England have wrapped up their first ever series victory over the Australian Diamonds with a 51-49 win in the second Test at Wembley Arena on Wednesday.
The victory sees England, who has won consecutive Tests against Australia for the first time, claim an insurmountable 2-0 series lead with one Test still to be played in Birmingham on Saturday.
The intense battle came down to the wire as the hosts overcame a slow start to outplay the Diamonds in the second-half, with the Australians guilty of now capitalising on the key moments when the game was in the balance.
Rising star Kimberley Ravaillion was rewarded for her outstanding debut on Sunday with her first start at centre as Alexander opted for the same seven that nearly pulled off a comeback in the first Test.
The Diamonds started the must-win match strongly, putting the first Test defeat behind them from the first whistle as they looked to level the series, scoring the first two and last four goals of the quarter to lead 15-11 at quarter-time.
The second quarter started just as it finished as the Australians grew in confidence and extended their advantage to six-goals early in the second stanza, with shooters Caitlin Bassett and Erin Bell finishing the quarter with a flawless 11 from 11 under the post.
The Australians held a narrow 27-26 lead at the main break, despite a late come back from England, as Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander resisted the urge to make changes to her seven.
The physical battle intensified in the second half as England defenders Eboni Beckford-Chambers and Stacey Francis upped the body work on Bassett in the circle which subdued the Diamonds in attack.
England got a sniff of their first series victory when they edged out to a five-goal lead in the third quarter to the delight of the near capacity crowd, who were in full voice as history beckoned.
A couple of interceptions from Australian goal keeper Rebecca Bulley helped her side level the scores 36-36 before a succession of late handing errors cost the world champions, who trailed 40-37 at three-quarter time.
Battling to save the series, Alexander introduced the experience of Catherine Cox at goal shooter and Mo’onia Gerrard at wing defence at the final break before reshuffling the deck to introduce Susan Pratley into goal attack after Ravaillion went down with injury.
The changes had an immediate impact as Australia again closed the gap to within one goal with five minutes remaining however a crucial intercept from England centre Serena Guthrie led to her side establishing a three-goal buffer with just minutes remaining.
Time ran out on the Diamonds late charge as England held onto the two-goal victory.
ENG Q1: 11 – Q2: 26 (15) – Q3: 40 (14) – Q4: 51 (11)
AUST Q1: 15 – Q3: 27 (12) – Q3: 37 (10) – Q4: 49 (12)
Team Starting Positions
GS Joanne Harten
GA Pamela Cookey (c)
WA Sasha Corbin
C Serena Guthrie
WD Sara Bayman (vc)
GD Stacey Francis
GK Eboni Beckford-Chambers
GS Caitlin Bassett
GA Erin Bell
WA Madison Browne
C Kimberley Ravaillion
WD Renae Hallinan
GD Chanel Gomes
GK Rebecca Bulley
ENG: Q3 – GS Nadeen Corbin, GA Harten, WA Cookey
AUST: Q4 – GS Cox, GD Gerrard; Q4 timeout: GA Pratley, WA Bell, C Browne
Tour of England Schedule
Test 1: Monday 21 January England 58 def Australia 53
Test 2: Thursday 24 January England 51 def Australia 49
Test 3: Sunday 27 January @ 4.30am*, National Indoor Centre – Birmingham
*All times are AEDT
Watch all the Australian Diamonds action LIVE by tuning into FOX SPORTS 2 or logging onto Bigpond Sport TV to live stream the match on your computer from 4.00am Sunday 27 January (AEDT). For more information check local guides.