England v Australia, Women's World Cup, Bristol July 9, 2017

Brunt, Gunn help England end 24-year wait

England women 259 for 8 (Beaumont 49, Brunt 45*, Villani 3-42, Beams 2-44) beat Australia women 256 for 8 (Perry 70, Lanning 40, Hartley 2-31, Brunt 2-42) by 3 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Katherine Brunt followed up an unbeaten 43-ball 45 with figures of 2 for 42 in nine overs © Getty Images

On July 24, 1993, England beat Australia by 43 runs in a Women's World Cup match in Guildford. Between that match and this one, close to 24 years later, the two sides had met six times in the World Cup, with one meeting ending in a no-result and Australia winning the other five.

England's wait ended in Bristol, after they shaded a roller-coaster contest that went down to the last ball. It came down to Jess Jonassen needing to hit the last ball for six. She slogged Jenny Gunn, and for a moment - that moment between contact and TV cameras catching up with the ball's trajectory - it seemed as if she might have won it for Australia. She hadn't middled it, though, and the ball landed three-fourths of the way to the boundary, a few yards to the left of the fielder at deep midwicket.

Gunn finished with figures of 2 for 54, an economy rate of exactly 6.00 not quite doing justice to the impact of her hard-to-pick slower ball on an Australian side coming to grips with a mounting asking rate. Alex Hartley, her stump-to-stump left-arm spin proving almost un-hittable, and Katherine Brunt took two wickets apiece as well.

Brunt and Gunn, meanwhile, had also played vital roles with the bat, putting on 85 off 73 balls for the seventh wicket to revive a flagging England innings. When they came together at 174 for 6, England seemed to be falling off the rails with batsman after batsman getting in, looking good, and throwing their wickets away, with Sarah Taylor (35), Natalie Sciver (29) and Danielle Wyatt (27) all culpable. Thanks to the power and commonsense shown by Brunt and Gunn, England ended up with 259 for 8.

It could have been less had Australia's fielding not fallen to pieces; Alyssa Healy dropped a catch and fluffed a stumping chance off successive balls to reprieve Gunn in the 41st over, and Kristen Beams dropped a return catch, also off Gunn, in the 46th. Elyse Villani, whose slow-medium had gone for 29 in her first four overs, ended up bowling the final over, which cost 13 runs, while Ellyse Perry, whose fast-medium went at 4.42, only bowled seven overs.

England's defence was similarly full of bloopers. Jonassen only got that chance to win it off the last ball because Sciver, at long-off, had fumbled the previous ball into the boundary. England dropped three catches as well, Danielle Hazell putting down a diving return catch to reprieve Beth Mooney on 27, Anya Shrubsole fluffing a sitter at mid-on when Elyse Villani was on 2, and Sciver shelling a straightforward chance at deep midwicket to let Perry off on 67.

But those three drops only cost England 19 runs in total. The tight lines maintained by their bowlers on a slow surface combined with the scoreboard pressure kept producing chances. Australia kept punching, but a target of 260 proved just out of their reach.

They approached the chase with the intention of keeping wickets in hand for the end, and this worked for most part. Nicole Bolton and Mooney put on 56 for the first wicket in 15.3 overs, and Perry and Meg Lanning took over to add 57 for the third wicket in 13.3 overs. Lanning looked in supreme touch despite batting with her right shoulder heavily strapped up, the pick of her five fours a pick-up shot over square leg. When she fell for 40, yorking herself by stepping out too far against Hartley, Australia needed 131 from 110 balls.

The key phase of England's defence came when Australia took the batting Powerplay at the end of the 35th over. Perry, using her feet brilliantly, had just cover-driven Danielle Hazell for four and then launched her for six over midwicket as Australia took 12 off the 35th over. The five Powerplay overs, though, brought only 16 runs, as Perry and Villani struggled to force the pace against Hartley and the pace variations of Gunn and Anya Shrubsole.

In the course of those five overs, the required rate climbed from 7.13 to 9.10. The muscle of Alex Blackwell, Ashleigh Gardner and Jonassen and the innovation of Healy brought Australia close, but not quite close enough.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo