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Nat Sciver-Brunt: ‘England have exceeded the public’s expectations’

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Nat Sciver-Brunt believes that England’s women have “exceeded the public’s expectations” throughout a gripping tussle with Australia, adding that a bus trip to Taunton and a slice of Sophia Dunkley’s birthday cake had helped the team to process their mixed emotions after her own outstanding innings of 111 not out from 99 balls had fallen agonisingly short of salvaging their Ashes hopes in the second ODI at the Ageas Bowl.

It was Sciver-Brunt’s third unbeaten hundred in the space of four ODIs against Australia, and just like those previous efforts – including her formidable 148 not out in the World Cup final in Christchurch last year – she finished on the losing side, as Australia’s ruthless winning machine found just enough resolve to close out another tense encounter.

“What a game we had,” Sciver-Brunt said on the eve of the series finale in Taunton, where England’s aim will be to square the Ashes points battle at eight apiece, while securing a notable sweep of the white-ball legs, following their 2-1 win in the T20Is earlier this month.

“I’m not really sure how to respond to it, because obviously when you get a good score and you end up on the losing side, it’s a bit of a weird feeling,” she added. “Obviously, we were pretty disappointed as a side to get so close and not quite be able to do it, and not being able to retake the Ashes is another layer of that.

“But we’ve recognised that, and had conversations about that after the game, and we’re really trying to focus on tomorrow’s game, because to potentially get another series win against them would be huge.”

Asked what the team had done to process their frustrations, after coming so close to their fourth win on the bounce against an Australian team that, prior to this campaign, hadn’t lost a single international fixture since September 2021, Sciver-Brunt responded: “Well, we went on a bus to Taunton. So had plenty of time to think about it.

“We put some music on and just tried to enjoy the moment a little bit,” she added. “It was Sophia’s birthday as well, so we had a little cake on the bus and didn’t want anyone to dwell on things too much, because we’ve obviously got an important game tomorrow.

“It’s all about pride really, and knowing that what we’ve done in this series so far has been quite successful. We’ve been positive with the bat, and always looked for wickets with the ball, so our mindset doesn’t change too much from that. But it’s about making sure that we’re in a good place tomorrow, where we’ve parked our feelings about yesterday, and using that ODI series win potentially as a motivator.”

Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the second ODI, Australia’s player-of-the-match Alana King insisted that she didn’t see the gap between the teams “closing anytime soon”, despite acknowledging that England had pushed her side close in each of their three victories across the multi-format series.

Sciver-Brunt, however, took a different view. While she acknowledged that Australia were more versed in the art of victory, she was adamant that England are closing fast on a team that has swept all before it for the past five years.

“I’d say that we’re not that far apart, really,” she said. “So long as we keep our intent and the way that we play, there’s not too much of a gap.

“When the pressure moments are on, they’ve probably still got the edge on us a little bit. We’ve obviously got over the line in some close games, but probably not done it as convincingly as we’d like to.

“But we’re still on that learning curve, so I guess we’re not at the end of our journey with that. We’re still looking to improve and looking to fine-tune things a little bit as well. It’s been back and forth, two highly competitive teams going at each other in all formats.”

Given that a solitary boundary separated the teams at the end of the second ODI, arguably the key moment of the contest came in the final over of Australia’s innings, when Georgia Wareham clubbed Lauren Bell for three sixes and two fours in a momentum-seizing over that cost 26 runs. Sciver-Brunt, however, refused to single out her team-mate out for explicit blame.

“That’s one moment isn’t it? We missed a few chances in the field in our bowling innings as well. Out of 600 balls, it can’t really come down to one or two in the whole day. Little moments always lead up to it, don’t’ they? Suddenly, five [to win] might become two or three off the last ball. But there’s obviously places where we could have done better as a side and executed our skill a bit better.”

On a personal level, however, Sciver-Brunt could hardly be in a better technical or temperamental space. Like Ben Stokes in his two stand-out innings of the men’s Ashes, Sciver-Brunt’s performance was notable for an absence of fear, and a relentless focus on an end-goal that proved, on this occasion, to be just out of her reach.

“Yesterday while I was playing, I looked up at the scoreboard and I was suddenly on 40,” she said. “I was just in the moment. It all seemed to pass me by until probably the last 10-12 overs when I really needed to switch on to the scoreboard a little bit more. In high-pressure moments, that’s where we want to be able to perform and be at our best. So I was happy, in that context, to be able to put a performance on like that in such a big moment.”

Sciver-Brunt credited the influence of England’s coach, Jon Lewis, for changing her mindset in the big moments, and encouraging the squad as a whole to redefine their definition of success. And after a series that has been played in front of packed and enthusiastic crowds, with another sell-out at Taunton anticipated for Tuesday, she added that there’s plenty more pride to play for, even with the Ashes themselves out of reach.

“I think we’ve exceeded the public’s expectations,” she said. “Testing ourselves against the best team in the world, in big-pressure moments, in sold-out crowds in the biggest Ashes series we’ve had. We want to win games for England but, for us, it’s about how we want to play, and using that to inspire and entertain the nation and people who want to watch.

“For the series to be drawn on points, it would bring some pride to our performances and the way that we’ve gone about things. We’ve already got that at the moment, through the amount of people that have come to watch us and are really excited about our games. But yeah, another series win would certainly have a nice ring to it.”

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