Brown, Mooney help Australia retain Ashes as England go down in first ODI

Beth Mooney (L) and Darcie Brown (R) © Getty Images

A hostile opening spell from Darcie Brown helped Australia retain the Ashes despite defending a low score in the first ODI at the Manuka Oval on Thursday (February 3). Earlier, a patient knock of 73 from Beth Mooney headlined their recovery. The multi-format series now stands at 8-4 and even if England win the next two ODIs, they won’t be able overhaul the hosts’ points tally.

Opting to bowl first, England got an early breakthrough in the form of Rachael Haynes, who miscued a pull off Anya Shrubsole. Meg Lanning started slowly but got going with a trademark drive through point. Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt kept a tight leash on the scoring as Alyssa Healy looked scratchy through out her knock.

Despite Australia adding 47 runs for the second wicket, England’s persistence finally paid off when Kate Cross got one to jag back to disturb Lanning’s timber for 28. Ellyse Perry came and went as she fell for a first ball duck off Sophie Ecclestone. When Amy Jones’ swift glove work saw Healy walk back to the pavilion, Australia were reeling at 67 for four in the 21st over.

Once again, it was down to Mooney and Tahlia McGrath to lead the recovery and that’s exactly what they did as they put on 58 runs for the fifth wicket. The duo started carefully, scoring only 15 runs from the first 7.5 overs they faced during their stand.

In the 29th over, both got their first boundaries off Ecclestone as they looked to get a move on. Mooney launched Shrubsole over mid-wicket for a maximum and they took on England’s opening bowlers in the next two overs.

Brunt had the last laugh though, when she removed McGrath for 29 with a delivery that seamed back to castle the right hander. With Ashleigh Gardner and Jess Jonassen falling in quick succession, Mooney stood firm to bring up her tenth fifty in the format from 74 balls.

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From 152 for seven, Mooney found support in debutant Alana King and they made sure that Australia went past the 200-run mark with a 52-run partnership. Even though both fell in the final over, Australia finished on 205 for nine with Mooney scoring 73 off 91.

For England, Brunt and Cross were the best bowlers on display with three wickets apiece.

In the chase , it was all Brown at the start as she hurried the batters with her pace and nagging length. The 18-year-old speedster left England in early trouble getting Tammy Beaumont to nick one to first-slip before Heather Knight was trapped in front the next ball. Natalie Sciver played a few eye catching shots to take the visitors through the power play without any further hiccups.

However, with Lauren Winfield-Hill becoming Megan Schutt’s 100th wicket soon after, England were reduced to 39 for three.  They needed Sciver and Jones to get them back on course, the duo added 35 runs to the total before the latter fell to McGrath in a contentious waist high no ball decision.

From there, there was no stopping the Aussies as wickets fell at regular intervals. Sciver and Danielle Wyatt looked assured for a while during their respective knocks, but it was too little for England to challenge the all-round attack of the hosts.

Brunt offered some resistance as she became the second player from England to reach the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in ODIs after Jenny Gunn. Together with Cross, the veteran gave Australia a slight scare before Jonassen finished the innings with a return catch. Brown finished with figures of four for 34 from her ten overs, becoming just the third Australian bowler to take a 4-wicket haul against England in Australia.

Brief Scores: Australia 205/9 in 50 overs (Beth Mooney 73, Tahlia McGrath 29; Kate Cross 3/33, Katherine Brunt 3/40) beat England 178/10 in 45 overs (Natalie Sciver 45, Katherine Brunt 32*; Darcie Brown 4/34, Jess Jonassen 2/30) by 27 runs POTM: Beth Mooney