but there’s definitely no complacency with that. So we’ll go out there on Tuesday to make sure that we finish off this series the way we came in.”

King hadn’t played since the Test, but she returned to great effect, her stunning legbreak to remove Beaumont after her 60 from 62 balls had set England’s run-chase off to a bright start was a gem, which had her father in raptures in the stands, among a crowd of 12,380.

“I actually haven’t seen it but people keep telling me it was a great ball and my dad kept screaming out on the balcony that it was a ripper ball,” King said. “Glad to be back in the squad and glad that we got the win today.”

For England’s part, Knight doesn’t believe there is a gap between the sides any more and her side would be out to prove that by seeking to add a 2-1 ODI victory to their T20I scoreline from earlier in the Ashes, which she described as the best series in the history of the women’s game.

“This series has shown that we’re very evenly matched,” Knight said. “Cricket-wise we’ve definitely gone toe-to-toe with them. Our work on this has been trying to manage those big moments and trying to be a lot clearer and calmer in those situations. We’ve really done that brilliantly. There’s certainly the belief that we’re good enough to beat this side.

“We probably could do a lot of things a little bit better and different today but it’s just been an unbelievable series, two titans going head to head and fighting it out. It’s certainly been entertaining, albeit nerve-racking, to play these games. I don’t think there’s too much between these sides, for us it’s to try and prove that and win the ODI series at Taunton, and try and level the series overall.

“It’s got to be the best series there’s ever been in the history of the women’s game,” Knight concluded. “It’s been unbelievable. Two sides going toe-to-toe fighting it out. Every game has been pretty close. Obviously disappointment but pride as well in the fact that we got so close.”

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