Australia have retained the Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes with a six-wicket win in the first T20 international in Sydney.
A career-best haul of 4-22 from Megan Schutt restricted England to 9-132 before Beth Mooney’s sublime 86 – the highest score in a T20 in Australia – helped reel in the target with 25 balls to spare and with it the two points Australia needed to secure the series with two matches to play.
In the multi-format series, two points are awarded for an ODI or T20I victory, while four points are given to the winner of the Test or two points each if the match is drawn.
With four points from two ODI wins, two points from the drawn day-night Test and tonight’s positive result at North Sydney Oval, Australia reached the eight points they needed to take an unassailable lead and retain the trophy.
Australia got off to a flyer in both innings, starting with the ball after skipper Rachael Haynes won the toss and elected to bowl.
England captain Heather Knight was dismissed second ball, Sarah Taylor went for two the next over before Perry struck twice in the fifth over to reduce England to 4-16.
The match should have been put to bed then and there but Australia dropped six catches in the innings, including Danni Wyatt, who was put down on 11 and 12 on her way to a team-high 50.
Wyatt teamed up with Nat Sciver (who made 26 after she was dropped on one) to put on 64 for the fifth wicket and resurrect England’s innings.
A brilliant run out off her own bowling by Ashleigh Gardner ended Wyatt’s innings, a 36-ball romp that included six fours.
Schutt, who claimed 10 wickets in the three-match ODI series that kick-started the Women’s Ashes, proved why she’s so effective with the white ball by removing Taylor at the top and taking three wickets at the back end to finish with four wickets and a new personal best.
When it was Australia’s turn to bat, Mooney made her aggressive intentions clear very early, taking England pace ace Katherine Brunt for a four and a six in the opening over.
The Queenslander either hit the rope or cleared it in six of the first seven overs and shrugged off the loss of opening partner Alyssa Healy, who went for five but will make the highlights after snaring a spectacular catch behind the stumps.
Mooney beat Wyatt by one ball to the 50-run mark, reaching the milestone in 34 balls before she watched Elyse Villani fire a rocket to Knight at cover and was out for 17 from 10 balls.
Villani’s departure and Australia’s powerful position prompted Gardner’s promotion, and after a couple of boundaries, the talented youngster played all around an Alex Hartley stock ball to be bowled for 10.
A rousing ovation greeted No.5 Perry to the pitch on which she scored a record-breaking 213 not out in the historic day-night Ashes Test last week. Tonight, she scored one from two balls, out caught and bowled by Danni Hazell.
But while Mooney was at the crease the pursuit looked safe. Haynes came out and blasted a sweet, straight six to bring the target within 11 as the vertical flamethrowers warmed the packed crowd of almost 4,000.
Fittingly, it was another Mooney boundary that brought up the win - a powerful cover drive that pierced the field and crossed the rope to bring with it four runs, and with them, the Ashes.
The series now moves to Canberra for the final two ODIs on Sunday and Tuesday at Manuka Oval.
Australia XI: Healy (wk), Mooney, Villani, Perry, Haynes (c), Gardner, Kimmince, Wellington, Jonassen, Aley, Schutt #WomensAshes— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) November 17, 2017
England XI: Beaumont, Brunt, Ecclestone, Gunn, Hartley, Hazell, Knight, Sciver, Taylor, Wilson, Wyatt #WomensAshes— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) November 17, 2017
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
Australia lead England 4-2
Australia T20 squad: Sarah Aley, Alex Blackwell, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes (c), Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Molly Strano, 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 Match drawn
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