February 17, 2003

Australia Women take first Ashes Test by five wickets

Australia has won the first women's Ashes Test match by 5 wickets at The Gabba today to take a one-nil lead into the second and final Test of the Series in Sydney, starting on Saturday 22nd February.

Attacking and powerful batting from the Australia Captain, Belinda Clark and Karen Rolton eroded England's lead of 138. The pair posted a second wicket partnership of 88 runs, the only other meaningful stand in the match following Sarah Collyer and Kathryn Leng's 57 for the first wicket on the first morning.

Australia looked as though they would reach the required runs with some comfort, but England took four quick wickets to leave the home side on 111-5, and needing 27 more runs to win with the memory of yesterday's collapse heavy on their minds.

Exceptionally consistent bowling from both Sarah Collyer and Laura Harper slowed the run rate down, as the home side limped from 104-2 in the 37th over to 114-5 in the 52nd. Collyer closed with two wickets, having bowled 25 overs, 18 of them maidens.

It was the stand between Collyer and Leng which provided England with a platform for their best performance against Australia since 1984-5. Clare Connor, England Captain, had hoped for the addition of 20-30 runs on England's overnight total of 86-8, but the tail added just 6 to reach a disappointing 92 all out.

Clare Taylor was caught by a full-length diving catch from Lisa Sthaelaker, trying to hook Cathryn Fitzpatrick, and Laura Newton was caught behind off the bowling of Emma Twining.

England took an early wicket as Sthaelaker was dismissed for nought attempting to sweep the off-spinner Laura Harper but instead finding Lucy Pearson at fine leg.

When Harper had Rolton caught by debutant Lydia Greenway and Clark followed shortly afterwards to Collyer, England applied pressure to new batters Jones and Gosko who managed just 4 each.

The experienced Julie Hayes assisted newcomer Alex Blackwell, and the pair saw Australia home, finishing on 18 not out and 9 not out respectively.

Connor and her team can take some comfort from their performance, especially in the field, and in the knowledge that they are closing the gap on the world's leading women's team.

Speaking after the game, Connor said "we are disappointed because we bowled them out for 78 and blew them away but then didn't put enough pressure on them with the bat. It was good to compete with them in every session though, and at one point this afternoon it was swinging our way again. We'll look forward to having another chance against them in Sydney starting on Saturday".