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Women’s Ashes: Alice Capsey keeps England comeback dream alive

Alice Capsey struck 46 from 23 to fire England to victory in the final IT20 match of the Ashes series in front of a record crowd at Lords.

The home side won with five wickets and four balls to spare as they clinched the IT20 series, and kept their slim hopes of winning the Ashes alive. 

A home record crowd at an England women’s game of 21,610 flooded into Lord’s, with the atmosphere fit for the magnitude of the match-up set to take place. Each match in the series previously had gone to the final over.

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With the rain clouds enclosing on an expectant Lord’s, England won the toss and elected to field in the last of three T20 matches of the Ashes series. 

Australia captain Alyssa Healy, perhaps still angry about having lost the toss, took her frustrations out on England opening bowler Charlie Dean. Healy drove Dean’s first ball through the covers to the boundary, before pulling the second for four more. A perfect start for Australia.

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She continued her aggressive opening into the second over, finding the boundary again. Just a ball later, however, Healy smashed a ball straight back at bowler Natalie Sciver-Brunt. As time seemed to slow, Lord’s drew breath as the ball hit the hand of Sciver-Brunt, before painfully bouncing to the ground. 

It seemed like a big moment. Sciver-Brunt lay on the floor, head in hands, as an unnerving silence fell upon the previously raucous crowd.

But it was Charlie Dean who saved the blushes of her fellow bowler. Just two overs later she trapped Healy LBW. The Australian captain hardly paused for the decision before trudging off the pitch.

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Tahlia McGrath entered the fray, finding the boundary on a couple of occasions before mistiming a Danielle Gibson ball straight into the hands of Alice Capsey at midwicket.

Attention turned to Beth Mooney. Australia’s hero in the first T20 turned up the heat on the England bowlers. She smashed Sarah Glenn to the fence three times from as many balls as Australia’s score continued to rise.

Just as Australia threatened to pull away, however, Sciver-Brunt struck. Pitching the ball full and bursting through Mooney’s pad and bat onto the stumps.

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Ashleigh Gardner took up the baton of Australia’s power hitter. She hit the games first maximum over the head of long-on, before finding the rope on three more occasions. 

It took a moment of brilliance from England keeper Amy Jones to dismiss Gardner before she was allowed to do too much damage. Jones stood up to the stumps to a Sciver-Brunt ball and took a brilliant catch from a top edge  – she even removed Gardner’s bails for good measure. 

Those rain clouds that had encircled Lord’s now lay firmly over the historic ground. A brief flutter of rain forced the players off and on the pitch in quick succession.

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When play resumed, Ellyse Perry and Grace Harris continued Australia’s charge, piling on some much needed late runs for Australia. 

That partnership was finally broken, as Lauren Bell trapped Perry in front of her stumps to bring an end to an important 34 run innings.

Sophie Ecclestone made sure the final over of the innings was an entertaining one. Two dropped catches, one boundary, a wicket and a run-out capped off a fascinating innings. Australia finishing with 155-7.

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As play was set to resume, however, the rain began to fall. The clouds had no intention of a brief flutter either this time, with play delayed for almost an hour before the heavens let up.

Off came the covers, and up went the cheers at Lord’s. The record home crowd giving Sophia Dunkley and Danni Wyatt as much encouragement as they could as the two England openers stepped out with the task of reaching a slightly (rain) altered 119 from 14 overs. 

The two batters did not disappoint. Wyatt in particular, taking a liking to the bowling of Megan Schutt and Ashleigh Gardner, dispatching both bowlers to the boundary on a number of occasions. 

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Schutt bounced back well, however, finally finding the edge of Wyatt after being on the receiving end of three fours in the over.

And things went from bad to worse for England as Dunkley fell to the first ball of the following over. For the first time in the home side’s innings, a nervous air fell across the stadium.

Enter Alice Capsey. England’s number four entered the fray at a difficult moment for her side, but alongside Sciver-Brunt, helped steady the ship, before propelling it to victory.

Capsey’s quickfire 46 put England in firm control. She struck four fours, and sent two massive shots straight over the boundary at cow corner, much to the delight of the roaring Lord’s crowd.

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Capsey finally fell after being caught on the boundary off the bowling of Schutt. Her innings left England only thirteen runs short of the required total with fifteen balls spare. 

With the home crowd waiting in anticipation for England to reach their total, nervy moments were still to come. Needing only three to win, Sciver-Brunt was well bowled to end her 25 run knock, and Heather Knight succumbed only two balls later after being pinned LBW. 

Danielle Gibson was next to bat, and having managed only one run in her previous two innings, England needed two from five. Gibson, however, did not let her previous record phase her, as she nonchalantly reverse swept her first ball for four to hand England victory. 

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While England still require three wins from the three upcoming ODI matches against Australia, it seems there is an air of confidence among the host nation as they secured back to back victories over their rivals from down under.