Bolton stars on debut to keep Australia alive
Australia 7 for 266 (Bolton 124, Blackwell 56; Sciver 2-23) beat England 240 (Taylor 63, Sciver 57; Osborne 3-49) by 26 runs with 22 balls remaining
Nicole Bolton starred for Australia with 124 off 152 balls to become the highest scoring debutant for Australia in women's ODIs as the hosts kept their Ashes hopes alive.
England's chance of sealing the Women's Urn in the second ODI slipped away in a middle-order collapse. They were bowled out for 240, well short of the 267-run target.
Bolton's innings saw Australia post a highly competitive total of 266 after Meg Lanning won the toss and chose to bat. Bolton, replacing Elyse Villani as opener, was positive from the very beginning and dominated the strike, as, in stark contrast to their performance in the first ODI on Sunday, Australia raced to 39-0 in the space of 9 overs.
England struck in the 10th over to remove Lanning, bowled by Danni Hazell for just 5, but they struggled to find the right line to the left-handed Bolton, often attempting to bowl round the wicket, with even Jenny Gunn failing to dry up the runs in her usual way. Bolton capitalised on their early indecisiveness, driving and pulling her way to a 65-ball half-century, as she built up a partnership with Jess Cameron, who also looked solid.
Bolton could easily have been out on 5 edging to Gunn at third slip, but it was one of a number of chances missed in a shoddy day for England in the field that also saw several run-out chances go begging. Bolton was dropped again, pulling a ball to Natalie Sciver at midwicket when on 28. Cameron was also dropped, by Anya Shrubsole in the 31st over, hitting the ball straight to her at wide mid-off.
Fortunately for England, Cameron was dismissed in the following over, mistiming a ball of Hazell's over midwicket where it was caught by Greenway and she went for 44. But the partnership was worth 95, taking Australia to 134 for 2 in 32 overs, and England were left ruing their missed opportunities.
Bolton remained at the crease until the 43rd over, when Natalie Sciver, the pick of England's bowlers with 2 for 23, eventually removed her for 124, having her bowled as she attempted a reverse sweep. But Australia continued to accumulate runs even in the dying overs, as England failed to contain Alex Blackwell, who hit a speedy 56 off 47 balls as the wickets of Perry, out lbw for a first-ball duck to Kathryn Cross, Alyssa Healey, caught of the bowling of Sciver by Wyatt at deep-backward square leg for 4, and Jess Jonassen, stumped for 13, tumbled around her.
Blackwell herself was not dismissed until the last over, as she drove straight into the hands of Brindle at cover. By this time the asking run rate for England was over 5 an over, a difficult ask.
England's run-chase began disastrously after Holly Ferling, entrusted with the new ball for the first time in her career, struck immediately, clean bowling Charlotte Edwards for a first ball duck. Ellyse Perry, demoted to first-change, then struck in her first over as Lydia Greenway was given out lbw for 4.
England fought back as opener Heather Knight and Sarah Taylor, batting at No. 4, added 84 in the space of 16 overs. Erin Osborne, brought into the attack in the 14th over, went for 11 runs off her first over, including a glorious six over long-on by Knight, in an over which epitomised the temporary loss of control by Australia's bowlers.
Knight went on to make 55 in 68 balls before being stumped coming out of her crease attempting to drive Julie Hunter. But Taylor and Arran Brindle continued to frustrate the Australian bowlers and Taylor's 13th ODI fifty came in the 29th over with a glorious straight drive. Ahead of the par score for most of the innings, for a time it looked as though England would cruise home.
But Bolton returned to the fore and provided the turning point with a direct hit from midwicket to run out Taylor for 63. A flurry of wickets followed as Australia's spinners came into their own: Jonassen had Brindle lbw for 19 attempting a sweep and Erin Osborne removed Danni Wyatt, caught by Jonassen at mid-off attempting to hit over the top. Osborne's 50th ODI wicket followed in the 39th over, as Jenny Gunn was caught hitting out to Lanning at midwicket.
Sciver gave England some hope as she batted the last 10 overs, reaching a 38-ball half-century in the 46th over. But batting with the tail, as the required rate crept above 8 an over, was always going to be a difficult task. The last three wickets fell after Perry was brought back into the attack in the 44th over, with Sciver herself the last to go in the second ball of the 47th over, miscuing a ball of Osborne's to Ferling at backward-square leg.
England still lead the series by 8-2 on points but this was a disappointing result for them nonetheless. Australia still require victories in all four remaining matches if they are to regain the Ashes; but today, their first win over England in eight successive encounters, could well provide the momentum which they need to turn this series around.
Raf Nicholson is a PhD student, an England supporter, a feminist, and fanatical about women's cricket. She tweets here