Australia defended the women’s multi-format Ashes trophy in the first of three one-day internationals, holding England for nine before a paltry 205 first inning to win by 27 runs in Canberra. After captain Heather Knight won the toss and settled for bowl, England’s close attack used a lively surface to choke Australia’s points until wickets came. But the Australian bowlers responded in kind, turning the screw until the thread squeaked, and despite a last-wicket partnership of 24 that briefly threatened a revival, England were all out with 178 and five overs to go.
Knight said, “Our mentality on that show was really good. We didn’t quite get over the line which is a shame but we think we’re good enough to beat them and we’ve been level with them in many aspects but we just haven’t been able to to have that killer instinct and get over the border.
The day at the Manuka Oval began with a key game: Australia opener Alyssa Healy against England attacking leader Katherine Brunt, whom she sent off twice for nothing in last week’s friendly. It was no surprise that the launch was cautious. Brunt and Strike partner Anya Shrubsole conceded just 34 points in the first 10 overs, with Shrubsole firing Rachel Haynes with a high-profile pull. It was a far cry from the sizzling starts that are Healy’s trademark.
First substitution sailor Kate Cross, unfortunate enough to be wicketless in the Test match, threw Australia captain Meg Lanning in the 17th with a wicked delivery that leapt in from a wider line onto the stumps, then sent in the 21st. a ball the other possibility of having Healy stumped after wicketkeeper Amy Jones moved forward to stop Healy’s attack. Meanwhile, left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone used the flight to pull back and complete the second golden duck in Ellyse Perry’s long one-day career.
Australia was 67 for four and scored 3.35 per over. Big hitter Tahlia McGrath slowly batted for 14 overs and then was bowled out by Brunt for 29 as soon as she started batting. Ash Gardner got off to a breezy start with a run a ball but ran out for 12. Jess Jonassen followed for four. Relief came from Beth Mooney, who has taken a habit of rescuing Australia out of trouble and fought through to the final ball of the innings to go from 52-73 in a partnership with Alana King.
At first it just looked like the broken-jawed hitter would help her team save face. Brunt had taken three for 40, Cross three for 33, and England needed just four runs and an over. But Australia’s 18-year-old fast Darcie Brown sparked the answer: first her fast outside swinger took Tammy Beaumont’s edge to slip for three, then had a hat-trick after beating Knight for pace to score before the center stump. With 216 runs in the Test match, Knight had the game’s second golden duck.
Quiet overs went by and mistakes made their way. Lauren Winfield-Hill tried to pull a ball that wasn’t short enough and hit a catch deep in midwicket for 13. Jones did the same on 16 with a high full throw from McGrath, which the third umpire ruled legal. Jones could complain about luck, but in 17 limited-over innings against Australia she has a high of 30 and an average of eight. McGrath followed up with an in-ducker to give Dunkley the lead for five. That left England 83 for five and needed 123 more to win.
The decisive blow came when Nat Sciver, after holding things together with her 45 innings, attempted to shove Brown to the side of the leg and instead slammed a leading edge. The bowler took off in her follow through and dived to make a sliding return catch. She later pinned Ecclestone lbw to end her 10 overs with four for 34. Megan Schutt took her 100th one-day wicket for Australia when she sacked Winfield-Hill before bowling a perfect leg-cutter that hit Danni Wyatt’s outside edge to top her stump.
Shrubsole was thrown behind her legs as she attempted to sweep Jonassen over the laps when she only had to assist Brunt, who batted well. While Cross hit some hard drives when he reduced the required runs from 52 to 28, the target was too far away. Australia had three false alarms for the last wicket with a dropped catch, a missed run out and an overturned check. But eventually Jonassen had a low return catch, and Mooney’s work wasn’t in vain. England can still level the series with two games to go but the trophy remains.
“It’s very special to keep it with this group,” Brown said. “We backed our bowlers to defend that total because we have a pretty good bowling lineup, so we weren’t too excited.”