England beaten in dramatic T20 opener as Australia tighten grip on Women’s Ashes

England beaten in dramatic T20 opener as Australia tighten grip on Women’s Ashes

England’s hopes of regaining the Women’s Ashes are hanging by a thread as Australia defied some late drama in the first T20 to reel in a target of 154 in front of a bumper Edgbaston crowd.

Australia were cruising on 130 for two before stumbling to 140 for five and while they needed just a single off the last five balls, a four-wicket victory was not secured until the penultimate delivery.

Beth Mooney’s 61 not out off 47 balls, plus cameos from Tahlia McGrath (40 off 29) and Ashleigh Gardner (31 off 23), underpinned the successful chase as England fell 6-0 down in the multi-format series with 10 points to play for.

Having also been beaten in the lone Test, England face having to win all five remaining matches – two T20s and three ODIs – to win the series against a side who are world champions in both formats.

Lauren Bell, Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn each took a couple of wickets to take this match to the wire, but Georgia Wareham was able to scramble a single after punching to cover to get Australia home.

Sophia Dunkley had earlier top-scored with 56 off 49 balls in England’s 153 for seven, a total in which only three of the home side’s batters reached double figures, while they were grateful for Amy Jones’ unbeaten 40 off 21 balls having lost four wickets for 12 runs in front of a 19,527 attendance.

The largest English audience for a women’s match outside of a World Cup watched the home side stumble out of the traps after they were asked to bat first.

Danni Wyatt had her off stump uprooted by Megan Schutt in the over after the bails had stayed in their grooves despite Darcie Brown grazing the England opener’s stump. Brown had better luck in running out a bewildered Alice Capsey, with third umpire Russell Warren deeming her bat was not grounded over the line.

Amy Jones buttressed England's total (Nick Potts/PA)
Amy Jones buttressed England’s total (Nick Potts/PA)

Dunkley’s swipes across the line brought two fours off Gardner and one off Brown but after England had reached 50, Nat Sciver-Brunt slashed Jess Jonassen to deep midwicket.

Heather Knight audaciously ramped her third ball for four before she deposited Wareham over the long-on boundary. Knight was timing the ball better than Dunkley, who nevertheless reached 50 off 42 balls before the England captain misread McGrath’s slower ball and slammed to long-on for 29.

Dunkley was then deceived by pace off from Schutt as she sliced to short third and by the time the debuting Danielle Gibson and Ecclestone had perished to successive deliveries off Jonassen, England were in some strife, having slipped from 106 for three to 118 for seven.

Amid the clatter of wickets, Jones overturned an lbw verdict against her on eight and was then dropped on 15 in the penultimate over by Wareham, who watched on helplessly as the next ball sailed over her head for six.

Jones, shuffling laterally in her crease to offset first Schutt then Gardner, also cleared the ropes from the final ball of the innings as England took 31 off the last two overs.

Georgia Wareham, right, celebrates with Beth Mooney (Nick Potts/PA)
Georgia Wareham, right, celebrates victory with Beth Mooney (Nick Potts/PA)

Lauren Bell snared Australia captain Alyssa Healy but Mooney started assertively and McGrath ignited the charge with five off-side fours in the space of nine balls towards the end of the powerplay, with two off Ecclestone then three from Gibson.

Sarah Glenn was hammered over deep square-leg for six by McGrath, who was then stumped after advancing and missing a swing at Ecclestone to give England a lifeline just before halfway.

But Mooney picked off the wayward Freya Davies with a drive then clip for successive fours while Gardner twice heaved handsomely over deep midwicket off Glenn as the Australia pair effortlessly chipped away at the total.

Gardner swung once too often and under-edged to wicketkeeper Jones before Grace Harris dragged on to her stumps as Glenn had two in two. Ellyse Perry was castled by Bell’s slower ball in the penultimate over but Annabel Sutherland and Mooney thumped fours to leave five needed off the last six deliveries.

Sutherland belted Ecclestone back over her head to tie the scores before two dots were followed by a nervous pull which caught the top-edge and looped to Jones. Wareham, though, held her nerve with a cut and run as she and Mooney claimed the single Australia needed to get over the line.