Perry, Osborne deny England
Australia 6 for 269 (Perry 90*, Blackwell 51, Gunn 3-56) beat England 4 for 268 (Taylor 64, Knight 57) by four wickets
In a match that came right down to the wire, an incredible display of batting by Ellyse Perry and Erin Osborne saw England's hopes of an early victory in the Ashes series denied. With the seventh-wicket pair coming to the crease in the 43rd over, as the required run rate rose to above eight, their quickfire partnership of 70 off 45 balls won the game for Australia with three balls to spare, as they clobbered the shocked English bowlers all around the park.
On a pitch that looked an excellent batting deck, Australia had got off to a flying start in pursuit of 269. Meg Lanning looked in beautiful touch, punishing the short, loose deliveries in Kate Cross' opening over, which went for 10, and hitting Jenny Gunn for a glorious six over backward square leg. Australia raced their way to 50 in just 58 balls.
Lanning, though, was out in the 10th over, as she attempted to increase the pace of scoring even further and missed a wide ball from Gunn. Keeper Sarah Taylor leapt to her left, seized the ball, whipped off the bails and Lanning was out stumped, having made 40 in 30 balls.
In Gunn's next over, Jess Cameron was unlucky to be run out on 5 as partner Nicole Bolton drove one straight down the pitch and it clipped Gunn's fingers before breaking the stumps. Bolton herself remained at the crease until the 19th over, when she was bowled by Danielle Hazell as she came down the wicket.
At 3 for 89, Perry and Alex Blackwell were left with the job of rebuilding Australia's innings, as the rate crept up towards seven an over thanks to the economical bowling of Hazell, who claimed 1 for 25 from her 10 overs. England, though, were missing a second spinner on a pitch with a quick outfield, and had to fall back on the medium pace of Arran Brindle and Natalie Sciver, who were punished during a partnership of 88 runs from 107 balls.
Blackwell fell after reaching her half-century, in the 36th over, as Gunn bowled her round her legs, with Australia still requiring 100 to win. When Gunn had Alyssa Healy nicking one to Taylor for 4 and, two overs later, Sciver bowled Jess Jonassen for 3, Australia were 6 for 199, still 70 short. It looked to be all over for Australia: England, though, had bargained without the spectacular efforts of Perry, who finished unbeaten on 90, and Osborne.
England had accumulated steadily after Charlotte Edwards won the toss and chose to bat, although their total wasn't quite testing enough. Edwards and fellow opener Heather Knight started cautiously but then built a good platform as they took England to 0 for 45 in the Powerplay overs, with both looking confident at the crease. Holly Ferling, once again opening the bowling for Australia, failed this time to strike early on and proved costly, conceding 18 off three overs.
Rene Farrell initially looked dangerous and was unlucky not to have Edwards out lbw when on 32. But Jonassen was the first to strike, as in the first ball of her second spell she had Edwards caught off leading edge to midwicket. Knight looked set as she brought up her second successive fifty, off 75 balls, until a miscommunication with partner Taylor as she set off for the single saw her run out by Farrell, throwing the ball in from the covers.
Taylor, the danger-woman on a pitch which required runs on the board, hung around to capitalise on some short bowling, hitting 64 off 57 balls, as she and Lydia Greenway added 50 in 59 balls. But both batsmen fell in quick succession, Taylor dismissed attempting to drive over the top by a spectacular one-handed diving catch by Cameron at mid-off. Osborne, back into the attack, then had Greenway trapped lbw trying to scoop the ball fine in the first over of her second spell.
Sciver and Brindle helped to keep the runs ticking over, running quick singles in a partnership worth 63 during the last nine overs. It looked a good total but the resurgent Australians fought back to keep the series alive. They are still 8-4 down on points in the women's Ashes, with three T20s to play, but, after this dramatic victory, the momentum has certainly swung their way.
Raf Nicholson is a PhD student, an England supporter, a feminist, and fanatical about women's cricket. She tweets here