Belligerent Gardner helps Australia overcome an early wobble in the series opener

Ashleigh Gardner during her match-winning knock in the first T20I © Getty Images

Ashleigh Gardner’s belligerent innings helped Australia overcome an early wobble to chase down New Zealand’s target to go 1-0 up in the three-match T20I series at Seddon Park in Hamilton on Sunday (March 28). Walking in at 14 for three, Gardner smashed a 48-ball 73 and shared an unbroken 71-run partnership with Ellyse Perry to take Australia to a six-wicket win over their Trans-Tasman rivals.

Put into bat, New Zealand played out nine dot balls as Tayla Vlaeminck, on her return, bowled a maiden in the opening over against Sophie Devine. At the other end, Hayley Jensen also struggled to get going straight away. Devine eventually hit final two deliveries of the second over bowled by Megan Schutt for fours down the ground to get the scorecard moving.

In the second Vlaeminck over, Jensen managed to strike two boundaries, one through fine-leg and another through the off-side. Just when it looked like Devine and Jensen will get through power play without losing any wicket, Jess Jonassen struck twice in the sixth over to remove both the openers to leave New Zealand at 35 for two. Devine was caught on the boundary while trying to slog sweep while Jensen tried to go for a pull and skied it to Alyssa Healy behind the wicket.

Although Amy Satterthwaite started with a couple of boundaries in the seventh over, only ten runs came from the next three overs as New Zealand were 53 for two at the half way stage. In the next over, Satterthwaite was dropped off Vlaeminck by Healy as the left-hander tried to take on the speedster. At the other end, Amelia Kerr was going hard at the ball albeit without any success as she struggled to find any boundaries in an uncharacteristically laborious innings.

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Meanwhile, Satterthwaite opened up hitting Vlaeminck’s final delivery for a boundary and then took on Nicola Carey to smash a four through backward square-leg before launching one over mid-wicket for a six. But Carey had her in the same over when Satterthwaite was caught on long-on by Perry for 40.

Post Satterthwaite’s dismissal, it looked like familiar woes for the hosts as they lost Katey Martin and Amelia in quick succession as they found themselves at 97 for five in the 17th over. However, Maddy Green and Brooke Halliday added 24 runs in the next two overs with Green smashing Jonassen down the ground for a huge six before playing a square drive through point for four. Despite Green’s dismissal in the final over, New Zealand finished on 130 for 6 from their 20 overs.

For Australia, Jonassen was the most successful bowler with figures of thre for 26 while three other bowlers took one wicket each.

In the chase, Australia got off to a terrible start losing both the openers in the space of first seven deliveries. Healy drove last ball of Frances Mackay’s opening over straight to Satterthwaite at cover and Jess Kerr got one across Beth Mooney and had her caught at slip for a golden duck.

Australia sunk into further trouble when they lost their third wicket in the form of Rachael Haynes to Jess in the fourth over with the score reading only 14. Early wickets didn’t deter Meg Lanning from taking on Amelia as she first smashed the leg-spinner’s full toss for four and then got down the pitch to hit her over long-on for a six. New Zealand bowlers tried to keep it out, but Australia found occasional boundaries with Gardner pulling Devine for six before edging one to thirdman for four.

Just when what was looking like one of those Lanning’s rescue act, Amelia had her revenge dismissing the Australian skipper for 28 to end the 48-run partnership.

Perry joined Gardner with Australia still needing 69 runs from 8.2 overs, the pair soon reduced the target to 41 runs from the last 36 balls as Gardner took on Amelia with a couple of sixes after being dropped on 30 off Mackay in the 13th over. Another edged four through thirdman and a couple off Rosemary Mair got Gardner to her fifty from 37 balls.

Post her fifty, Gardner took on Jensen’s leg-side deliveries and hit them to square-leg boundaries leaving Australia needing only 20 from the last four overs. Ten runs came from the next over bowled by Devine as Gardner continued to pepper thirdman with yet another identical boundary. In the 18th over, Perry got into the act to finish the match in style hitting Mackay’s last two deliveries for fours.

Brief Scores: New Zealand 130/6 in 20 overs (Amy Satterthwaite 40; Jess Jonassen 3/26) lost to Australia 133/4 in 18 overs (Ashleigh Gardner 73* ; Jess Kerr 2/17) by six wickets.

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