Ellyse Perry celebrating the wicket. ©Getty Images

At the halfway stage at Leicester, England’s old habits of wobbling at the start of an important series were evident again. Too often England have found themselves with work to do. It happened in the previous Ashes series and at the World Cup in 2017. England had their chances to win. In the end, it was a closer game than it had any right to be. Australia chased down England’s target of 178 at Grace Road in Leicester on Tuesday (July 2) with two wickets to spare.

Ashes cricket is not for the faint-hearted.

That was summed up in the dismissal of Beth Mooney. With the finishing line in sight and having just hit Laura Marsh for four, Mooney tried to paddle sweep the next delivery over her shoulder. She played all around it and was bowled. The required run rate was barely two runs an over.

Alyssa Healy played a mature innings to lead the Australian reply. She was quick to pounce on anything that strayed from a good line and length striking eight fours and two along the way to a match-winning knock of 66.

Healy’s 71-ball knock only came to an end thanks to a splendid catch by Fran Wilson at deep cover off the bowling of Laura Marsh. Still, at 105 for 5 Australia were in charge.

Through the chase it felt like Australia were always on the verge of building a partnership to win the game. England though fought back with great heart and occasionally the odd bit of genius.

Ellyse Perry who had bowled well earlier in the day taking 3 for 43 started slowly with the bat. It is nothing we have not seen from Perry before who works her way through the gears and before you know it Australia have won.

Sarah Taylor is one of those players who can inject that magic moment into proceedings. Natalie Sciver brought into the attack by Heather Knight bowled a loose delivery down the leg-side in her first over and Perry lost her balance. Taylor didn’t hesitate and the bails were flying.

Wickets fell regularly. England hoped. The target kept getting closer for Australia. They never needed to or should have worried.

It was Sophie Ecclestone and Laura Marsh that kept England in it. They took five wickets between them. Ecclestone finishing with 3 for 34, her line never wavered and her variation in pace and bounce caused problems.

When Australia bowled England out for 177 from 46.5 overs it looked like a repeat of the World T20 was happening again. Australia were dominant on that occasion. They went into this game firm favourites and they were eager to prove why.

Megan Schutt ran in and bowled with her usual hustle but it was Perry who got the breakthroughs. The in-form Amy Jones who was the first to go, miscuing a pull shot to Healy.

England were soon in trouble at 19 for four. Wilson walking to the middle with Perry on a hat-trick. Alongside Sciver, she was tasked with rebuilding the England innings. They started to do so, but left-arm spin proved to be the undoing of many batters in the game and both fell to Jess Jonassen.

Sciver with 64 proved that batting wasn’t impossible on a good pitch. England’s lower order got England out of a hole as Brunt (20), Marsh (24*) and Ecclestone (27) chipped in with useful runs.

Twenty runs more, catches held and misfields avoided and it so nearly could have been England’s day. However, it is Australia who have come out on top in the opening round.

The hosts will be eager to turn things around in the second ODI at the same venue on Thursday (July 4).

Brief Score: 

England 177 all out (N Sciver 64, E Perry 3/43, M Schutt 2/19) lost to Australia 178-8 (A Healy 66, S Ecclestone 3/34) by 2 wickets.