England continue stunning Ashes fightback to level series with ODI win
England levelled the Women’s Ashes series with a thrilling two-wicket win over Australia in their opening ODI at Bristol.
The multi-format series now stands at six points apiece with remaining ODI matches at Southampton and Taunton to play.
Australia need to win only one of those games to retain the Ashes, but the momentum is very much with England after three successive victories.
Back-to-back T20 wins had revitalised England but crossing this particular line against opponents who had won 41 of their last 42 ODI matches will generate huge belief that they can upset the odds.
Australia’s 263 for eight was overhauled with 11 balls to spare, thanks largely to captain Heather Knight’s unbeaten 75 from 86 balls and a brilliant late cameo from Kate Cross, and their fate would have been worse had England not dropped four catches and shelled a stumping opportunity.
Six England bowlers shared the wickets as bowlers as Beth Mooney, reprieved on 19 and 39, top scored with an unbeaten 81.
England were always ahead of the required rate after Tammy Beaumont and Alice Capsey brought up a rapid hundred in the 12th over, but Australia’s ability to take wickets at regular intervals left the contest in the balance.
Australia chose to bat as morning showers and overcast conditions gave way to blue skies but captain Alyssa Healy – who made 170 against England at the 2022 World Cup final – fell third ball after opening up with two boundaries.
Cross’ lbw review was upheld and England rejoiced knowing a major blow had been struck.
England should have built on that but Ellyse Perry was dropped on six driving Cross to Sophie Ecclestone at first slip, an initial sign that Australia would ride their luck.
Perry and Phoebe Litchfield were quick to punish anything pitched short as Australia reached 62 for one off 10 powerplay overs.
Litchfield – 36 from 34 balls – saw her innings end in spectacular style as she targeted a seventh boundary off the bowling of Nat Sciver-Brunt.
The ball looked as if would clear Ecclestone but the spinner thrust out a left hand above her head and celebrated the dismissal by putting a hand over her mouth in amazement.
Perry survived again on 36 attempting to hit Ecclestone over the top and Sarah Glenn spilled a presentable chance at mid-on.
But Perry did not have a third life on 41 as Glenn the bowler atoned and Sciver-Brunt accepted the chance at short mid-wicket.
England were left to rue careless hands again as Tahlia McGrath flashed Cross hard to point and Beaumont failed to hold on diving to her left.
Mooney was also fortunate as she miscued a Glenn full toss and Cross put it down diving forward at mid-off. Those errors ended up costing England 79 runs.
McGrath, dropped on seven, reached 24 before Capsey beat her defensive prod for a first ODI wicket and Mooney breathed again after striding down the pitch to Ecclestone only for Amy Jones to miss a stumping wide down the legside.
Australia’s progress was slowed by losing two wickets in the space of three Lauren Bell deliveries.
Ashleigh Gardner departed to an excellent Sciver-Brunt catch over her shoulder running towards the mid-wicket boundary, while Annabel Sutherland lost her off stump for nought as Australia slipped to 185 for six.
But Mooney and Jess Jonassen prevented a late-innings collapse by sharing a seventh-wicket partnership of 55 as England were set a challenging target on a slow surface.
England’s reply was aided by wayward bowling which saw the amount of extras in the first three overs exceed the entire number of the Australia innings.
Darcie Brown and Perry sent down two no-balls and 10 wides as England sped away, despite the early departure of Sophia Dunkley for eight.
Beaumont and Capsey went on the offensive to such an extent that 84 runs came from the opening 10-over powerplay.
Three figures were brought up by Beaumont smashing Sutherland for a six over long-off, but she soon holed out after making 47 from 42 balls.
Capsey contributed 40 from 34 before picking out Sutherland on the long-on boundary off Gardner and it was often a case of poor shot judgement as Australia profited and piled on the pressure.
Sciver-Brunt (31) top edged a reverse sweep off Jonassen, Danni Wyatt (14) drove Megan Schutt to backward point and Amy Jones gave Georgia Wareham a return catch.
England’s self-destruct button was pressed again as Ecclestone found Wareham on the boundary and Gardner claimed a third victim as Glenn drove straight to Litchfield at short cover.
But Cross made a superb 19 not out from 20 balls, including an audacious ramp shot as she provided the cameo Knight craved to get England home.