Natalie Sciver and Lydia Greenway combined in devastating fashion to give England Women a winning start to their Ashes campaign here as they led their side to an ultimately comfortable victory over Australia.
The middle-order pair dovetailed brilliantly – with some big hitting down the ground and a number of clever sweeps – to post a match-winning partnership of 122 as England chased down 238.
Australia, fielding three spinners on a deck that offered little turn, struggled to find their lengths and proved unable to make the breakthrough at the key moments. Greenway eventually fell for 53 with the score on 202, but by then there were almost 10 overs left to get the remaining 36 runs. By the time Sciver was dismissed for 66, the match was all but won.
It was just a matter of formalities as Georgia Elwiss and Katherine Brunt steered England home by four wickets and with more than four overs to spare.
It has looked like being a forlorn chase earlier in the day as Ellyse Perry, the top scorer for Australia with 78, dismissed England’s captain and run-machine Charlotte Edwards, who dragged a wide one on to her stumps to depart for just 15, leaving the Australians cock-a-hoop.
Wickets continued to fall at regular intervals for England before a series of crisply timed drives and lofted clips by Sarah Taylor injected life into the innings. But when Taylor departed on 30 with the score on 80 for 4, Sciver and Greenway had to step up.
“It was quite tough at the start,” said player of the match Sciver, “so it was just important that we stuck to our strengths and that we rebuilt the innings. Luckily, we did.”
Edwards was equally delighted with the result, but already has her sights set on the next match. “I was really pleased with the way we started with the ball,” she said. “We wanted to put on an exciting game of cricket but now it’s equally important that we follow this up with an exciting game at Bristol [the venue of the second one-day international in the series].”
There was excitement aplenty in the Aussie innings as England, winners of the last two series, lost the toss and were put into field by the visiting captain, Meg Lanning.
But England started strongly. Opening up with the fast bowling duo of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, both of whom regularly hit speeds around the mid-70mph mark, Brunt made the first breakthrough with the wicket of Elyse Villani for 18.
It was the introduction of Kate Cross, however, which brought the prized wicket of Lanning, trapped lbw for just six. While television replays confirmed a thick inside edge, the absence of any review system meant that Lanning, the No 1 ranked T20 batsman in the world, was sent on her way with Australia struggling on 35 for 3. England were on the front foot.
Lanning’s wicket, however, ushered in a damaging partnership between Australia’s all-round golden girl Perry, and their vice-captain, Alex Blackwell.
Perry, normally regarded as a bowling all-rounder, entered the crease on the back of a record-breaking run of five consecutive fifties with the bat in ODIs. The two put on a partnership of 121, which was eventually ended by a direct hit to remove Blackwell for 58.
Perry carried on, eventually posting 78 off just 96 balls, which included 12 fours and 54 dot balls.
While England may have struggled in the field to stop boundaries, and Sarah Taylor had an uncharacteristically tough time behind the wicket with two missed stumpings, it was England’s target throwing which stopped Australia running away with the bat.
England orchestrated four run-outs in total, including two direct hits; only once have there been more run-outs in an England versus Australia ODI, when the two teams met at Southampton back in 1998.
After an innovative cameo by Alyssa Healy, who hit 29 of 25 balls, Australia ended the innings on 238 for 9. Strong but chaseable on Taunton’s flat deck, as Sciver and Greenway ensured.