Chloe Kelly hailed England as a “special team” as she once again proved to be the match-winner by scoring the decisive penalty in a World Cup shoot-out win over Nigeria.

The European Champions were second best for much of their last-16 clash, with their chances of securing victory hampered by a late red card for Lauren James after a needless stamp on Michelle Alozie.

After a goalless 120 minutes, Georgia Stanway fired the first spot-kick of the shoot-out wide for England only for both Desire Oparanozie and Alozie to miss the target with their efforts.

With everyone else successful from the spot, it fell on Kelly to emphatically smash home the winning penalty, following on from her extra-time winner in the Euros final last summer and the decisive spot-kick in a shoot-out win over Brazil in the Finalissima in April.

“No, definitely not, it is the team,” she told BBC Sport when asked about once again being the match-winner.

“This team is special, we did it in the Euros, we did it in the Finalissima, we are here again tonight and doing it; we keep pushing forward and there is more to come form this special team.

“It is amazing, anything that is thrown at us, we show what we are capable of.

“We dig deep, we dig deep as a group, we believe in our ability; first and foremost we believe in what we are being told to do.”

Asked about what was going through her head as she walked up to take her penalty, the Manchester City forward replied: “For me, it is ‘I’m going to score’ – that is how I look at it, once I win that mental battle we are good.

“We have been practising (penalties) a lot actually and it has been working.”

The Prince and Princess of Wales have congratulated the Lionesses after they secured a place in the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals.

William and Kate praised the team’s “hard-fought” victory after England beat Nigeria 4-2 on penalties on Monday.

A post on their official Twitter account said: “Well done @Lionesses!

“It was hard-fought but now we’re on to the quarter-finals. Good luck.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also took to social media to praise the victorious England team.

He tweeted: “That was tense!

“Congratulations to the @Lionesses on a hard-fought win.

“Bring on the quarter finals.”

England have reached the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals by beating Nigeria 4-2 on penalties.

England had Lauren James sent off late on as their World Cup last-16 clash with Nigeria ended 0-0 after normal time.

The 21-year-old forward, star of the Lionesses’ group stage matches with three goals and three assists, was dismissed in the 87th minute in Brisbane after standing on Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie.

James was initially shown a yellow card before VAR intervened, referee Melissa Borjas watched the incident back pitchside and it was changed to a red, leaving England with 10 players for extra time.

James and her fellow attackers had been effectively stifled by the Nigerian defence, while limited England chances included Alessia Russo and Rachel Daly being denied by Chiamaka Nnadozie, and the European champions also had a first-half penalty award for a challenge on Daly overturned via VAR.

Meanwhile, Nigeria had gone closer to breaking the deadlock, twice hitting the bar, through Ashleigh Plumptre in the first half and Uchenna Kanu in the second.

England boss Sarina Wiegman is confident the Lionesses are capable of getting creative should Nigeria target breakout talent Lauren James in their last-16 clash in Brisbane.

Chelsea forward James was awarded player-of-the-match against China in England’s final group stage contest after contributing two goals and three assists in the 6-1 victory.

Having shown the world just how dangerous she could be, it would not be a surprise if Nigeria head coach Randy Waldrum spent plenty of time planning a corresponding response to mitigate the potent threat posed by the 21-year-old.

Asked if she was prepared for that to happen, England boss Sarina Wiegman grinned and said: “Well, first of all we didn’t make the starting line-up yet.

“But I think some countries mark us and want to take out players. Not only one, but more players. So that’s good when you have so many good players on the pitch that they have to be aware of all those players.

“And we know when players are marked that you find other ways to build or create and hopefully create chances to score goals.

“So we are aware of that and we will be prepared for that.”

Wiegman could be bolstered by the return of midfielder Keira Walsh, who was carried off on a stretcher late in the first half of England’s 1-0 victory over Denmark in their second group stage game.

The knee injury sustained by the 2023 Champions League winner with Barcelona was not as serious as some suspected, and while Wiegman would not disclose Walsh’s specific diagnosis, the FA previously revealed it was not an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and on Sunday the England boss also confirmed it was not a ligament issue.

