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Heather Knight - 'We haven't had that killer instinct to get over the line'

The best England women can hope for after defeat in the first ODI is to draw the Ashes

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
03-Feb-2022
Australia celebrate retaining the women's Ashes  •  Getty Images

Australia celebrate retaining the women's Ashes  •  Getty Images

Twice in five days at Manuka Oval, England have had it within their grasp to keep the Ashes alive, but instead Heather Knight was left to reflect on the trophy staying with Australia until at least 2023.
After being unable to chase 45 off the last 10 overs of the Test match, it never really felt they were in the hunt for a target of 206 on a tricky surface, even though the margin was narrow enough in the end to add to the pain.
However, Knight continued to believe that her side are close to turning over Australia. They can still square the multi-format series 8-8, as they did in 2017-18, and the two teams will meet again in their opening World Cup match next month.
"Think we really aren't that far away," she said. "We've gone toe-to-toe with them. Our mentality this series has been really good. We haven't been able to quite get over the line which is a shame, but we believe we are good enough to beat them.
"We just haven't had that killer instinct to get over the line and when you let a couple of things slip, they are the sort of team who will make you pay and not give you a second chance."
Having batted well in the first T20I only to see Australia canter past the target with three overs to spare, they have now bowled very well only to find that Australia can go that one step further.
With the bat the home side found a way to pass 200 with an eighth-wicket stand of 52 then two bowlers - Darcie Brown and Tahlia McGrath - who began the season far from certain of having a regular place in the team, combined to take 6 for 68 in 20 overs.
"Thought we bowled outstandingly and were really unlucky," Knight said. "We took the game to them, bowled perfectly to the plan, adapted to the pitch. Then just kept losing wickets in that chase. You'd back yourself to chase that…but we couldn't string that partnership together.
"In the three games we've played we haven't been able to string batting and bowling together in a complete performance. But proud of the way the girls fought, the lower order kept the hope alive but unfortunately the Ashes are gone."
Knight's first-ball duck early in the chase was a huge moment and reward for Brown pitching the ball up, having had Tammy Beaumont caught at slip from an outswinger the delivery before. It was very similar to the manner of Knight's dismissal in the Test run chase and anything but a fluke for Australia, even if Brown assessed her role in it modestly.
"We have [talked about it] but guess I can't really bowl on command that often, so luckily these two have worked out and they've been pretty similar balls," Brown said. "Just trying to pitch it up and get it to swing a bit. If you aim at stumps, she misses I hit.
"In the India series I bowled a bit short. I can swing it sometimes when I pitch it up so that's one my weapons. If I bowl short I'm taking that away as well as keeping the short ball as a variation to keep the batters a bit surprised. Hopefully I keep pitching it up and being a bit more consistent."
With Tayla Vlaeminck now sidelined again with another long-term injury, Brown is the point-of-difference in the Australia side that few can match. "Darcie is great to have," Meg Lanning said. "She runs in hard and wants to bowl quick and goes like: 'Okay, I will do whatever you want me to do'."
It is now two four-wicket hauls in three ODIs this season, two Test caps and the prospect of being a key weapon in a World Cup title tilt.
"I wasn't really expecting to play too much," Brown said. "Was thinking I was going to be running drinks, so it's credit to the coaches and my team-mates who have backed me in. It's pretty special to be part of the Ashes and retain it with this group."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo