By Rob Barnett
England romped to a resounding nine-wicket win in the first Twenty20 international to retain the Women’s Ashes with two games to spare.
Captain Charlotte Edwards and Sarah Taylor fired majestic, unbeaten fifties as the tourists chased 151 with 2.1 overs unused at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval.
Player-of-the-match Edwards’ 59-ball 92 is her country’s highest format score. She plundered 114 in partnership with Taylor, who made 50 from 37 deliveries, after the early loss of Danni Wyatt.
England’s two best batters looked a class apart as they tore into a tricky target and the skipper fittingly struck the winning runs with her 13th boundary, lofting Erin Osborne for four to midwicket.
Victory gives Edwards’ side an unassailable 10-4 lead in the multi-format rubber, which concludes with two more T20Is this week - also the first part of double-headers featuring Australia and England’s men.
Australia Women, who won the second and third one-day internationals to keep the series alive, therefore will be playing for pride on Friday in Melbourne and on Sunday at Sydney.
England’s win in Hobart was particularly impressive given they were without three key players. Katherine Brunt had already been ruled out of the tour by a lower-back problem before fellow seamer Anya Shrubsole and batter Heather Knight were today sidelined by hip and hamstring injuries respectively.
An inexperienced attack was asked to bowl first and did well to keep the hosts to 150 for three, which skipper Meg Lanning dominated with an unbeaten 78 in 54 balls.
Off-spinner Danni Hazell, who impressed in Sunday’s ODI at the same venue, opened the bowling and trapped the sweeping Elyse Villani lbw at the end of the first over.
Alex Blackwell and Lanning responded positively, but the former was run out for 21. Wyatt then struck with her off-spin when Jess Cameron holed out to long-on to go for 16.
Ellyse Perry prospered to the tune of 29 in an unbroken stand of 67 alongside Lanning, who lifted Jenny Gunn for the innings’ sole six to go with her nine fours.
Although Wyatt fell cheaply to Jess Jonassen, Edwards gave the reply a flying start with a succession of fours. Alongside Taylor she consolidated somewhat, but they kept ahead of the required run-rate.
With her fifty up, Edwards taking Cameron for a maximum signalled a lift in the tempo. Taylor raised her half-century shortly before victory arrived.
Edwards’ score trumped Lydia Greenway’s 80 not out - England’s previous T20I-best - that secured the Ashes with one match to spare at the Ageas Bowl last summer.