Led by teenage prodigy Darcie Brown, Australia robbed England of their last chance to taste Ashes glory this summer by recovering from a shaky batting performance and claiming victory in the inaugural ODI of the Women’s Ashes.
The Aussies only needed to win one of the three ODIs to ensure they would at least draw the multi-format series and retain the prized urn.
After a chase on day four of the single test that suited the 50-over format, the world’s top-ranked ODI women’s team reportedly felt confident they could get the job done at Manuka Oval on Thursday night. .
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But desperate to keep their own Ashes dream alive, the English ambushed Australia’s higher order to kick-start the series in the air.
Katherine Brunt and Kate Cross led the charge for the visitors, who kept the dangerous Rachael Haynes in single digits, handed Ellyse Perry the second golden duck of her ODI career and stopped Tahlia McGrath (29) from hitting the Australia at home as they did in the first T20I.
Without the tenacious Beth Mooney (73), who is still recovering from a broken jaw, Australia could well have been eliminated 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 midway through on the final ball of the innings.
The final tally of 205 looked a bit thin as the sun began to set in the nation’s capital and Australians needed a hero.
With Sophie Molineux, Georgia Wareham and Tayla Vlaeminck all injured, and Test star Annabel Sutherland absent from the selection, they found one in Brown, whose 4-34 was the best spell in a WODI at Manuka Oval.
The quick and fresh wasted little time setting the standard for her experienced teammates.
She struck twice in the fourth, first knocking out Tammy Beaumont with help from Australia captain Meg Lanning on the first slip.
On her very next ball, Brown hit skipper Heather Knight’s leg before the wicket and with that sent England’s in-form batter on the first delivery she faced.
The young Aussie wasn’t going to stop there, however.
Brown’s athletic catch on her own delivery fired vice-captain Nat Sciver as she approached her half-century.
Meanwhile, Amy Jones threw her wicket away failing to send a full pitch from Tahlia McGrath.
“Amy Jones, what are you doing?” Isa Guha said in a comment. “England won’t believe it.”
Mel Jones added: “I don’t know who looks more disappointed, Amy Jones or (batting partner) Nat Sciver.”
The wicket was not without controversy, however, as the third referee attempted to determine whether or not the delivery was above waist height. In the end, the replays were inconclusive and the box office stood.
McGrath (2-34) proved a willing co-conspirator, her disciplined bowling performance helping the Aussies stay grounded as the momentum swung between the teams.
After handing England two free chances as the contest was just waiting to be closed, the Australians finally got the job done with a classy catch-and-bowl from Jess Jonassen.
The Australians now turn their attention to Sunday’s second ODI, where they have the chance to claim an outright victory and pile more misery on their bitterest rival.