ENGLAND V AUSTRALIA 2
Umpires: Annie Kloppers, Chris Campbell, and Bobbi Brown nz
ENGLAND: GS: Louisa Brownfield GA: Pam Cookey WA: Tamsin Greenway C: Sara Bayman WD: Jade Clarke GD: Sonia Mkoloma © GK: Geva Mentor
AUSTRALIA: GS: Kate Beveridge GA; Natalie Medhurst WA: Madison Browne C: Natalie Von Bertouch WD: Renae Hallinan GD: Mo’onia Gerrard GK: Laura Geitz
England started this match 90 minutes away from the chance of making history with a first series win over the world number one team, but the Australians are not top dogs without reason and they ensured the Co-operative International Netball Series will go down to the third and final game.
The weight of expectation on the team must have been great and it was a cautious start GS Louisa Brownfield’s first shot of the game skipped over the ring but the ball was turned over mid court, returned to Pam Cookey who netted the first of her 23 goals from 24 attempts. It was smooth going for a while before England started letting errors slip into the game their 2-goal lead was reversed and Australia went ahead for the first time in the series. Dynamic Diamond Madison Browne, remember that name, was outstanding at wing-attack as the Aussies kept tighter and sailed into a 13-7 lead, although due to a scoreboard error the crowd in Nottingham were told it was 14-7.
Louisa Brownfield had not been nailing her trademark shots under the post and so Sue Hawkins brought Jo Harten on at GS for the second quarter and moved Bayman to WD to have a go at keeping pace with dynamo Browne. Jade Clarke took on the centre bib and the movement helped England settle better, especially in the shooting circle as Jo Harten made sure with her first shot in the match, it did not touch the sides, and was followed by another. Highlight of the quarter had to be an interception from Mo’onia Gerrard, a finch-like flash of green and gold robbing Pam Cookey of possession - she is fast, fast, fast.
Throughout this fifteen minutes England dragged themselves back in touch only to toss away advantage with some bad decisions under pressure and bad communication. The Diamonds were seven ahead, 15-22, before the red and white mid-court went on a mission; Bayman halting the influence of Browne turning-over just shy of the Aussie circle. Tamsin Greenway was also industrious tipping ball left, right and centre court - they were all-in-all a right pair of profitable scavengers. Their efforts got England back within a goal at half-time. Score 23-24.
Co-captain Karen Atkinson came on at centre for the third quarter while the Diamonds gave Rebecca Bulley a run at GK. There was a kind of formal kind of goal-swap to get underway (your turn, my turn) before England snuck a turnover through Tamsin Greeway and levelled it up at 28-28 but could not convert the centre pass and so missed the opportunity to go head. Again it was the bulldog spirit for the English, fighting back with a cracking Jade Clarke interception and with quick ball up the court it was in the net. But there was not enough of the classy stuff, which is a shame as it worked. An Aussie time-out mid-quarter allowed Cookey and Harten to swap bibs as Medhurst had her finger strapped, they finished with Cookey as GS and Harten GA trailing 39-34.
And they changed back for the final quarter while the Diamonds stayed as they were. With a bit more pep from the England girls and more close marking from Australia it was tight now on both sides. England double-marked Madison Browne at times but she seemed as lively as when she started, always available for free ball from centre to give to shooters - she was deservedly the Mitre Player of the Match. The home side were still making handling errors and there was a lack of communication between the players as balls failed to go to hand and disappeared out of court. A stark contrast to their opponents. Jade Clarke had to leave the court after hurting her finger and was replaced by her Northern Thunder team-mate Sara Bayman. Eventually the England pep pooped and at the final whistle Australia celebrated victory 53-48 and not 54-48 as the scoreboard claimed.
The final match will decide the series in London on Tuesday, 23rd February, 2010 at the O2 Arena.