While the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes is officially one-third complete after England won today’s final ODI in Coffs Harbour, Australia wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy says the series is currently in a state of limbo.
Australia won the three-match one-day international series 2-1 having secured victories in Brisbane a week ago and in Coffs last Thursday, but England’s 20-run DLS method win on Sunday has the Women’s Ashes up in the air as the series shifts formats to the four-day Test match in Sydney in 11 days’ time.
The hosts hold a slender two-point series lead needing to capture only four more points out of a possible 10 to retain the Ashes they won two years ago in England, and with so much cricket left to play, Healy is unsure but eager about the next phase of the tour.
"It’s sort of nowhere at the moment," Healy told reporters after play on Sunday when asked where she sees the series after the conclusion of the ODI leg.
"It’s a bit of an unknown heading into a day-night Test, how each team is going to play and how it’s going to look.
"At the moment, us 2-1 up is a great start and it’s better than us being 2-1 down.
"It livens up the series again being 4-2 and reinforces how crucial this Test match is and everyone’s going to want those four points.
"Personally I’m really excited to be involved in this next period.
"The next two weeks are going to be really exciting and hopefully Australia can get up and get the points."
Just who has the momentum was a question neither team could confidently answer after Sunday’s match.
On one hand Australia are in the driver’s seat with four points in the bank, but on the other hand England are last-start winners and kept their dreams of regaining the Ashes alive by winning a must-win match at Coffs International Stadium.
"Hopefully us," England captain Heather Knight said when asked who has the series momentum.
"We fought really hard to try and get it back.
"It can be hard in this sort of series, the matches all happen so quickly and momentum is really key, with the three formats as well.
"We’ll take a lot of confidence, a lot of belief from today’s game that we can perform when we really need to.
"Going in to that Test match it’s going to be brand new for both teams, day-night Test, it’s going to be really exciting, but hopefully we’ve got that momentum and we can take it there.”
Knight could not overstate the importance of today’s win given the perilous position it would have left her team had they lost.
"There was a lot of pressure on us today,” she said.
"It was a massive match and in the context of the series to get those two points on the board and hopefully take a bit of momentum into the Test match that’s really key for us.
"We’re a resilient bunch but we were hesitant after the first two games.
"A win today was really important to get those two points."
While Knight said relief was the overriding emotion she felt in the wake of Sunday’s win, Healy admitted the match was one that got away.
Having been set 278 to win from 48 overs after rain intervened early in the run chase, Australia were on track at 1-159 in the 30th over.
But regular wickets and a rout of slower balls kept the brakes locked in pursuit as England clawed their way back in the series.
"Three-nil would’ve looked pretty good heading in to a Test match but you’ve got to hit a little speedbump eventually,” Healy said.
"They’re not the world champions for no reason and they showed that today that they do play some really good one-day cricket.
"That middle period where they took a lot of wickets shut that game down.
"For us we’ll debrief that, move on and talk about our plans for the Test match with a fresh mindset and look to play some really aggressive cricket once again and hopefully bowl them out twice and win."
Australia now head to Canberra for a three-day pink-ball trial game against an ACT XI while England travel to Sydney to play a Cricket Australia XI under lights at Blacktown.
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
Australia lead England 4-2
Australia squad (ODI and Test): Rachael Haynes (C), Alex Blackwell (VC), Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa (Test only), Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.
First ODI Australia won by two wickets
Second ODI Australia won by 75 runs (DLS method)
Third ODI England won by 20 runs (DLS method)
Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12
First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17
North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation
Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19
Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21
Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT