Women's Ashes 2019: How far are England behind Australia after chastening defeat?

By Jack SkeltonBBC Sport

Bowled out for just 75 to fall to their second biggest one-day defeat ever and a 6-0 series deficit - England's hopes of regaining the Women's Ashes look all but over.

The hosts now need to win the one-off Test and all three T20 internationals to beat Australia after losing all three one-day internationals.

But was their dismal 194-run thrashing by Australia in the third ODI in Canterbury on Sunday indicative of a vast gulf between the two sides or just an embarrassing blip?

Former England batter Ebony Rainford-Brent told Test Match Special the result has "blown up the question" of the difference in quality but was "not a fair reflection" as England are "much better than this".

Yet former Australia international Mel Jones said it proves Australia are an "infinitely better" team than the hosts.

How far behind Australia are England and why?

Batting woes

England have particularly struggled with the bat against Australia, sustaining two collapses as they were bowled out for 177 and 217 in the first two matches before their bowlers kept it tight.

Electing to bat second this time, the hosts never looked capable of what would have been an England record chase of 270, slipping to 21-6 after nine overs on their way to their third lowest ever ODI total.

Ellyse Perry claimed a stunning 7-22, exploiting the slope at the St Lawrence ground to move the ball in and trap batters lbw or swing it away to draw edges, with most England batters showing poor footwork.

England captain Heather Knight said she "didn't know" if it was a technical or mental issue but admitted her side "haven't had an answer" to Australia's bowling.

Rainford-Brent said it looked like England "hadn't prepared themselves" for how Perry would bowl and questioned whether the batters were thinking clearly at the crease.

"Even with a low total, you'd think that someone would be able to hang around and scratch out 30 or 40, but fact that nobody was able to do that, that's more worrying," she said.

Bowling depth

Strike bowler Katherine Brunt, 34, missed the third ODI because of an ankle injury she picked up celebrating a wicket in the second match.

Australia had looked on course for over 300 at the halfway stage before the hosts did well to peg them back, but an under-strength bowling line-up still conceded a total that ultimately proved well beyond England's grasp.

In contrast, Australia were able to hold back Delissa Kimmince, who took 5-26 in the second ODI, until the 30th over.

"We are hoping Katherine Brunt is available for the Test because she is a hard girl to replace but we're going to have to find a way soon as she's in her twilight years," England coach Mark Robinson told Sky Sports.

Rainford-Brent said Brunt may have made a difference but England's other bowlers need to start delivering because "this is the nucleus that needs to take the team forward" after Brunt retires.

"Mark Robinson may start to get a few questions if this tournament continues as it is because that's just not good enough," she added.

'Everyone else is miles behind'

World champions England came into the series having won 14 completed limited-overs matches in a row, although Australia are ranked first in the world in both ODIs and T20s.

Jones said she was "a little lost for words" at England's performance having been so impressed by "how they handled the expectation of a home World Cup" in 2017.

Rainford-Brent said that England "can beat the rest of the world" but that there is a "gap between one and two [Australia and England] and then everyone else is miles behind".

Was England's dominant ODI series win over West Indies last month therefore not sufficiently challenging preparation for the Ashes?

"The better teams put you under pressure for sustained periods, the lesser teams let you off with some width," said Robinson.

"Australia have bowled very well but we've had no answers - it's an attack we've done well against before though so it's disappointing we've fallen over so quickly."

Domestic structure

Rainford-Brent said the difference between the sides is down to Australia having a "better overall structure from the domestic game up", with a deeper pool of players from the Women's Big Bash League.

"When Australian cricketers come through they really thrive at this level and maybe with England the depth is not quite there," she said.

She also asked whether England players can get "cabin fever" by spending too much time in camp at Loughborough.

"Your way of thinking can sometimes become a bit single-minded - you wake up, eat, train, sleep, everything in this one environment," she said.

"In terms of facilities, it's one of the best in the country but sometimes you maybe need different stimuli, different environments.

"A little more flexibility and life experience out of that can help to build some of that mental resilience and toughness that's needed."

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