Walsh also stepped up her recovery on Sunday, joining the other 22 members of the England squad on the Central Coast Stadium pitch before the Lionesses flew to Brisbane ahead of their first match of the knockout stage.

On the eve of the Nigeria clash, Wiegman said: “She is doing well. She started her rehab straight after we knew what was going on.

“She has been on the pitch, she has been training today. Now we will wait until (we see) how she recovers from that training session and if she does well then she is available tomorrow.”

The 2023 World Cup saw the tournament expand to 32 teams for the first time, with some initially worried that the gap between the top and lower-ranked nations would be detrimental.

Yet the reality has so far been the opposite, with four of FIFA’s top 10 sides already eliminated including double-defending champions USA, who crashed out after losing a dramatic penalty shootout to Sweden.

Number two side and Euro 2022 finalists Germany, number seven Olympic champions Canada, and Copa America winners Brazil, ranked eighth, have all been eliminated.

Those giant-slayings – Canada’s at the hands of 40th-ranked Nigeria – also marked the last likely World Cup appearances for icons and pioneers in Brazil’s Marta, Canada’s Christine Sinclair and the USA’s Megan Rapinoe, who missed a penalty against Sweden and announced pre-tournament that she would be retiring at the end of the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season.

Wiegman added: “It is very, very competitive. The development of the game all over the world has gone really quickly, at a very good level.

“But I’m mainly focused on my team and on the next match with my team, so I’m  not into every game. I don’t have the full context, but that’s the main thing I have noticed.”

Lionesses captain Millie Bright is proud to be carrying on the legacy of “fearless” ex-England skipper John Terry as she leads the European champions in the World Cup.

Bright vice-captained Sarina Wiegman’s side last summer and for this tournament inherited the armband from Leah Williamson, who was ruled out after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in April.

The Blues defender herself underwent a “brutal” rehabilitation process from a March knee injury to ensure she would be fit to fight for England’s first global title in co-hosting Australia, where they are next set to face Nigeria in the last 16.

She said: “JT was a big one for me. I think the way he carried himself and he always stepped out on the pitch fearless and stepped up.

“Every team that he’s played in I think he’s done that and he’s led by example, his actions have spoken louder than his words. For me that’s definitely something I believe in as well.

“Off the pitch I think he’s a great human, he’s very caring. I know a lot from a personal level that he’s always given a lot to the women’s team. On the pitch, without a shadow of a doubt.”

Bright could soon follow in another of Terry’s footsteps, with the Blues captaincy now vacant following the departure of Magda Eriksson, who completed a move to Bayern Munich at the conclusion of the last Women’s Super League (WSL) campaign after just shy of six years with Chelsea.

The 29-year-old will likely bump into Terry more often next season after the 42-year-old five-time Premier League champion last month announced he would be returning to Chelsea for a role in the club’s academy.

Chelsea women’s boss Emma Hayes is such a Stamford Bridge stalwart that she has now seen 12 different men’s managers pass through the doors – Frank Lampard twice – during her tenure, and was in her post for nearly five years of  Terry’s playing career in west London.

The 2021 FIFA women’s coach of the year and six-time WSL Manager of the Season is “a great mentor” to Bright, helping her deal with “the hard moments of the game and what are your traits. Then it’s just habits, training yourself. I always have three aims, no matter what I stick to them.

“I think it comes with age and experience over the years, finding out how you are as a person on and off the pitch”.

Hayes, said Bright, has also reinforced the habit of thinking that “when the going gets tough (you) keep the belief, keep the calmness, and always find a way to win.”

England’s knockout stage path to a first World Cup final begins tomorrow against Nigeria, 36 places below them in FIFA’s global rankings but bolstered after ousting a top-10 side in Olympic champions Canada to reach the last 16.

The narrow margin of the Lionesses’ 1-0 victories over Haiti and Denmark to open this campaign drew criticism from some corners, while their 6-1 victory over China to conclude the group stage went some way in subduing sceptics.

Bright insists she has not been privy to criticism inside the England “bubble”, where she has deliberately avoided social media, but sends “level-headed” partner Levi Crew a list of her three personal aims before each match.

She said: “Nothing gets in and nothing gets out. It’s football, everyone’s going to have an opinion, but the only ones that are going to matter are the ones that are within our team, our squad, staff, and players.”

