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The Bulletin by Jenny Thompson
August 21, 2005
England women 200 (Taylor 82) defeated Australia women 198 for 7 by two runs
In dramatic scenes reminiscent of Edgbaston, England women held their nerve to pull off a nail-biting two-run victory against Australia. This time, though, the setting was Stratford-upon-Avon and victory for England was vital to keep the NatWest Series alive.
Is the Australian regime crumbling? Probably not, but it is the first time England's women have defeated Australia in 23 matches - the last victory was in the World Cup in 1993, which England went on to win - and the first time Clare Connor, England's captain, has ever been in a successful side against the old enemy.
Shakespeare himself couldn't have scripted a closer match: Australia needed six runs from the last over, but England had the last word, with two wickets to bring England right back into the hunt for the one-day honours. Katherine Brunt had the last over, and she kept her cool to dismiss Cathryn Fitzpatrick, stumped, and then a run out removed Shelley Nitschke.
In the first act, Claire Taylor blasted a typically elegant 82 runs to lift England to 200. She and Charlotte Edwards put on 61 for the second wicket to set a platform for England. But the total was shy of what they could have expected: after the second-wicket stand, England looked set for a target way in excess of 250.
Australia, though, broke partnerships at key moments to check their progress, with all of their six bowlers picking up one wicket each. It was testament to a team effort in the bowling department, although Fitzpatrick was unusually expensive - her solitary wicket late on cost 61 runs from her ten overs. Nitschke, who cleaned up at Kidderminster with seven wickets, had to be content with just the one here, at a cost of 34.
Fitzpatrick made amends with the bat: a habit she has got into this tour. England's bowlers contained Australia early on, Jenny Gunn trapping Belinda Clark for a duck, Brunt adding the dangerous Karen Rolton for 16 shortly after and the visitors fell well behind the run rate.
Lisa Sthalekar made 40 and Lisa Keightley added 66, but theirs were uncharacteristically slow contributions and Australia were feeling the heat. But Alex Blackwell and Fitzpatrick brought the tourists right back into the match, adding 44 in a sixth-wicket partnership that threatened to settle the series then and there.
They nearly succeeded. Victory for England, though, will be a huge psychological boost, not just because they haven't beaten Australia for 12 years, but because they proved they could hold on under the pressure.
Their18-year-old offspinner Jo Watts is someone who knows about pressure. After making her debut in the series opener, Watts had failed to take a wicket in the first two matches. But finally she broke her duck, Laura Newton holding the catch to dismiss Kate Blackwell.
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