Women’s Ashes: Australia beat England in opening ODI as Alex Blackwell stars



Australia began their Women’s Ashes defence with a tight two-wicket victory over England in the first one-day international in Brisbane.

Lauren Winfield (48) top-scored for England as they made 228-8, with off-spinner Ashleigh Gardner taking 3-47.

Alex Blackwell (67 not out) anchored Australia’s response but the home side slipped to 181-6 with seven overs left.

However, Gardner (27) struck two sixes in an important cameo as Australia won with five balls remaining.

In the multi-format series, teams earn two points for a win in all limited-overs games, with four points for a win in the Test.

The second ODI begins on Thursday at Coffs Harbour (04:40 BST).

The fact that England came so close is a credit to their skill with the ball, after their batting fell short.

Winfield and Sarah Taylor (34) put on 56 for the second wicket, but Winfield’s run-out, along with some good fielding from Australia, slowed England’s middle order.

Elyse Villani took a superb catch on the edge of the boundary to dismiss Natalie Sciver for 36, and prevent England from accelerating in the final few overs.

In reply, Australia – who will be without injured captain Meg Lanning for the whole series – were reduced to 20-2 as England’s seamers began tightly, and they kept the hosts in check for the first 20 overs.

However, veteran Blackwell steadied the side, and she was helped after Alex Hartley dropped a simple caught and bowled chance with the batter on 36.

Blackwell recovered quickly, hitting seven boundaries in her 86-ball innings, and Gardner’s big hitting late in the game swung things Australia’s way.

England came close to pulling off a surprise victory as Amanda-Jade Wellington was run out by Sciver from mid-wicket to leave two runs needed from the final six balls, but Jess Jonassen drove her first delivery for four to ensure Australia’s victory.

‘Australia outplayed us’ – what they said

Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell told BBC Sport: “Our bowlers did a magnificent job. They got together as a group before play. They’re really lifting and wanting to bring more to the table. The discipline they showed today was outstanding.

“A game like that, even though it was not a lot of runs to chase, we were losing wickets and it was hurting us. I know I’ve been playing well coming into this tournament, and I went out there with confidence.

“I take batting at six very seriously – I haven’t done it for very long, but I seem to be flourishing in that role.”

England all-rounder Laura Marsh told BBC Sport: “It was a really good game. Probably for the spectators, it was a good game to watch but unfortunately we were probably a few runs short.

“None of the batters went on and got a big total. They outplayed us today. Match-winning performances is being able to put good partnerships together. We put a few together but didn’t extend them. We’ll learn a lot from today.