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Gardner

Ashleigh Gardner, Megan Schutt star in Australia win

Aus v NZ, 1st T20I, report

Sophie Devine’s all-round performance wasn’t enough for New Zealand as Australia took a 1-0 lead in the three-match women's T20I series in Brisbane.

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Women’s international cricket returned to Australia for the first time since the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final earlier this year, and the world champions kept up their winning run.

Megan Schutt, one of the heroes of the final with her four-wicket haul, starred yet again with a brilliant 18th over in the run-chase, picking up the wickets of Katey Martin and Suzie Bates while conceding just two runs. She finished with her second four-wicket haul in as many games.

This, along with an attacking 61 off 41 balls by Ash Gardner earlier to take her side to a competitive 138/6, gave Australia a 17-run win.

Australia's bowlers put in strong performances
Australia's bowlers put in strong performances

New Zealand began the chase of 139 rather positively with Devine finding a boundary in three of the first four overs. A bowling change saw Delissa Kimmince coming into the attack in the fifth over and she sent back Maddy Green to bring Australia into the contest.

Soon after the Powerplay, Kimmince hurt New Zealand further with the wicket of Devine. After her three-wicket haul with the ball, Devine was dismissed for 29, stumped by Alyssa Healy in a close call.

With Amy Satterthwaite, returning to cricket after her maternity break to play her 100th T20I, also not troubling the scorers much, the onus was on Bates and Martin. They resurrected the New Zealand innings from 65/3 in 12 overs by putting on 40 runs in five overs. With 35 needed in 18 balls, the set batters looked to accelerate, but Schutt came in their way.

Earlier, Australia were put in by Devine and the White Ferns bowlers were on the money from ball one. Beth Mooney and Healy failed to find the flair with which they had batted against India in their last game together in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final. Rosemary Mair sent Mooney back early and while Meg Lanning started off with a couple of terrific leg-side shots off Lea Tahuhu, she lost Healy soon to an ill-timed shot.

Australia were dented further when Tahuhu had Lanning send an outside edge to the wicket-keeper for 24 in the ninth over. Gardner and Rachael Haynes went on to counter-attack; Haynes made 23 in 18 balls before she was one of Devine’s two wickets in the 14th over.

At 83/5 in 14 overs, a lot was riding on Gardner. Having started off with a four and moved at a run a ball into her 20s, she decided to make her intent clear. She smashed Tahuhu over mid-wicket for the first six of the innings. Two overs later, Amelia Kerr was dispatched for two sixes.

Gardner reached her half-century with back-to-back fours, but Suzie Bates sent her back in the next over to take her 50th T20I wicket. Australia sneaked in 10 in the final over to reach 138/6 in 20 overs, a total that proved beyond New Zealand's reach.

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