Meg Lanning held a stunning catch in what was a superbly sharp performance from Australia

England 129 (Ecclestone 32*, Jones 28, McGrath 3-4, Perry 3-12, Jonassen 2-25) v Australia

Ellyse Perry produced a vintage performance while spinners Alana King and Jess Jonassen strangled a beleaguered England in the second ODI at the Junction Oval as red-hot Australia moved closer to an outright Ashes victory.
An almost flawless Australia dominated through relentless bowling, spectacular catching and astute captaincy from Meg Lanning as England tumbled after a bright start to be bowled out for 129 in the 46th over.

Having retained the Ashes after a 27-run win in the opening ODI in Canberra, Australia lead 8-4 in the multi-format series and victory in this match – with just the final ODI on Tuesday left – would close the door on England’s bid to level the series.

England had hopes of replicating the 2017 Ashes when they won the final two T20Is to square the series 8-all but those dreams look forlorn after a batting collapse in favourable conditions amid a sun-drenched Melbourne.

Lanning made all the right moves starting with electing to field after winning the toss. Having initially struggled to find the right length, Perry found her groove to remove opener Tammy Beaumont after wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy held a brilliant outstretched catch in her right glove.

It was Perry’s first ODI wicket since October 2019 but England steadied through Lauren Winfield-Hill and skipper Heather Knight to finish the powerplay at 40 for 1 after 10 overs. They eyed a healthy total as Winfield-Hill stroked the ball sweetly around the ground in a bid to cement a permanent spot in England’s ODI team.

But Winfield-Hill, as is her bane, failed to convert a start and she succumbed to the spin of King, who struck with her third delivery. The Melbourne local, supported by friends and family wearing ‘Alana Army’ T-shirts in the terraces, menaced with sharp turn to spook an England batting order unconvincingly trying to play the turn off the back foot.

A miserly Jonassen frustrated Nat Sciver, who holed out on 8, then trapped Knight for 18 after Lanning opted for a review despite limited conviction from the bowler. It was the third straight time Knight had been dismissed lbw in the series.

The spinners combined for 21 for 2 during 11 overs working in tandem but Lanning brought back Perry in the 24th over and it did the trick with the wicket of Sophia Dunkley. Lanning’s purple patch continued when she took a blinder at first slip to dismiss Danni Wyatt then Perry claimed Charlie Dean for a duck as England slumped to a dire 68 for 7.

Amy Jones and Sophie Ecclestone lifted them into triple figures but they fell well short of a par total as seamer Tahlia McGrath finished the job with three late wickets.

Australia’s efforts were made even more impressive without their two match-winners from the opening ODI after Beth Mooney rested with quad tightness and Darcie Brown missed due to general soreness.

Katherine Brunt was ruled out with a minor side niggle as England’s bid to stay alive in the series now rests on conjuring a remarkable performance in the field.

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth