Australia are halfway to retaining the Women’s Ashes after crushing England by 75 runs (DLS method) to win the ODI leg of the multi-format series in straight sets.
Not even a ferocious hail storm at the innings break could save England, who were bowled out for 209 chasing a revised target of 285 from 46 overs having conceded 6-296.
Rachael Haynes was the star for the hosts, clocking a career-best ODI knock of 89no from 56 balls to complement half-centuries from Ellyse Perry (67), Nicole Bolton (66) and Alyssa Healy (56) after they were sent in to bat.
Swing bowler Megan Schutt picked up 4-26 as the hosts bowled out the English in the 43rd over.
It now means Australia hold a commanding four-point lead in the series, needing only eight points to retain the Women’s Ashes, and have claimed four points in the new round of the ICC Women’s Championship, the global round-robin tournament that leads to World Cup qualification.
However, Australia’s victory did not come without drama and controversy.
On the morning of the match, dynamic allrounder Ashleigh Gardner was ruled out with concussion.
The 20-year-old copped a knock to the helmet during her 18-ball cameo of 27 in Brisbane last Sunday and subsequently developed symptoms of concussion after the match.
While she rested upon arriving to Coffs Harbour and trained lightly on Wednesday, Gardner was deemed unfit to play and replaced by leg-spinner Kristen Beams.
Already without the services of Gardner, Australia lost spearhead Perry in just the fourth over of England’s run chase when the right-armer was banned from bowling after delivering back-to-back waist-high full-tosses.
The first was head-high ‘beam ball’ at visiting captain Heather Knight before following it up with another full-toss above the waist next ball.
Perry was immediately pulled from the attack by standing umpire Claire Polosak, forced to play boundary rider for the remainder of the innings.
It mattered not as Australia had posted their highest team total in five years and their second largest score against England, just three runs behind the 2-299 at Newcastle in 2000.
Having failed to capitalise on a promising start in her return to the top of the order in Brisbane, Healy got her eye in before upping the ante against the English attack.
A six and two fours flew off Healy’s bat in the 14th over bowled by medium-pacer Nat Sciver on the way to her second ODI half-century in six innings.
Her stay ended with the score on 98 when she missed a straight one from Ecclestone and was bowled, but where Healy left Perry and Bolton carried on, adding 63 before Bolton’s important innings as Australia’s anchor was reeled in.
Perhaps the sole highlight for England soon followed when Knight nabbed an early contender for catch of the series, a two-handed full-length dive at point to dismiss Elyse Villani.
One firework was followed by another as Perry and Haynes teamed up for the partnership of the match worth 87 from 70 balls.
Perry, with her immaculate technique, clocked two sixes and a brace of boundaries, an effort outdone by her skipper who registered the same number of maximums but three more fours batting together.
England had few answers and poor fielding did not help their cause. While the Healy drop didn’t cost the tourists anything, Brunt’s fumbled return catch from a checked Perry drive would set England back 26 runs.
Perry’s flying knock was terminated in the same fashion as in Brisbane – out stumped – but her departure did not slow down Haynes, who cleared the pickets once again as Australia added 94 from the final 10 overs.
When the blanket of hailstones evaporated and the rain satisfactorily mopped up, swing bowler Megan Schutt had just enough time to make a breakthrough – Lauren Winfield lbw for two.
In the third over the rain returned as brilliant lightning lit up the darkening skies in the distance, reducing the second innings and England’s victory target.
An over later Perry was expelled from the attack before Schutt added the scalp of England’s other opener, Tammy Baumont falling in the same fashion as Winfield.
First-drop Sarah Taylor and Knight put on 57 for the third wicket before the old firm of Healy and McGrath combined, well, in a historical sense at least. Tahlia McGrath’s clever off-cutter found the edge of Taylor’s bat through to Healy for the South Australian’s first international wicket.
Knight fell on her sword for 37, trapped leg before by the spin of Amanda Jade-Wellington before Katherine Brunt and Fran Wilson combined for 68, a partnership broken by a spectacular running catch by Perry in the deep to give Schutt her third wicket and send Wilson back to the dugout.
Brunt’s lone-hand produced five fours, one six and her first ODI half-century, but as the required run rate ballooned beyond 12 runs per over she was out bowled by Schutt looking for the boundary.
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
Australia lead England 4-0
Australia squad (ODI and Test): Rachael Haynes (C), Alex Blackwell (VC), Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa (Test only), Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.
First ODI Australia won by two wickets
Second ODI Australia won by 75 runs (DLS method)
Third ODI Coffs International Stadium, October 29
Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12
First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17
North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation
Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19
Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21
Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT