England have opened their account in the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes Series with a 20-run DLS method win in Coffs Harbour on Sunday.
Skipper Heather Knight’s unbeaten 88 and half-centuries from Tammy Beaumont (74) and Sarah Taylor (69) propelled England to 8-284, their highest ODI score in Australia against Australia.
The hosts appeared to be cruising to victory at 1-159 in the 30th over chasing a revised target of 278 from 48 overs, but the loss of regular wickets in the face of a mounting required run rate saw the Australians held to 9-257.
England’s win earns them two points to see the series ledger read 4-2 to Australia after the three-match ODI leg of the multi-format series.
A victory on Sunday would have left Australia needing only to draw the day-night Test in Sydney or win one of the three Twenty20 internationals to reach the eight points required to retain the Ashes.
But the series remains well and truly up for grabs, with the sides now parting ways to prepare for the inaugural pink-ball Ashes Test at North Sydney Oval starting November 9.
Alyssa Healy’s second-straight half-century (71 from 72 balls) and Megan Schutt’s 4-44 were the highlights for Australia in front of nearly 2,000 fans at Coffs International Sports Stadium.
Having conceded on match-eve the decision to bowl first on Thursday was an error in hindsight, Knight didn’t hesitate to bat when the toss fell her way.
An unchanged England side faced an Australian unit with one tweak to their line-up – Ashleigh Gardner returning to the side in place of Kristen Beams after recovering from the concussion she suffered in the opening fixture a week ago.
Spearhead Ellyse Perry struck early with the wicket of Lauren Winfield lbw for 10-ball duck but on a wicket overflowing with runs it was only a matter of time before England’s world-champion batting order filled their boots.
First-drop Taylor was due a score of substance after making starts of 34 and 26 in the first two matches of the multi-format series and on Sunday she delivered.
The No.3 started in head-scratching fashion, attempting to lap Schutt from outside off down to fine leg before advancing and missing Perry with a wafted drive two balls later.
While the rash shots continued Australia couldn’t find a way through, with Taylor Beaumont adding 122 by the time skipper Rachael Haynes turned to Schutt having tried all six of her recognized bowling options without success.
The recall of Australia’s premier swing bowler proved a masterstroke as Schutt extracted a loose cut out of Taylor, who picked out a diving Jess Jonassen at backward point to complete her demise.
Top-order barnacle Beaumont and Knight then put on 68 for the third wicket, a stand that toyed with Australia’s fielders and left Haynes short of answers.
A feature of the Beaumont-Knight pairing was their ability to use the pace of the ball and access the vacant spaces behind either side of the wicketkeeper. When the Australians drew their length back the tandem pounced on anything short. It was skillful one-day batting of the highest order but unfortunately for the tourists it sparked a collapse of 3-9.
Attempting a cheeky lap shot off Schutt, Beaumont slipped and toe-ended a full-toss that dribbled back to ‘keeper Alyssa Healy, who pounced from behind the stumps and swatted the ball back on to the wickets.
Unable to stop the slide, Beaumont’s back foot crept out of the crease as the swatted ball dislodged the bail and she was out stumped, much to the conjecture of the press box gallery whom believed a run out was the actual mode of dismissal. It wasn’t.
Knight continued to lap, paddle, poke and sweep all the way to a nifty half-century before upping the ante in the closing stages by clearing the pickets with a towering six and hitting the final ball of the innings to boundary.
England were 23-0 when scoring 270 or more batting first in an ODI but that didn’t bother Healy and Nicole Bolton, who were untroubled for most of their 118-run opening stand either side of a torrential downpour that saw the match fractionally reduced.
Healy was in glorious touch, hitting 12 fours during her stay but was out looking for unlucky No.13, her sweep shot caught on the mid-wicket rope by Katherine Brunt off Alex Hartley.
On a flat pitch with a fast outfield, the pursuit appeared to traveling smoothly until the batters started picking out English fielders.
Perry’s lofted drive was caught at mid-off, Elyse Villani found Winfield on the straight boundary, Brunt’s buckets scooped Haynes at deep mid-wicket and Gardner skied one to Sophie Ecclestone in close.
Alex Blackwell, playing in match No.250 for Australia, was valiant in her 37 but holed out in the final over as Hartley finished with 3-45 from nine overs to be the pick of England’s bowlers.
Australia now head to Canberra for a three-day pink-ball trial game against ACT while England travel to Sydney to play a Cricket Australia XI under lights at Blacktown.
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
Australia lead England 4-2
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 England won by 20 runs (DLS method)
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