When it comes to the sometimes difficult conversations that do matter, Bright revealed that her armband hardly comes into play, with Wiegman instilling an open approach devoid of hierarchy.

Bright added: “Everyone is equal within our team, I think sometimes it’s seen as the captain has to say the orders, it’s not like that at all.

“I think it’s taken us a while to get to that place over the years. I think that’s something Sarina’s brought in, we need those conversations.

“It’s how you get better and how you develop. It’s all part of growth, it’s not to attack anyone or ‘you’re crap,’ whatever, it’s about how we get the best out of each other and be the best in the world.”

England veteran Rachel Daly is confident the Lionesses have the depth to cope without injured midfielder Keira Walsh when their World Cup campaign resumes on Tuesday in Adelaide.

The European champions need just a point in their final group match against China to secure top spot in Group D at Hindmarsh Stadium and set up a last-16 meeting with one of Nigeria, Canada or Australia in Brisbane.

Walsh will miss out after suffering a knee injury in Friday’s 1-0 victory over Denmark, but boss Sarina Wiegman was given an encouraging update when a scan revealed the problem was not to the 26-year-old’s anterior cruciate ligament.

Daly said: “Obviously it was heartbreaking. You always fear the worst in that situations like I’m sure you guys did. As a team-mate, as a friend, it’s even harder.

“She’s obviously such a pivotal part of our team on and off the pitch, so it was tough. It’s not nice to see anyone get injured. But a sigh of relief I suppose when it wasn’t the dreaded three-letter word (ACL) and we’re all just here to support her and get her through whatever she needs.

“It’s obviously difficult losing a player of her ability and the quality that she brings, and like I said off the pitch she’s a vital part of the team as well so it’s tough.

“[We have] a 23-player squad that can all be capable of stepping up in these moments. And we know that as a team, the players believe in that. The staff believe in that. And I hope that everybody else on the outside believes that. And yes, it’s sad to see someone not be able to play, but it’s a fantastic opportunity for somebody else to step up.

“It’s a team game and we have to get on with it and ultimately to get the job done for Keira as well. I think everyone’s just in better sprits, obviously going into the game knowing that we need to get the job done.

“I think what you saw on Friday was the resilience side that we have. It was obviously so difficult losing her, but we’ve got players to step into that role. You know, no one’s going to replace somebody else. Everyone brings something different to the squad, their own unique ability.”

Walsh, who was carried off on a stretcher in the first half of the Denmark clash and later appeared on crutches, will remain at the team’s Terrigal base in New South Wales to undergo medical assessments.

Monday also marks the one-year anniversary of the historic Wembley final that saw England lift their first major trophy at Euro 2022.

Of that victorious Lionesses squad, Ellen White and Jill Scott have since retired, while Leah Williamson, Fran Kirby and Beth Mead were ruled out of this summer’s World Cup through injury.

Losing Walsh, then, also guarantees that more than half of Wiegman’s starting XI to face China on Tuesday will be different from her unchanged line-up last summer.

So while Daly treasures that trophy and the uplift in attention paid to the Women’s Super League, she was – like many of those remaining from that triumph – eager to shift the focus to the present as England push for a first Women’s World Cup title.

The 31-year-old added: “I think the Lionesses obviously have had the target on our back a little bit, but you know, we always say pressure is the privilege and we’ve earned that, right?

“So things have changed in that sense. But yeah, I don’t think any internally, the players haven’t changed whatsoever. We’re all just the same old people that we were before. Obviously things around us change, getting recognised a little bit more, stuff like that. But yeah, I don’t think a whole lot has changed.

“And obviously, it’s not something that we particularly focus on is the Euros because a lot of the group that are with us now weren’t at the Euros, so it’s great to have that in the bag but this is a new tournament and that’s what we’re focusing on now.”

England boss Sarina Wiegman remains “concerned” about injured Keira Walsh after the midfielder was stretchered off in the Lionesses’ 1-0 World Cup Group D victory over Denmark in Sydney.

Walsh, a 2023 Champions League winner with Barcelona, started every game of England’s triumphant Euro 2022 campaign and could clearly be seen telling the team’s medical staff “I’ve done my knee” after sliding to collect the ball late in the first half.

The worrying scene dampened the elated atmosphere that followed Lauren James’ sixth-minute opener, a maiden World Cup goal for the 21-year-old Chelsea forward.

Wiegman said: “Of course I’m concerned because she couldn’t walk off the pitch, but we don’t know yet, so we can’t take any assumptions. Let’s just wait until we really have a diagnosis and then we can tell you.

“You saw what we did, (Georgia) Stanway dropped back and Laura (Coombs) came in. Yes, of course we had to find our feet a little bit.

“You saw different stages. We really dominated the first half. Then Keira went out and we had to adapt to the situation.

“In the second half, Denmark also had such a direct style of play. We also showed we can fight. The team showed real resilience. We kept it to 1-0 so it was really good and I’m really proud of the team.”

Walsh later appeared on crutches, with ex-England striker-turned-pundit Ellen White telling the BBC: “(At the 2022 Euros) Everything came through Keira. There wasn’t a plan B.

“I dreaded to think of the idea of us ever losing her because she was one of our best players. Beth Mead was scoring all the goals but all of our play came through Keira. She was the key cog, everything moved through her.

“I just don’t know who England are going to have now in that six (defensive midfield position), or even potential double six, role.”

Asked about White’s comments, Wiegman simply restated: “You saw the plan B. Georgia Stanway drops back and Laura Coombs comes in.”

An update on Walsh is not expected until Saturday at the earliest.

Wiegman fielded the same starting XI for every match of the Euros, but made two changes for the world number-four Lionesses’ second World Cup encounter against 13th-ranked Denmark.

James replaced Lauren Hemp on the left wing while Rachel Daly returned to the familiar left-back role she occupied for every match of the European Championship, and Alex Greenwood shifted to centre-back.

Wiegman’s decisions were almost instantly justified when Daly slipped the ball to James, who curled past Denmark goalkeeper Lene Christensen for what ultimately proved enough to settle the result after Amalie Vangsgaard’s header for a last-gasp equaliser clipped the post.

Wiegman likes to stress football is a full-squad endeavour, but did say of James, younger sister of fellow England international Reece James: “She has done really well but it is a team effort too and we were very careful with her.

“She is a very young, talented player. And yes, we were happy with the performance and she was ready today, so that was really good.

“Of course the approach of this game, we know that Denmark was dropping a little deeper, that they have a very tight, defensive block and we really thought we needed to play it in the pockets.

“That’s where she came a lot together also with Stanway and (Ella) Toone, and that worked really well. They really struggled with that, and yes, she made indeed a very nice goal.”

Denmark boss Lars Sondergaard extended his condolences to Walsh, and felt that while her absence perhaps led to a second-half surge from his side as England adjusted, the threat from players like James highlights how difficult it is to come up against the Lionesses.

He said: “After Keira Walsh, that’s always if you have to close one down, there’s another player. I think England has such a good team, they have always players that if you give too much notice on one player, other players will come up.”

MARY EARPS: England’s number one was reliable once again and dealt with everything that came her way including an important save from Katrine Veje’s dangerous effort in the second half. 8 (out of 10).

LUCY BRONZE: The Barcelona defender marshalled the right flank and battled high up the pitch to provide England’s attackers with dangerous crosses and passing options throughout. 8

MILLIE BRIGHT: It was a clean sheet and a composed performance from Bright, who often drove with the ball into midfield and showed her passing ability to start England’s attacks. 7

ALEX GREENWOOD: The centre-back impressed whenever she was called upon and often fizzed passes into the midfield with her preferred left boot. 6

RACHEL DALY: Pressed into the left-back position, Daly combined well with Lauren James down the left early in the game before being pegged back. Lost Danish substitute Amalie Vangsgaard for her late header against the post. 6

GEORGIA STANWAY: Stanway conducted the tempo well as England dominated the early stages, however she began to lose the midfield battle late on which saw Denmark grow in confidence. 6

KEIRA WALSH: Looked confident on the pitch as England dominated possession, before she was replaced in the first half with a serious-looking knee injury. 6

ELLA TOONE: The midfielder’s energy was a positive for England but she struggled to combine with Alessia Russo and Chloe Kelly in crucial areas before she was replaced late on. 6

