Sciver, Greenway guide England home
England Women 240 for 6 (Sciver 66, Greenway 53, Osborne 3-39) beat Australia Women 238 for 9 (Perry 78, Blackwell 58, Brunt 3-48) by four wickets
A series of moments of brilliance - rather than an excellent all-round performance - can take credit for England's win in the first match of the multi-format Ashes series at Taunton. With Australia well set, they found four run outs to stifle the subdued tourists, before, following the loss of two quick wickets and the relative shakiness of 80 for 4, Lydia Greenway and Natalie Sciver shared 122 to take them within touching distance of their target in front of a 3000-strong crowd.
On a fine pitch and with a rapid outfield, this shaped as an excellent toss for Meg Lanning to win. But Katherine Brunt is as forceful as she is canny with the new ball and had soon trapped both openers in consecutive wicket maidens. Elyse Villani made a flying start, with a stunning cover drive in the first over, before chipping simply to square leg, and Jess Jonassen - bumped up the order in place of the concussed Nicole Bolton - was starved of the strike and never got going, eventually dragging on. When Lanning was pinned in front in Kate Cross's first over - although replays showed that the batsman had hit the ball - Australia had lost 3 for 10 in 32 balls.
Ellyse Perry and Alex Blackwell were the architects of Australia's revival, with a stand of 121 in 26 overs, ended only by the outbreak of England's direct-hit-fest. Perry - surely the world's finest all-round cricketer, whatever the format, whatever the gender - scored her sixth consecutive ODI 50 and anchored the innings. She traded heavily in boundaries, scoring from just 42 of the 96 balls she faced, punching brilliantly down the ground with straight checked drives and cutting spectacularly through the well-marshalled point region. Blackwell was watchful with flourishes, notably a flick through midwicket and drive down the ground.
As the partnership crawled away from England towards the end of a productive batting Powerplay, Heather Knight, that adaptable, resourceful cricketer, brought it to an end with a brilliant direct hit from mid-off to dismiss Blackwell, the ball after she had driven past Knight's fingertips. Jess Cameron looked fluent before being sent back by Perry when searching for a non-existent single and run out by Greenway at point.
Australia stuttered through the final ten overs to finish with 238, 20 below par, in Perry's eyes. After playing brilliantly - despite being dropped by Rebecca Grundy with a caught and bowled on 21 - she lobbed to Sciver in the deep, before Erin Osborne was run out by a direct hit from mid-on and Sarah Coyte by Brunt's strong arm at fine leg and Sarah Taylor's collection at the wicket.
An attractive finish from Alyssa Healy - wristy and dexterous, especially when reverse-sweeping - took Australia somewhere towards a total Perry and Blackwell's middle over fightback had deserved. Those England run outs perhaps masked a fielding display that had otherwise been a touch ragged.
In reply, Charlotte Edwards pulled Perry's first delivery for four but was soon on her way, dragging on, before Knight, who was very scratchy for 45 minutes, lobbed Coyte to mid-on, where Lanning took a fine catch. Amy Jones also never settled and was caught on the second attempt when hitting hard to midwicket.
At the other end, Sarah Taylor had bristled with insouciance, scooping Coyte and unfurling a stunning extra cover drive followed by a pair of wristy flicks over midwicket off Holly Ferling - bowling with a remodelled action after a stress fracture to the lower back. Taylor's pace had slowed by the time she was joined by Greenway - who struggled to lay bat on ball when she first came in - and eventually fell to a fine Healy catch when cutting.
Sciver smote her first ball through the covers off the back foot and was soon into her stride, looking as comfortable as any on the surface. Greenway grew in confidence, unfazed by poor timing and a failed reverse-sweep, playing her strokes and eventually using her feet to hit hard down the ground.
She fell slogging to midwicket, but only after consecutive boundaries, the second of which - carved over mid-on - took her to 50. Sciver was strong on the sweep and brutal on the drive, although was lucky on 37, when a direct hit came in as she lazily failed to run her bat in. Unlike her maverick, hard-hitting counterpart in the men's team, Ben Stokes, she was already home. When Sciver sliced Osborne to mid-off, it was over to Elwiss, who slipped Osborne through the gap at point to inflict Australia's first ODI defeat in 11 matches.
The accepted wisdom is that England's men won the 2013 Ashes by simply winning "the big moments". They were not much better than Australia, and could easily have lost three of the five matches. There was a sense of that here; England were not excellent and at times made heavy weather of all three disciplines, but they had enough to see off Australia, who looked ring-rusty, having not played since November. It was not always pretty but it certainly was professional, and with one win and two of 16 points, off to Bristol England go, with a certain spring in their step.