Classy Mooney keeps her cool to hand Australia thrilling win

Australia 154 for 6 (Mooney 61*, Ecclestone 2 for 24) beat England 153 for 7 (Dunkley 56, Jones 40, Jonassen 3-25) by four wickets

An unbeaten half-century by cool-as-you-like opener Beth Mooney saw Australia to victory with one ball to spare in a thrilling first T20I against England in front of a crowd of 19,527 at Edgbaston.

The Australians maintained their reputation for withstanding pressure, embodied by Mooney’s 61 not out off 47 balls in the face of wickets to Lauren Bell and Sophie Ecclestone in the last two overs of the match, to go six points up in their multi-format series and leave England needing to win all five remaining matches if they are to wrest back the Ashes. Annabel Sutherland struck two crucial boundaries and Mooney one, with Australia needing 16 runs off the last two overs. Georgia Wareham managed to hit the first ball she faced for the winning run.

A half-century from Sophia Dunkley and Amy Jones’ quickfire 40 gave England something to defend and they almost pulled off a coup, as Ecclestone, Bell and Sarah Glenn picked up two wickets each. Despite Dunkley’s fifty and an assertive 29 off 22 balls by Heather Knight – the pair putting on a 55-run stand for the fourth wicket – England were in a hole with the bat. Their 36 for 2 after six overs was their lowest T20I powerplay in 12 innings and no other batter reached double figures, except for Jones.

Jones lifts England

Dunkley started at a strong tempo, scoring seven of the eight runs which came off the first over of the match, bowled by Megan Schutt – who was back in action after being overlooked for the Test, which Australia won to take a four-point lead into this match. The Australians were left confounded when Danni Wyatt drove at Darcie Brown and missed, the ball hitting off stump which visibly wobbled but the bails didn’t dislodge. But there was no more fortune for Wyatt when she attempted to loft Schutt over extra cover and missed again as the ball gripped off the surface, pinging off stump out of the ground. Alice Capsey and Nat Sciver-Brunt fell cheaply, Capsey when her bat bounced up off the pitch when she tried to return to her crease as Brown gathered off her own bowling and threw down the stumps at the striker’s end.

Dunkley brought up fifty off 42 balls but then Tahlia McGrath broke through in her first over with a slower, fuller ball which Knight sent straight to long on and Jones entered the fray, and rode her luck. On 3, she struck the ball just short of backward point and set off, bowler Jess Jonassen failing to take the throw cleanly for what would have been a run out. Three balls later, Jones overturned an lbw decision when replays showed she had got bat on ball. Jones also survived on 15 when she was dropped by Wareham, running in from deep midwicket. But Jones’ ball-striking was decisive and she capitalised on those errors, lofting Schutt over Wareham’s head for six straight after her let-off, then whacking four off the last ball over the covers to take 18 from the over. Jones sealed her 40 off just 21 balls when she heaved Ashleigh Gardner over deep midwicket for six off the last ball of the innings.

Two in two times three

Schutt returned to the attack and made a breakthrough for Australia, removing Dunkley who was trying to swing big to the leg side and sent a leading edge to Brown at short third. Schutt was then on a hat-trick, having had Sciver-Brunt caught by Wareham running in from deep midwicket on the last ball of her previous spell. But Danielle Gibson, on her international debut, managed to play the ball late to the off side safely.

Jonassen also claimed two wickets in two balls after Gibson edged to McGrath at extra cover to fall for just 1 and Alyssa Healy caught Ecclestone down the leg side, Jonassen ultimately finishing with 3 for 25 to be the pick of Australia’s bowlers. Later, leg-spinner Glenn gave England a sniff late in Australia’s innings when she had Gardner caught behind by Jones and then bowled the big-hitting Grace Harris for a first-ball duck with a slower one that turned into the batter who edged onto her stumps.

Dramatic chase

Silence descended on the crowd as Glenn sat under a steepling catch to remove Healy for 5 off seamer Bell and they erupted as she held it at backward point. Jones kept herself in the action with the stumping of McGrath, who had been accumulating nicely at 40 off 28 balls, off Ecclestone. In the 13th over, Australia were level with where England had been and needed to score at more than eight runs an over.

Gardner skied the ball so high back above bowler Bell’s head she struggled to pick it out on descent and didn’t end up getting close. Next ball, Mooney managed to turn a full ball off her pads past short fine leg to bring up her fifty. But then Glenn removed Gardner and Harris and all of a sudden Australia were under pressure, even more so when Bell rattled Ellyse Perry’s off stump.

Sutherland sent Bell to the square leg boundary to ease the tension and Mooney then hit Bell’s last delivery up and over the covers to the rope, leaving Australia with just five to get off the last over. Sutherland drove Ecclestone’s first ball straight down the ground for four but then skied to Jones with two balls remaining. Wareham, however stayed calm as she punched towards cover and set off for the run Australia needed.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women’s cricket, at ESPNcricinfo

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