The Women’s Ashes series got interesting after England got on the points table by winning the third and final One-Day International by 20 runs (DLS method) in Coffs Harbour on Sunday (October 29).
Australia still won the ODI leg of the series 2-1, having taken the first two games, but its 4-0 lead on the points table has now been narrowed to 4-2, adding to the interest around the next game, the one-off Test match – worth four points – to be played at North Sydney Oval from November 9.
Handy knocks from Heather Knight, Tammy Beaumont and Sarah Taylor helped England post 284 for 8 after it opted to bat first, and after a spell of rain interrupted play for some time during Australia's chase, the target was revised to 277 in 48 overs. The home side, however, could only get to 257 for 9 after Alex Hartley picked up crucial wickets in the middle overs to return 3 for 45.
After the early dismissal of Lauren Winfield, who was out lbw off Ellyse Perry in the second over, England recovered through a 122-run partnership for the second wicket between Beaumont and Taylor. Both batters made sure they rotated the strike regularly and sent the bad balls to the fence to keep the innings on track.
Taylor hit 69 off 66 balls before Megan Schutt, the right-arm medium pacer who starred in Australia’s win in the second ODI, had her caught by Jess Jonassen in the 24th over. It was a good break for Australia, but the Beaumont-Knight show was yet to come.
The new pair continued to dominate, taking England to 192 for 2 before Beaumont, who scored 74 off 98 balls, was stumped by Alyssa Healy to give Schutt her second wicket.
That led to a mini collapse, with Australia sending Natalie Sciver, Fran Wilson, Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn and Anya Shrubsole back to the hut cheaply.
Knight fought on alone, hitting 88 off 80 balls, her knock mostly comprising singles and twos as she hit only 26 (five fours and a six) of her runs in boundaries.
Schutt finished with 4 for 44 from her 10 overs.
In response, Australia got off to a fabulous start with an opening stand of 118 between Healy and Nicole Bolton. Healy hit 71 off 72 balls, her knock studded with 12 boundaries, while Bolton scored 62 off 80 balls with seven fours. Healy was dismissed in the 22nd over, caught by Brunt off Hartley, and Sophie Ecclestone accounted for Bolton, caught by Winfield.
But Australia went from 159 for 1 to 174 for 4 by the 34th over, with Perry and Elyse Villani falling one after the other, to put a spanner in its works.
From there, with 111 runs needed off 101 balls, it was up to Rachael Haynes, the captain, and Alex Blackwell, playing her 250th international match, to take the chase forward. Haynes didn't last for too long, and Ashleigh Gardner, who came in next, also fell soon, Sciver picking up both wickets.
Blackwell fought on, hoping for some support from the tail-enders, but only Tahila McGrath was able to contribute, chipping in with an unbeaten run-a-ball 17. Blackwell eventually fell for 37 off 44 balls to Gunn, who also accounted for Amanda-Jade Wellington, and that was that.