Keep calm and carry on. England managed to do just that yesterday as mature innings from Charlotte Edwards and Sarah Taylor saw them sail past Australia’s inadequate total in the 18th over of the first of three T20 internationals.
It was a must-win match for Edwards’ beleaguered England, who arrived at the County Ground knowing that only victories in all three remaining matches would keep their hopes of retaining the Ashes alive. It was a night of redemption, too, for Taylor, on the back of a “pair” in the Test match. Her half-century off 43 balls sweetly sealed the deal for England.
Responsible batting finished the job, but it was the fielding that set the tone. Just as in the first match of this Ashes series, a one-day international in Taunton – which was England’s only win so far in the series – the home side looked the professionals in the outfield they now are.
Throughout all their ensuing losses, below par fielding was a common theme. Tonight however, in new shirts, a new format and a new team on show, England looked a side invigorated.
Three run-outs, two direct hits and some sliding boundary saves thrilled the capacity crowd here. Australia, on the other hand, looked uncharacteristically unAustralian as, having been put into bat by Edwards, they produced an innings which began with a whimper, had a brief sniff of energy in the powerplay, but which eventually stumbled over the line to a below-par total of 122 for 8.
It was the arrival of the off-spinner Danielle Hazell, who is the No 1-ranked T20 bowler in the world but has been conspicuously absent from both England’s ODI and Test squads, which set the tone.
Hazell came back with a bang. Introduced into the attack in the seventh over, after a glimpse of the fireworks that Australian captain Meg Lanning is so capable of – she had slog-swept a six over square-leg the previous over – Hazell was on the money from ball one.
Her first over went for just two runs as she tied down Lanning, the world’s No 1 batter. But it was Hazell’s first wayward ball that did the damage, however. A flighted full toss saw Lanning’s eyes light up and in a rare lapse of concentration she hit it straight down the throat of Lydia Greenway at cow corner.
Lanning’s wicket sparked the constant flow of Australian victims, which did enough to check their momentum. With a below-par total and Ellyse Perry top-scoring with just 30, England knew that they needed just one batsman to stand up and bat through.
Taylor did, dispelling emphatically the cobwebs of the Test, and though she fell after reaching her half-century, England duly won by seven wickets with 15 deliveries remaining, Katherine Brunt seeing them home with a couple of boundaries.