By Matthew Sherry
Sarah Taylor delivered the goods once again as England moved into pole position to regain the Women’s Ashes.
Buoyed by striking 64 as the hosts completed a 2-1 win in the one-day international leg of the three-format series, Taylor tonight hit a Twenty20 international-best 77.
That led England to a commanding 146 for four, which they defended comfortably to win by 15 runs in front of a sellout crowd at Chelmsford.
Victory in the first of three Twenty20s means that, after the spoils were shared in the sole Test, England now lead 8-4 on points.
Australia subsequently require victory in the remaining two T20Is, worth two points apiece, otherwise the urn will return to Charlotte Edwards’ side.
"I thought Sarah Taylor played another fantastic innings, which got us to a good total," said Edwards.
"In T20, you need someone to go on and get 70s and 80s. She did that today and showed why she is such a world-class player."
Taylor, having been awarded the match award, added: "I like this ground; it is my favourite ground and I cannot wait to get back here.
"The crowd was fantastic and that's why I cannot wait to get back here. It is so nice to have that support and they got us through at the end."
The tourists’ task will surely be harder given the form of Taylor, who provided another illustration of why she is considered the most talented batter in the women’s game.
Coming in after skipper Edwards had departed for a breezy 17, she immediately looked at ease.
Favouring leg, she picked the gaps expertly to eke out every run imaginable while massaging her strike-rate with the odd boundary.
More often than not, excellent shots were slowed up by the outfield; however, Taylor’s response was merely to focus on her work between the wickets.
Following the departure of Heather Knight, she had the perfect partner in crime as Danni Wyatt was typically busy.
Wyatt, playing in place of Laura Marsh, deserves credit for her crucial 28, compiled in a 88-run partnership with Taylor.
A not-out finish would have been deserved for the latter, although it was not to be as she was castled by the impressive Erin Osborne in the innings’ last over.
In truth, Australia never threatened to chase the runs as England claimed wickets at regular intervals.
Only Jess Cameron, who struck a big six over midwicket en route to 35, looked like playing a decisive innings.
However, her efforts were in vain as England – despite some uncharacteristic lapses in the field – delivered a clinical bowling display, led by Jenny Gunn’s 2-33.
The only worry for the home side was the fitness of Anya Shrubsole, who managed just one over before hobbling off.
Live Text Commentary
9:47pm - END OF MATCH! England win by 15 runs; Australia 131/5 - Wild heaves off Natalie Sciver do not yield the desired results as Australia fall short. The tourists now need to win the last two games, both T20Is, or England will regain the Ashes.
9:43pm - Perry strikes Brunt for successive fours over mid-off but Australia still require 25 off the last over.
9:34pm - Rachael Haynes and Ellyse Perry have not given up, each striking boundaries off Gunn. Australia require 48 off three overs.
9:23pm - WICKET! Blackwell c Greenway b Wyatt 20; Australia 76/5 - Surely that's the game; Wyatt gets in on the act as Alex Blackwell slog-sweeps straight to Lydia Greenway in the deep. She don't drop 'em.
9:19pm - WICKET! Cameron c & b Gunn 35; Australia 71/4 - Huge wicket for England. Cameron strikes one powerfully down the ground and Gunn claims a wonderful return catch.
9:07pm - MISSED CHANCE! - The skipper shells one. Cameron, who struck a six over midwicket an over ago, top-edges a sweep off Danni Wyatt and Charlotte Edwards shells a sitter.
8:55pm - WICKET! Fields b Gunn 6; Australia 27/3 - The introduction of Jenny Gunn pays dividends as, after sending down a wide first up, she locates off stump. Jodie Fields played all around that one!
After a huge attendance at this evening's match, we would like to thank all supporters for your patience with queuing at the food kiosks
— Essex Cricket (@EssexCricket) August 27, 2013
8:54pm - Australia manage just 26 for two in the six-over powerplay, Jess Cameron hitting the only boundary when opening the face off Brunt.
8:41pm - WICKET! Healy c Taylor b Brunt 6; Australia 10/2 - What a start with the ball this is! Healy does not survive this time, edging Katherine Brunt behind.
8:37pm - WICKET! Lanning run out 2; Australia 8/1 - That's a great response from England! Meg Lanning attempts a run that is not there and Arran Brindle throws down the stumps at the non-striker's end.
8:35pm - MISSED CHANCE! - Alyssa Healy should pay the price for losing her patience, yet Natalie Sciver drops a relatively simple chance off a skier. The bowler, Anya Shrubsole, then heads off with what appears to be a groin injury.
8:15pm - END OF INNINGS! England 146/4; Taylor 77 - Taylor hits a wonderful, career-best 77, prior to being bowled by the impressive Erin Osborne off the last ball, as England rack up a commanding total.
8:07pm - WICKET! Wyatt run out Haynes 36; England 126/3 - Wyatt, having compiled 36 from 28 balls, is comfortably short of her ground after Rachael Haynes cuts off Taylor's reverse sweep. England's number three responds with a flowing boundary over cover later in the over.
— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) August 27, 2013
— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) August 27, 2013
7:52pm - FIFTY! Taylor (37b 4x4 0x6) - Well, she deserved a bit of luck. Having been denied a succession of boundaries by exceptional fielding, Taylor edges an attempted slog-sweep over the wicketkeeper for four to herald a half-century.
— BBC TMS (@bbctms) August 27, 2013
7:43pm - Taylor is really starting to show her class, particularly through the leg side. She's a joy to watch in this mood...
7:36pm - MISSED CHANCE! - Runs are coming a little more easily now, Wyatt and Taylor hitting a boundary apiece either side of the former being dropped at cover.
7:30pm - Australia are putting on the squeeze impressively as Danni Wyatt and Taylor struggle for runs.
7:19pm - WICKET! Knight c Cameron b Hunter 13; England 38/2 - What a catch that is! After Sarah Taylor strikes a boundary over mid-on, Knight fails to repeat the trick off Julie Hunter as Jess Cameron snaffles a difficult one-handed chance brilliantly.
7:11pm - Ellyse Perry errs too straight with successive deliveries and Heather Knight tucks in, clipping boundaries through leg.
7:06pm - WICKET! Edwards c Osborne b Coyte 17; England 18/1 - Ah, what a shame. After late-cutting and edging further fours, Edwards chips Sarah Coyte to Erin Osborne at midwicket.
7:03pm - That's the way to do it. A couple of Charlotte Edwards fours in the first over give the hosts a perfect start to their innings.
6:43pm - England have made just one change, Danni Wyatt replacing Laura Marsh. Here are the teams:
England team: Charlotte Edwards, Heather Knight, Sarah Taylor, Danni Wyatt, Lydia Greenway, Natalie Sciver, Jenny Gunn, Arran Brindle, Katherine Brunt, Danni Hazell, Anya Shrubsole.
Australia team: Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning, Jess Cameron, Jodie Fields, Alex Blackwell, Ellyse Perry, Rachael Haynes, Erin Osborne, Jess Jonassen, Sarah Coyte, Julie Hunter.
6:32pm - ENGLAND WIN TOSS & BAT - That's a good start! Skipper Charlotte Edwards emerges victorious in the coin-flip and will bat.
6:25pm - England's victory on Sunday meant they won the one-day international leg of the rubber 2-1. The Test was drawn and now we're on to the sprint format. Tonight promises to be a cracker.
6:10pm - Hello and welcome to ecb.co.uk's live coverage of the first Twenty20 in the Women's Ashes series. England currently hold a 6-4 lead in the table and can take a giant step towards regaining the urn with victory tonight.