LAUREN JAMES : The Chelsea youngster’s sumptuous strike from outside the box in sixth minute gave England the victory. James went from strength to strength with a series of exciting runs which would have impressed Sarina Wiegman. 8

CHLOE KELLY: Kelly contributed defensively to cover for the attacking Bronze but also came alive with the ball at her feet to create chances for England. The Manchester City winger provided a series of testing corners but could have been more clinical in the second half when she failed to make the final pass. 7

ALESSIA RUSSO: It was a quiet performance from Arsenal’s new striker, who struggled for service up front. However, she pressed hard off the ball to ensure England took all three points. 5


LAURA COOMBS (for Walsh, 38): Coombs had big shoes to fill when she replaced Walsh in the first half and rarely put a foot wrong. 6

BETHANY ENGLAND (for Russo, 76): England came on when the momentum had shifted in favour of Denmark but had one opportunity with a header which she failed to put on target. 6 

LAUREN HEMP (for Toone, 76) It was a strong cameo from Hemp, who showed her worth by running at the defence and putting in testing crosses. 7

Lauren James’ maiden World Cup goal was enough for England to maintain their 100 per cent record in Group D with a 1-0 victory over Denmark at the Sydney Football Stadium.

The Chelsea forward struck the sixth-minute opener, but England suffered a major blow after 38 minutes when midfielder Keira Walsh was stretchered off with an apparent knee injury and later appeared on the touchline using crutches.

James’ goal was England’s first from open play since April’s Finalissima at Wembley, while Denmark came within inches of a last-gasp leveller when Amalie Vangsgaard’s header clipped the post.

England now have to wait for the result of China and Haiti in the late kick-off to learn if they have advanced to the knockouts with a match to spare.

Sarina Wiegman stuck with the same starting line-up for every game of the Lionesses’ Euro 2022-winning campaign, but she shook things up against Denmark with two changes from England’s 1-0 tournament opener against Haiti.

James, who came on as a substitute in that match for her World Cup debut, replaced Lauren Hemp on the left wing while Rachel Daly returned to a more familiar left-back where she started every match of the European Championships.

That pushed Alex Greenwood to centre back, leaving Jess Carter looking on from the bench after starting against Haiti.

Wiegman’s decisions were almost instantly justified when Daly slipped the ball to James, who curled past Denmark goalkeeper Lene Christensen.

Ella Toone nearly set up James for a second soon after, but this time the 21-year-old was only able to drill a low attempt into Christiansen’s arms.

With England largely dictating play, Denmark’s first real chance of an equaliser came when Rikke Madsen collected the ball and pivoted on the right edge of the penalty area but sent her effort across the face of goal.

Lars Sondergaard’s side were picking up the pace with Janni Thomsen firing over and ex-Chelsea forward and Denmark skipper Pernille Harder denied by Mary Earps, while at the other end Lucy Bronze nodded Chloe Kelly’s corner over.

Then came what could be a devastating blow to Wiegman’s side when Walsh slid to collect the ball and was in immediate pain when she stopped.

Walsh waved off help from her team-mates as she could clearly be seen telling the team’s medical staff: “I’ve done my knee.”

The Champions League winner, named player-of-the-match in the Euro 2022 final, was stretchered off and replaced by Manchester City’s Laura Coombs.

Harder rolled an effort wide to end the first half, while Kathrine Kuhl could not find the finishing touch for Denmark after the restart.

Alessia Russo came close to extending England’s advantage when she collected the ball in midfield and drove down the pitch before firing wide of the near post from 12 yards.

Earps, who made a vital save to deny Haiti a late leveller, was tested again when she parried Katrine Veje’s cross – which seemed destined to clip the crossbar – out of harm’s way.

Both Toone and Russo’s shifts came to an end after 77 minutes as Hemp came on for the former and Russo was replaced by Beth England, who was part of the Lionesses European Championship-winning squad but did not play a single minute.

The Spurs striker directed a header wide and Bronze missed from a late attempt from distance.

The Lionesses narrowly avoided late drama when a pair of Denmark substitutes nearly combined for an equaliser, but to their relief Vangsgaard’s header from Nicoline Sorensen’s cross came back off the right post, and a leaping save from Earps in four minutes of stoppage time sealed another too-close-for-comfort result.

