The tightly-contested Women’s Ashes got a fitting finale as England clinched the T20I leg of the series 2-1 to level the scoreline at 8-8 after an impressive four-wicket win in the high-scoring thriller at the Manuka Oval in Canberra on Tuesday (November 21).
It was a tale of like parallel forces as openers from both parties – Australia’s Beth Mooney and England’s Danielle Wyatt – notched up their maiden T20I centuries to light up the final contest. Having spent the preceding ODI series on the sidelines, both Mooney and Wyatt came to the fore as the two rival sides aimed to end the Ashes on a high. Eventually, though, it was Wyatt’s that made all the difference as England registered the highest successful chase in women’s T20Is by overhauling Australia’s 178 with an over to spare.
With the series locked at 1-1, Australia had no hesitation in opting to bat on the flat track after winning the toss. Mooney continued from where she’s left off earlier and single-handedly laid the platform for Australia’s commanding total. She spared none of England’s experienced bowlers in her scintillating 70-ball unbeaten knock that was laced with as many as 19 hits to the fence and one over it.
Mooney was the aggressor in her 59-run opening stand with Alyssa Healy (19), before Katherine Brunt got the visitors a much-needed breakthrough. But that, and losing Elyse Villani in quick succession, did little to curb Mooney’s enthusiasm. The opener took 38 balls to her fifty, bringing up the milestone with a boundary off Heather Knight in the 11th over, but switched gears in no time.
Knight, Jenny Gunn and Sophie Ecclestone all came under the attack as Mooney raced to her hundred with the penultimate ball of the 19th over, joining her regular skipper Meg Lanning as the only centurions for Australia in the format. The 23-year-old took 65 balls to reach triple figures and then provided finishing touches with a quartet of boundaries of a struggling Anya Shrubsole in the final over to covert Australia’s already strong total to a challenging one.
Riding on the momentum, Jess Jonassen ripped open England’s top order with two wickets in her opening burst to derail their chase rather early. With an asking rate of nine to begin with, England openers were under the pump to go after the Australian attack from the word go. But the pressure took its toll early. Tammy Beaumont stepped out in her attempt to clear the mid-off, only to give away an easy catch to Ashleigh Gardner. Sarah Taylor’s ill-timed drive, in Jonassen’s following over, found a diving-forward Rachel Haynes to pluck a stunningly low catch. In a couple of overs from there, a sharp direct hit from Villani from mid-off caught the diving Natalie Sciver well short of her crease while attempting a cheeky single off the final delivery, leaving England reeling at 30 for 3 after five overs of powerplay.
An England defeat seemed imminent but little did the Australian team, and the home crowd, know that Wyatt had other plans. Along with her skipper Knight, Wyatt turned the tables on Australia with a maiden T20I hundred of her own to take the Player of the Match honours for staging a stunning come-from-behind win for the tourists.
While England clearly had their backs to the wall, the Australian bowlers relaxed a bit, allowing Knight and the newly-promoted opener to stitch together a match-winning partnership of 139 that blunted the home team’s attack. A well-set Wyatt led the charge with her free-hitting ways, welcoming Gardner into the attack with a 12-run over that included a couple of boundaries. She raced to her half-century with a six off Amanda-Jade Wellington in the 11th over. The spinners proved extremely expensive in the middle overs with Wellington leaking 25 in her opening two-over spell and Gardner going for 21. England, who were in a spot of bother at 43 for 3 after seven overs, had marched to within striking distance of triple figures by adding 54 runs in the five-over period since.
The re-introduction of pace did little to affect the tempo as Wyatt continued her boundary-hitting spree against Molly Strano and Delissa Kimmince. The experienced Megan Schutt too was meted out similar treatment as the asking rate dropped steadily over the course of their partnership. Knight, though mostly subdued, played a vital role in the partnership, effectively rotating the strike and allowing the in-form Wyatt to take centerstage. The captain chipped in with a crucial 37-ball 51, the highlight of which was a four and a six to Jonassen in the space of three deliveries as England inched closer to staging the upset.
What didn’t help Australia’s case was shoddy fielding. As many as four sitters were dropped in the course of the Wyatt-Knight stand with wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy being particularly unimpressive behind the stumps. When Australia did manage to get their act together – running out Knight soon after her fifty – it was too late in the day to celebrate. Kimmince added some respectability to her match figures by taking out Wyatt and Brunt in the space of five deliveries in the 19th over but the ship had sailed.
Fran Wilson’s first-ball scoop to the fence gave England the series but, in a worrisome trend the hosts, Australia succumbed to their fifth successive T20I series defeat at home.
Brief scores: Australia 178/2 in 20 overs (Beth Mooney 117*, Ellyse Perry 22*; Katherine Brunt 1-25) lost to England 181/6 in 19 overs (Danielle Wyatt 100, Heather Knight 51; Jess Jonassen 2-25) by four wickets.