Australia hold nerve in four-run win
Australia 260 for 6 (Keightley 58, Rolton 62, Sthalekar 53) beat England 255 (Fitzpatrick 4-52) by four runs
England's captain Clare Connor admitted before the decider at Taunton that to win the NatWest Series would be "beyond our wildest dreams". They may have had a dream summer, winning the Ashes and playing themselves right back into contention in this competition, but in the end, reality bit back in a gripping series-decider, as Australia held their nerve to clinch a four-run victory with just three balls to spare. In a summer of nailbiters, this was right up there with the best.
Such a tight finish never looked remotely on the cards in the opening exchanges. Australia looked every inch the World Champions as they cruised to 260 for 6 after Clare Connor sent them in. Quickfire half-centuries from Karen Rolton, Lisa Keightley and Lisa Sthalekar combined to set England their stiffest target this year, but from the moment that England's openers, Laura Newton and Charlotte Edwards, responded with a stand of 94, an intrigued Taunton crowd sensed an upset.
Edwards made 57 and Newton 61, but the introduction of Cathryn Fitzpatrick, for possibly the last match of her 14-year career, changed the face of the innings. Fitzpatrick dismissed Edwards en route to figures of 4 for 52, and as the runs/balls equation approached parity, England's running began to cross the divide between inspired and suicidal.
Arran Brindle, who has enjoyed a superb summer, held the middle-order together with a 49-ball 50, but England's prospects were hampered by an elbow injury to Connor, who did not appear until Brindle played around a full delivery from Fitzpatrick at 240 for 6. But suddenly her lurking presence down the order was an asset, and when she clipped two boundaries off her pads, England were suddenly favourites for a famous victory.
But Beth Morgan was run out by a brilliant direct hit from square leg, and Katherine Brunt backed up too far and was beaten as Fitzpatrick fielded and shied in her followthrough, which left Connor to score the final six runs with just Isa Guha for company. But, with four balls to come, she top-edged a swirling chance to Kirsten Pike off Rolton, and Australia had clinched a 3-2 victory in nailbiting circumstances.
Connor couldn't hide her disappointment after the game, but when the pain of defeat has subsided, England will be delighted with their efforts this summer. They have just reclaimed the Ashes for the first time in 42 years, and until their two straight victories to level this series, they hadn't beaten Australia in a one-dayer since 1993. And rather like their male counterparts, they are a young team on the up, while an ageing Australian side have displayed some rare signs of fallibility on this trip, even though they held their nerve at the end. Those of a superstitious bent might like to ponder that ahead of next week's showdown.
England 1 Charlotte Edwards, 2 Laura Newton, 3 Claire Taylor, 4 Clare Connor (capt), 5 Arran Brindle, 6 Jenny Gunn, 7 Lydia Greenway, 8 Jane Smit (wk), 9 Katherine Brunt, 10 Isa Guha, 11 Clare Taylor.
Australia 1 Belinda Clark (capt), 2 Lisa Keightley, 3 Karen Rolton, 4 Lisa Sthalekar, 5 Kate Blackwell, 7 Alex Blackwell, 8 Cathryn Fitzpatrick, 9 Sarah Edwards, 10 Julia Price (wk), 11 Kirsten Pike.