England defender Alex Greenwood enjoys channelling her younger self at the colouring-in station, while Lauren Hemp, Niamh Charles and Keira Walsh prefer playing table tennis in the swanky Australian hotel which will be the Lionesses’ base for the remainder of the World Cup.

The European champions’ private wing of the Crowne Plaza in the coastal New South Wales town of Terrigal is the product of more than 18 months of Football Association planning, including extensive consultation with players to create an area they hope will provide a “home from home” and lead to better performances on the pitch.

The Lionesses were an integral part of the design, from picking the inspirational quotes on the walls to requesting the wide range of activities on offer, including arcade games, a library, darts, and a popular coffee station serving up brews emblazoned with custom images in the foam. By midday on Wednesday, baristas estimated they had served up about 40 cups.

Greenwood, who alongside Lucy Bronze is playing in a third consecutive World Cup, said: “We have got an amazing base camp.

“A lot of people are doing colouring in and (doing) jigsaws. We’ve got an unbelievable set-up with a games room. The younger ones play a bit more games than the older ones. It’s a relaxed camp. The staff make it really relaxed and the experienced players help the younger ones. There’s no concern there.

“I’m actually loving colouring in at the moment. I’ve found my inner-child Alex again! Coffees and walks have been my go-to at the minute. I’m colouring in all kinds, whatever I can get my hands on. I’m running out of spaces now.”

In a tribute to team history, rooms are named after former Lionesses, including Mary Phillip, Rachel Yankey, Ellen White and ‘The Scott’ relaxation room, which former midfielder Jill joked she hoped is named after her and not defender-turned-BBC pundit Alex.

The Lionesses had a similar base at the Lensbury Resort in Teddington during Euro 2022. The FA picked up on the positive impact that retreat had on England’s triumphant campaign and were keen to recreate a similar environment for a tournament that will see them hop between three cities in the world’s sixth largest country during their quest for a maiden global title.

Kay Cossington, women’s technical director at the FA, said: “We learned so much from the Lensbury…it was the home-from-home feel, the different activities, the relaxation area, the fact that everything was in such close proximity.

“Coming to a tournament this size and scale in a country this big, we wanted to try and make the tournament as small as we could in terms of the logistics and the travel to help the loading.

“You can imagine how much kit and equipment gets shifted from venue to venue. It was really nice for us to land here and know that, although we travel to games, this is now where we come back to. This is our base. This is our home in Australia.

“We choose from a performance lens, but equally the players have got to feel that it’s right for them as well. Thankfully we are actually joined with what the need is (for them) because it’s a performance reason.”

The first time the FA spoke with FIFA about their plans was in December 2021. Six months later, Cossington and Lionesses general manager Anja van Ginhoven visited about 23 hotels and 18 training grounds in 11 days.

When the Lionesses were drawn in Group D, which will see them play matches in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide during the group stage, they were ready to submit the Crowne Plaza and nearby palm tree-lined Central Coast Stadium to FIFA as their first choice, a decision ultimately made by England boss Sarina Wiegman after extensive meetings with her team.

Everything from the player pictures splashed on the wall to the three lions etched in glass above the private entrance, not to mention the decked-out studio where Jill Scott hosts Lionesses: Down Under, is a far cry from 2005, when England hosted the European Championships for the first time.

Cossington added: “We never had anything like this. We did the best we could with the resources we had at the time. You were printing things off yourself and putting them on doors, the banners, the pop-ups, you’d carry them around with you.

“It is night and day. I’ve seen it grow and evolve incredibly, but this I truly feel has gone another step another level another mile and I think that’s again testimony to how the game has grown.”

Captain Heather Knight urged England to bounce back to draw the “best ever series” after Australia retained the Women’s Ashes with victory by three runs in the second ODI at the Ageas Bowl.

Nat Sciver-Brunt hit an unbeaten 111 in Hampshire but it was not enough to guide England to victory in pursuit of 283 with the hosts finishing on 279 for seven after a thrilling sixth encounter of the multi-format series.

After trailing 6-0 following defeats in the one-off Test and opening T20, England had stormed back to win three matches in a row and keep alive their faint chances of winning back the Ashes for the first time since 2014.

