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Tammy Beaumont has backed England to compete with Australia when the sides reconvene for back-to-back matches at the Adelaide Oval over the weekend to complete the T20I leg of their Ashes series. But despite a heavy defeat in the first T20I to start off the tour, she was keen to highlight the positives for England after the match - not least after the visitors' senior side had lost both of their T20 warm-up matches to England A in the lead-up to Thursday's series opener.
"We've come a long way in the space of less than a week," Beaumont said. "There's still a long way to go. We've got a lot more cricket to play, and I'm sure [we] will improve. We wanted to come out here and play the way we want to play T20 cricket, and to put 170 on the board was certainly the way we go about it. The way Danni Wyatt came out and really attacked - particularly the spinners down the ground - I thought was exceptional.
"We wanted to say that we're going to come toe-to-toe with Australia, and I think they were surprised in the field. You saw some mistakes from them, so I think we started well but we've just got to try and get over the line."
Beaumont admitted that there was little England's batters could do in the face of Tahlia McGrath's excellent bowling, which not only removed two set batters - Wyatt and Sciver in a double-wicket over - at a crucial time but also accounted for No. 5 Amy Jones, caught for four at long-on by Grace Harris, who returned to the Australian line-up with Beth Mooney's fractured jaw pushing captain Meg Lanning up the order to open and Ellyse Perry dropped primarily owing to a dwindling strike rate.
Australia's depth wasn't tested even after Sophie Ecclestone dismissed Alyssa Healy for just seven in the fourth over of their response thanks to McGrath and Lanning, the latter finishing on an unbeaten 64 off 44 balls. Ecclestone, the left-arm spinner who took a stunning 7 for 14 for England in a losing cause in one of the T20 warm-ups against England A, remains a huge weapon for the visitors, but the Australian line-up looked impenetrable in Adelaide on Thursday. As McGrath and Lanning turned up the pressure, cracks formed in England's fielding and that was one area Beaumont said needed work.
"I've been part of heavier defeats in some ways," Beaumont said. "Obviously they have got a nine-wicket win at the end of the day but to post 170 on a ground where the par in women's cricket here is a lot lower is a massive positive. We started really well in the powerplay as well with the ball. We've got to tighten up some areas: we probably didn't field well enough on our ground fielding, and maybe tighten up our lines a little bit and come back with some plans to try and get those two out."
The hosts took the first two points of the seven-match multi-format contest with an emphatic victory in the opening game - thanks to McGrath's three wickets and 91 not out, despite England setting themselves up well through an 82-run opening partnership between Beaumont and Wyatt, and another 59-run stand for the second wicket between Wyatt and Sciver. Wyatt had breathed new life into her international career with 89* in the third T20I against India in July and unbeaten 50-over scores of 63 and 43 during New Zealand's visit to England in September. Her latest innings of 70 came off just 54 balls and included three glorious sixes, while Beaumont contributed 30 off 24.
But the margin of defeat and the fact that England's bowlers had no answers as McGrath and Lanning put on an unbroken second-wicket union of 144 to see their side home with three overs to spare, is cause for concern. So too is the fact that - surviving McGrath's pin-point yorker in a devastating double-wicket over aside - England couldn't have done much more with the bat.
"We just need to build a bit of pressure, get a couple of dots an over, stop the boundary balls and then if they've got to get nine an over - which they did at one stage - they're going to have to take more risks," Beaumont said. "They played really well, took the right risks at the right time, but I'm not too worried about our bowling attack - it's been brilliant for the last two, three years."
"At the beginning of the day we would definitely have taken 170," Beaumont said. "We just really wanted to get off to a good start and set the tone really well for our team. Credit to Tahlia McGrath, she bowled two brilliant yorkers there to get our two set batters out and that's probably the difference between kicking onto like 180-190."
Meanwhile, England face one injury concern going into the second match on Saturday after Maia Bouchier appeared to jar her right knee heavily as she attempted to stop a McGrath boundary and spent the rest of the match off the field with it strapped and packed in ice.