Women’s Ashes: Australia retains urn with victory in first ODI of multi-format series
Led by teen prodigy Darcie Brown, Australia has denied England its final chance to taste Ashes glory this summer by recovering from a shaky batting performance and storming to a 27-run victory in the first ODI of the Women’s Ashes.
The Aussies needed to win just one of three ODIs to ensure they would at least draw the multi-format series and retain the prized urn.
After a run-chase on the fourth day of the one-off Test that befitted the 50-over format, the top-ranked Women’s ODI side in the world would’ve felt confident they could get the job done at Manuka Oval on Thursday night.
But desperate to keep their own Ashes dream alive, the English ambushed the Aussie top order to throw the series back up in the air.
Katherine Brunt and Kate Cross led the charge for the visitors, who kept the dangerous Rachael Haynes to single figures, handed Ellyse Perry the second golden duck of her ODI career and prevented Tahlia McGrath (29) from batting Australia home like she did in the first T20I.
If not for the tenacious Beth Mooney (73), who is still recovering from a broken jaw, Australia could well have been bowled out for the first time in 20 WODIs.
Mooney was a linchpin for the home side, recording the third-highest ODI score of her career before being caught by Lauren Winfield-Hill at mid-off on the last ball of the innings.
Quad tightness forced her out of the field in the second innings but at stumps Mooney said the move was “precautionary”.
The final total of 205 looked a little skinny as the sun began to set in the nation’s capital and the Aussies needed a hero.
With Sophie Molineux, Georgia Wareham and Tayla Vlaeminck all injured, and Test star Annabel Sutherland missing out on selection, they found one in Brown, whose 4-34 was the best spell in a WODI at Manuka Oval.
The fresh-faced quick wasted little time setting the standard for her experienced teammates.
She struck twice in the fourth over, first disposing of Tammy Beaumont with the help of Aussie captain Meg Lanning at first slip.
On her very next ball, Brown hit skipper Heather Knight leg before wicket and with that, sent England’s form batter packing on the first delivery she faced.
The Aussie young gun wasn’t about to stop there, though.
Brown’s athletic catch off her own delivery dismissed vice-captain Nat Sciver just as she was approaching her half century.
McGrath (2-34) proved a willing co-conspirator, her disciplined bowling performance helping the Aussies to stay grounded as momentum swung between the sides.
After gifting England two free chances when the contest was begging to be closed out, the Aussies finally got the job done with a classy catch-and-bowl from Jess Jonassen.
The Aussies now turn their attention to Sunday’s second ODI, where they have the chance to claim an outright series victory and heap more misery on their most bitter rival.
The dismissal of England’s Amy Jones proved a major turning point in the game.
With England cruising at 3-74, the wicketkeeper-batter slogged a McGrath full toss to the deep, where she was caught by Ellyse Perry.
But closer inspection threw the legality of the delivery dramatically into question — it appeared to have been bowled over the height of Jones’ waist.
“I don’t know who looks more disappointed, Amy Jones or (batting partner) Nat Sciver,” Mel Jones said in commentary for Fox Cricket.
The delivery bore striking resemblance to the no-ball that gave Nicola Carey an extra life in Australia’s second ODI against India last year.
Replays were inconclusive this time around though, so the wicket stood and Jones had to go.
Australia maintained the ascendancy, with the devastating McGrath dismissing Sophia Dunkley only two overs later.
Originally published as Women’s Ashes: Australia retains urn with victory in first ODI of multi-format series
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