Only victory in the final two ODIs would be enough for Knight’s team, but the tourists proved too strong with Ellyse Perry’s 91 and a game-changing knock of 37 not out from Georgia Wareham, with 26 runs coming off the final over bowled by Lauren Bell, helping Australia make 282 for seven.

Sciver-Brunt was able to produce more heroics against Australia, after she hit 148 not out in last year’s World Cup final, but with 15 runs needed from the last six deliveries, Jess Jonassen held her nerve and England will aim to level the series at 8-8 in Tuesday’s final ODI in Taunton.

“God it was an unbelievable game again wasn’t it? It has got to be the best series there has ever been in the history of the women’s game,” Knight reflected.

“Two sides going toe-to-toe, fighting it out and every game has been pretty close. Yeah, obviously disappointment but real pride as well over the fact we got so close.

“The way Nat played was unbelievable. To nearly marshal the tail in that chase was brilliant, but probably left a little bit too much to do.

“Overall, we’ve put in another thriller of a performance, but the Ashes are gone which is disappointing.”

Before Sciver-Brunt’s third ODI century against Australia, the big momentum-swinger occurred in the final over of the tourists’ innings.

With Australia on a below-par 256 for seven after 49 overs, England would have fancied their chances but Wareham proceeded to hit seamer Bell for three maximums, two over midwicket, and another brace of fours.

The 26-run over went a long way to deciding the latest nail-bitter in the series, but Knight backed her young bowler to learn from the experience.

“No, not for me (the most decisive moment). Lauren has been outstanding at the death for us all series, but she is a young bowler, she will make mistakes and have days like that sometimes where it doesn’t quite go right,” Knight added.

“I think she will learn a lot from that experience.

“There is a one-day series victory on the line and it would be a really good achievement to win the T20 series and ODI series to draw the series 8-8.

“We have to rally around people, it is obviously quite a quick turnaround and there will be some emotion in that dressing room.

“But we head to Taunton tonight, down to the Holiday Inn and we have a day to regroup and go again. I think if we can end the series on a high, we can have huge pride in how we’ve played throughout the series.”

Knight had got England over the line in Wednesday’s opening ODI match in Bristol and admitted it was “horrific” to have no control in this chase.

Reflecting on Sciver-Brunt’s innings, Knight added: “It was kind of written in the stars for her to do it today.

“Unfortunately just a little bit too much but great character by her to get us even anywhere close.

“It was another unbelievably entertaining game of cricket and unfortunately we’ve been on the wrong side of this one.”

Australia spinner Alana King, who claimed three for 44, was delighted to retain the Ashes but insisted they want to win the series 10-6.

She said: “We have retained it, which is awesome but as we have said all along, we have come to win it so we have one more game to win the Ashes.”

Hannah Dingley's appointment by Forest Green Rovers has been applauded by Ellen White and Demi Stokes, with the England greats hopeful it leads to further chances for female coaches.

The League Two club promoted Dingley from her role as academy boss to caretaker head coach earlier this month, following Duncan Ferguson's dismissal.

In taking the reins at The New Lawn, Dingley has become the first woman to lead a men's senior team in English football's top four divisions.

Speaking at the launch of Pixel FC, a collective of dedicated women's football creators helping to close the visibility gap within women's football, both White and Stokes hailed the decision to appoint her.

"I think it's really exciting," White said. "It's something that everyone's been speaking about before, but I'm really excited to see a female in the men's game being a manager.

"It's really inspiring and hopefully, she does amazingly. I'm really excited to see, hopefully, more opportunities now available for women in the men's game."

White and Stokes, both members of England's Euro 2022-winning squad, outlined their hopes that Dingley's appointment will normalise pathways for women in the men's game.

"I think it's just all about visibility and [being] given an opportunity, I think that's the main thing," White added. 

"There are so many opportunities in sport for women now and hopefully, we can continue to break down barriers.

"For it not to be something that's alien or something that's very minimal [would be great]. I think it should be something that's seen and heard and visible, and that's what I'm excited to see in the future."

Stokes echoed her former team-mate's sentiments, adding: "I love it. I think it's fantastic. I think that's what you want. It should be the norm. It shouldn't be, 'oh, a female has taken over a men's side'.

