Greenway and Brindle bring Ashes closer
England 3 for 210 (Greenway 69*, Brindle 64*) beat Australia 3 for 209 (Blackwell 82*, Perry 65*; Gunn 1-30) by 7 wickets
England took one step closer towards retaining the women's Ashes in Melbourne as they triumphed in the first ODI by seven wickets, going 8-0 up in the points-based multi-format series. It was Lydia Greenway and Arran Brindle, batting at No. 4 and 5, who did the job for England, as the two put on 142 runs in 28 overs, finishing unbeaten on 69 and 64 respectively, to ease them to victory with 19 balls to spare.
England had begun their chase well, with a fluent innings from captain Charlotte Edwards taking them to 50 without loss in the first 14 overs as Ellyse Perry struggled to bowl a consistent line. Heather Knight, though, never looked comfortable at the crease, and was out for 9 after Meg Lanning brought Julie Hunter, drafted into the ODI squad at the last minute as cover for the injured Sarah Coyte, into the attack. Hunter seized her chance in her second over when she tempted Knight to swing at one and had her caught by Jess Cameron at wide third slip.
Two more wickets then fell in successive overs as Sarah Taylor was caught at mid-on on 9, driving at a good-length ball from Erin Osborne, and Edwards went lbw for 41 in the first over of Holly Ferling's second spell. England, at 68 for 3 in 20 overs and with two new batsmen at the crease, looked in trouble.
But that was not accounting for the talents of Greenway and Brindle, who took 89 balls to reach their 50 partnership but then began to play their signature strokes around the ground: Brindle the drive and Greenway the sweep. Admittedly, neither batsman played a chanceless innings: Greenway could easily have been run out after a direct hit from Lanning at midwicket without scoring, and she was lucky to survive a caught and bowled chance on 8 to Jess Jonassen. Brindle was later dropped by Jonassen on 47 off another caught and bowled chance.
Ultimately, though, Lanning, aged just 21 and captaining her first international match standing in for the injured Jodie Fields, struggled to break the partnership of the two experienced middle-order players, as the pair became increasingly fluent to lead England to a memorable victory.
Earlier, Australia had also recovered from a precarious position after Lanning won the toss and chose to bat. Anya Shrubsole struck in her fourth over of the day after Elyse Villani, having hit two straight drives for four, was out lbw for 8 to a fuller delivery. Jenny Gunn, brought on as second-change in the 11th over, then took a wicket with her first ball as Lanning sliced a full toss straight to Heather Knight at gully.
Australia's innings failed to progress quickly in the crucial middle period as the tight lines of Gunn, Natalie Sciver and Danielle Hazell ensured that between overs 11 and 24 Australia scored just 29 runs including three boundaries, reining in Alex Blackwell and the usually fluent Jess Cameron. Cameron was eventually out for 21 from 50 balls off the bowling of Danielle Wyatt, caught by Shrubsole running to her right and diving to take the catch at mid-off, leaving Australia 68 for 3 at the halfway point of their innings.
The recovery came slowly but surely after Wyatt's two overs went for 22 runs, and some wayward bowling from England, including 15 wides, allowed Blackwell and new batsman Perry to rotate the strike. Blackwell was given two lives, dropped off the bowling of Gunn when on 7 and almost stumped on 20 by Taylor off the bowling of Brindle, but then began to cut loose, hitting a six over midwicket in the 48th over. She finished on 82 off 121 balls, her 16th half-century in ODIs and was well supported by Perry: in the last 10 overs the pair added 78 runs, and Australia finished on 209 for 3. On a slow pitch it looked a good score, until England's own middle-order found their feet.
After this win, England's lead of 8-0 in this Ashes series is almost unassailable: Australia must now win the next two ODIs and all three T20s to win back the trophy. It will be a very tough ask.