England women 8 for 284 (Knight 88*, Beaumont 74, Taylor69, Schutt 4-44) beat Australia women 9 for 257 (Healy 71, Bolton 62, Hartley 3-45) by 20 runs (DLS method)

Led firmly by the captain Heather Knight, England outmanoeuvred Australia in the third match of the women's Ashes at Coffs Harbour to close the gap between the sides to just two points ahead of the Test match leg of the contest in North Sydney next week.

Much as Australia had done in game two, England made the most of the opportunity to bat first and set the hosts a target beyond their reach, aided by a rain delay that reduced the pursuit by two overs and upset the momentum of the opener Alyssa Healy and Nicole Bolton when they were motoring along at better than a-run-a-ball.

It was Knight who provided the spinal contribution of England's innings, gliding to 88 from a mere 80 deliveries, aided by strong top-order contributions from Sarah Taylor and Tammy Beaumont, who lasted until the 36th over after losing her opening partner Lauren Winfield for a duck to Ellyse Perry with the new ball.

Australia's response began briskly through Healy and Bolton, but while they made it as far as the 22nd over in a stand of 118, England's bowlers were able to peg back the run rate gradually after the rain delay, which then added pressure to the home side's middle order once wickets began to fall. Alex Blackwell, playing a record 250th match for Australia, was left to try to mount a late pursuit but the requirement proved to be beyond her and the tail.

On a sunny morning, Perry had given Australia the ideal start by pinning Lauren Winfield lbw with the last ball of the second over. But any hopes the captain Rachael Haynes had of inducing a rush of wickets were to be denied by Taylor and Beaumont, who set a terrific platform for the England middle order by adding 122.

Their efforts ensured Knight could play with plenty of freedom by the time she made it to the middle, as Australia struggled to contain the scoring rate. Most of Knight's runs came through deft placement and plenty of hustle between the wickets, but she also smote the only six of the innings. Beaumont's equally important contribution was ended when a brilliant back-handed flick by Healy found her overbalancing out of the crease by a matter of centimetres.

Australia needed a rapid start to their response, and were handed it by a proactive Healy in particular. But at 0 for 39 after 37 deliveries, heavy rain stopped play and revised Australia's target to 278 from 48 overs via Duckworth Lewis Stern. While Healy and Bolton carried on strongly, they were unable to get ahead of the required rate. This meant that once Healy was taken in the outfield, when trying to loft Alex Hartley, there was immediate pressure to keep momentum ticking.

Bolton was unable to bat through the innings as had seemed her intention, Perry made a start but could not go on to a truly influential score. Elyse Villani and then Haynes were both dismissed when trying to lift the rate by taking the aerial route to the boundary. Blackwell and the fit-again Ashleigh Gardner were left with primary responsibility to chase down the target, but the latter was unable to repeat her heroics from the first match as the asking rate continued to climb.

While determined to take the game as deep as possible, Blackwell could not summon the big hits she needed, and Australia reached the final over needing no fewer than 31 to win. The vastly experienced Jenny Gunn was never likely to concede anywhere near that many, and after Blackwell's exit there was time for a quicksilver Taylor stumping of Amanda-Jade Wellington before England were able to celebrate closing the gap on Australia.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig