Gardner set to return as Australia try to extend lead

Australia are poised to regain the services of dynamic all-rounder Ash Gardner for the crucial third women's Ashes one-day international on Sunday, while England captain Heather Knight has conceded she made the wrong call with the toss in the heavy game-two defeat.

Gardner, who took three wickets and produced what amounted to a game-winning 27 (off 18 balls) in Brisbane, missed game two in Coffs Harbour when she developed concussion-related symptoms after taking a knock to the helmet in the opener.

The Australians won handily without her, thumping the tourists by 75 runs after racing to 6-296 when sent in on a beautiful batting strip that should play equally as well on Sunday.

But she has trained strongly during the week and will almost certainly feature in the XI, with leg-spinner Kristen Beams the unlucky cricketer to be dropped from a winning side.

"She [Gardner] got through training today [Saturday], so I think she just has to be cleared by our medical staff later this afternoon back at the hotel. But if that all goes through, I think she'll come back into the XI," Australian skipper Rachael Haynes said.

"Just a couple of boxes that she needs to tick, so to speak, but we expect her to come back in."

A victory in the final one-dayer would make it exceedingly difficult to win back the Ashes crown. Next in the multi-format series is a four-day Test in Sydney, followed by three T20s.

Australia already have four points and need eight to retain their title. That makes this a do-or-die match for England on Sunday, with another loss meaning Australia needs just a draw at North Sydney Oval to get over the line.

Knight raised eyebrows when she sent Australia to the crease on Thursday. The prospect of bad weather influenced her call but when it stayed clear for the home side's knock, it was clear the England leadership had pulled the wrong rein.

"I think in hindsight it probably wasn't the right decision to bowl," she said. "The weather in that middle period slowed down the outfield a lot for us and that didn't help. But tomorrow is a new game, obviously on the same pitch, and it is going to be 100 overs on that wicket.

"But I think it'll still be a very good wicket. It won't skid on as it did under lights and it is a new game and we'll make a call on the toss before the game."

Australia have made it clear they want to maintain the pressure given the emphatic nature of the victory on Thursday. Haynes said they would not make the same mistake as England if they came out on the right side of the toss.

"That would be nice [to bat first again]," Haynes said. "It looks like a good wicket. It looks they've put a little bit of water into it over the last couple of days, but I have no doubt it will probably bake and be a really good batting wicket.

"This match is a really important game. Three-nil sounds a lot better than 2-1 leading into a Test match. We'll be looking to really assert [ourselves] in this third match and try and pick up the win."

This story Gardner set to return as Australia try to extend lead first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.