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Amy Jones: This is England, ‘a different side’

Australia haven’t quite been themselves for the greater part of this Women’s Ashes series but nor have England, says Amy Jones, who believes that’s a good thing.

Jones isn’t the first to highlight that conceding a 6-0 points deficit might have sent previous England sides into their shells but, after “disaster Ashes before”, the hosts have drawn a line which now sees them level at 6-6 with two games to play.

“It doesn’t feel like we’re playing a different side, it just feels like we’re a different side, and the way we’re going about is different,” Jones said on the eve of the second ODI at the Ageas Bowl. “We’ve seen really close games, it’s not at all like we’ve smashed the games that we’ve won, and the games that we’ve lost, they’ve been really close. We’re just seeing two really close-matched teams playing some really exciting cricket.”

England still need to win both remaining matches to win back the Ashes, held by Australia since 2015, while the Australians need to win just one to draw the series and retain them, with the final fixture to be played in Taunton on Tuesday.

“There was more pressure when we were six-nil down,” Jones said. “There is now the feeling within the group – just purely because we’ve had disaster Ashes before – not wanting to repeat that and knowing that if you get the first win it brings another level of belief with that.

“So I don’t feel like there’s any extra pressure now. If anything, it’s just doing what we’ve been doing and trying to stay in the moment. When you’re winning, it’s a lot happier in there and you’re not trying to create belief, it’s there.”

There was more than an inkling, as nearly 20,000 fans cheered them on at Edgbaston, that England could muster the fight they needed to level series. Yes, Australia won that first of three T20Is by four wickets, but they only did so with a ball to spare, No. 8 Georgia Wareham punching the first ball she faced towards cover and scampering for a single with Beth Mooney, who had guided the run-chase with an unbeaten 61 to be player of the match.

Had England won, however, that honour could have gone to Jones, whose assertive 40 not out from just 21 balls helped her side to a respectable total from 26 for 2. To Jones, it was a significant moment for England, who went on to win the next three matches.

“We got a lot of confidence from the Edgbaston game, the first T20,” Jones said. “Just it being so close and how just a couple of different things could have really changed that, so there’s that feeling of knowing we weren’t far off. Then I think, just on the whole emphasis on focusing on the next game, not looking too far ahead and staying in the moment, it’s been a really key thing for us as a group.

“Obviously, we didn’t get the win but in terms of the things that we’re trying to do, it promotes playing with freedom, playing your shots. People come to watch good cricket and exciting cricket and having the freedom to do that without too much fixation on the result and if you get out has resulted in some good, entertaining cricket.”

While Australia have committed some uncharacteristic fielding mistakes and lacked their trademark clinical edge over the course of their three defeats, neither side would say they have produced the ultimate performance yet.

Shelley Nitschke, Australia’s head coach, said her side were missing some polish but, despite a rain-hit lead-up to the match in Southampton, she was backing them to find the improvements they needed come game-time.

“It’s just a matter of keep believing, stick together and we know we’ve got the team that can put out a better performance than we have been doing, so it’s just making sure that we stay positive and keep believing that we can win the Ashes,” Nitschke said.

“We’d be lying if we said we’ve been at the top of our game, so across bat, bowl and field there’s something we can take away and improve on. So we’re looking for a little bit more polished effort and it would be nice for someone to go big with the bat. We’ve been getting a lot of starts so there’s a lot of good signs there, but we just need to go on with it.

“We’ve shown across the years that, during close games, we find a way. We believe that it’s a close series and we’re going to find a way. To lose three games on the trot is not ideal but we’ve got an amazing record, we’re a great team… It’s a challenge for them, it’s an unusual position that we find ourselves in, so it’s a really good challenge both physically and mentally. I’m looking forward to seeing how they respond.”

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