Emerging all-rounder Ash Gardner has helped lift Australia to a final-over one-day international win in the women’s Ashes series opener in Brisbane.
Chasing 229 for victory over England at Allan Border Field on Sunday, the 20-year-old provided the late hitting required to seal a two-wicket triumph.
Gardner blasted 27 off 18 balls – including two sixes – after earlier taking 3-47 with her off-spin.
The No.8 joined vice-captain Alex Blackwell (67 not out) at the crease needing 48 runs in fewer balls.
Her innings got the Australians in the box seat before she departed with only nine runs required for the win.
Despite some nervous moments, Australia prevailed with five balls to spare.
Blackwell made the most of a life on 35 – spinner Alex Hartley spilling a straightforward caught-and-bowled chance – to play the anchor role after some early stumbles in the chase.
After restricting England with the ball, Australia looked to promoted opener Alyssa Healy to blast it to the total.
She hit three fours in the first over, but no sooner was sitting in the sheds next to opening partner Nicole Bolton with the score 2-20.
Ellyse Perry (20) and Elyse Villani (38) combined to assume control until Perry was stumped off the first ball after the drinks break.
Villani was run out soon after, swinging the game in England’s favour.
When captain Rachael Haynes (30) was well caught by Natalie Sciver, Australia was 5-150 and needing 79 from 90 deliveries.
Earlier, England was not able to fully capitalise on its solid platform, scrambling to 9-228 from its 50 overs.
Tamsin Beaumont (24), Sarah Taylor (34) and Lauren Winfield (48) were all dismissed after promising starts to ruin any plans of pushing towards 300.
Winfield’s run-out was a particularly big blow for the visitors, given their struggle for fluency from that point on in the innings.
Twenty-year-old Amanda Wellington (0-39) was unlucky to go wicketless in a great display of leg-spin bowling, while the spin of Gardner and Jess Jonassen (1-38) proved a further stumbling block for England.
The win gives Australia two points in the multi-format Ashes series, with two more ODIs, a Test and three Twenty20 internationals remaining.
Test wins are worth four points, while two points are awarded for a Test draw and short-format victories.