"It should just be, 'this is the new manager and she is a female'. I think, male or female, as long as you're good enough for the job, then it doesn't matter who you are."

Dingley took charge of her first game on July 5, a 1-1 friendly draw with Melksham Town, and could still be in charge for Rovers' League Two opener against Salford City next month.

Footballers’ union boss Maheta Molango has highlighted the value of collective bargaining agreements in women’s sport, in a week featuring a World Cup bonus dispute between the England squad and the Football Association.

The PA news agency understands the Lionesses have been left disappointed by the fact the FA will not follow the lead of the Australian and American federations – where CBAs are in place – in paying bonuses on top of prize money being paid to players direct by tournament organiser FIFA.

Players are also understood to be frustrated over a lack of clarity over what their cut from any commercial deals done by the FA linked to the Lionesses will be, as well as the restrictions around their personal sponsorships.

Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Molango, speaking at an event to mark the Professional Players Federation’s Female Athlete Week this week, said: “We are seeing now, with many countries who are going to the World Cup, players being prepared to stand their ground when they don’t think they are being listened to.

“Issues like this really highlight for players the value of the kind of collective bargaining agreements that countries like the USA have in place in their sports, which strong player unions and associations are crucial to achieving.”

The FA has been approached for comment.

Discrimination in cricket was highlighted in a damning independent report published last week, which said sexism and misogyny towards women in the sport was “routine”.

Crucially, it called for average pay to be equalised in the domestic game by 2029 and by 2030 at international level.

Rob Lynch, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers’ Association, said at the same PPF event: “Whilst we must have that collaborative relationship (with the England and Wales Cricket Board), by virtue of the fact that they are the governing body and we represent the players, we are going to have issues and will need to have robust conversations.

“For the PCA, the collective voice is so key. When we have an issue, we need to go back to the players, explain it to them and ask them to stay tight.

“Fundamentally, keeping our players closely aligned on key topics allows us to represent their interests in the strongest way.”

Lauren Filer made an eye-catching start to her England career, snaring Australia opener Beth Mooney in the opening session of the one-off Test that kick-starts the multi-format Women’s Ashes series.

Filer was held back until the 17th over and almost had the dream start after getting an lbw verdict on Ellyse Perry from her first ball, only for an undetected edge to reprieve Australia’s batting linchpin.

But Filer vindicated her selection ahead of Issy Wong as her extra pace continued to cause issues and the tall seamer had her maiden international wicket when Mooney slashed to gully on 33 at Trent Bridge.

Kate Cross made the initial breakthrough to end a promising innings from Phoebe Litchfield, out for 23 on her first Test knock after neglecting to review an lbw verdict that would have missed off-stump.

England might have seen the back of Mooney on nine and 19 but missed tough chances in the field while their seamers were on the whole expensive as Australia raced to 100 for two after winning the toss.

Cross was entrusted with the first delivery and served up a no-ball in an opening over which yielded nine runs but she found a hint of sideways movement alongside Lauren Bell on a green-tinged pitch.

There were few alarms for the elegant Litchfield or the more cagey Mooney until Cross’ eventful fifth over. Cross was unable to cling on to a one-handed return catch off Mooney but found some succour after Litchfield shouldered arms to one that straightened and struck the left-hander’s front pad.

Litchfield eschewed a review as she trudged off and Hawk-Eye showed the ball would have sailed past off-stump.

In walked Perry with a titanic 75.2 average in this format. England have been on the receiving end of Perry’s might in the past but the hosts brought on their trump card in a bid to stifle the all-rounder.

Filer’s first ball clattered into Perry’s pads but the on-field lbw decision was overturned because of a thick inside edge discerned on replay. But Filer’s pace continued to hurry Perry in her opening over.

But it was Mooney, the top-ranked batter in ODIs and second on the list in T20s, who provided Filer with her first England wicket after a back-foot punch took the edge and carried to Cross at gully. It was a welcome wicket after Test debutant Danni Wyatt put down a diving chance off the Australia opener.

Perry (31 not out) and Tahlia McGrath (11no) ushered Australia to the lunch interval with no further alarms.

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