Brief Scores: Australia 226 for 3 in 20 overs (Meg Lanning 133*, Beth Mooney 54; Sophie Ecclestone 2-42) beat England 133 for 9 in 20 overs (Lauren Winfield 33, Katherine Brunt 29; Megan Schutt 3-25, Ellyse Perry 2-11) by 93 runs.
England’s record at Chelmsford was one of those records that they were rightly proud of. However, as England have found all summer, Australia arrived in England to break records!
With the Ashes retained, but not yet won, Meg Lanning, the Australian captain, smashed an unbeaten 133 from just 63 balls as Australia trounced England by 93 runs in the first T20I at the County Ground in Chelmsford on Friday (July 26). England, who had never lost a game at the ‘fortress’ had suddenly been handed their heaviest defeat in T20Is.
The parallels with which Australia have ended England’s winnings streak may be coincidental. England was 14 games unbeaten before the start of the series, and on Friday morning England were unbeaten in 14 games at Chelmsford. The thought of England losing a game at their ‘fortress’ was unthinkable— even with such a big target to chase.
Having missed the 2017 Ashes in Australia after undergoing shoulder surgery, Lanning watched from the sidelines as her team secured the trophy. Her path back into the team in March 2018, and the struggles that followed have been well documented. She was unable to find the same rhythm and consistency in her play as there was before the surgery.
Coming into the T20I series, Lanning’s form was patchy at best. She had registered two half-centuries, but neither innings had the flair or presence that she generally commands. On Friday, the Lanning of old was on display— the batter that could find the point boundary in her sleep, and the one who tore apart bowling attacks for fun.
There was only a moment, briefly, where it looked like England were in this contest. Alyssa Healy skied the fifth ball of the match to the waiting Sciver at cover. The ball was in the air for an eternity the crowd waited with bated breath as the ball fell eventually into Sciver’s hands.
When she walked in to bat in the second over of the day, Lanning watches as Beth Mooney creamed three consecutive boundaries off Anya Shrubsole. She defended her first delivery confidently— big stride forward and a loud call of ‘No’— and struck her fifth for a boundary: a powerful flick shot played with absolute disdain. Five deliveries into her innings, the alarm bells were ringing.
England persisted with their plan of bowling back of a length as Lanning and Mooney took them to task. The pair shared an absolutely rapid 134-run stand with Mooney contributing a 33-ball 54. The pair tried to outdo each other shot for shot as Australia cantered along at close to 11 runs an over.
England were under the pump and reliable fielders such as Danni Wyatt were misfielding. Wyatt overran the ball and slipped as it went for four. It was another day where when things went wrong for England it went badly wrong. The hosts had an opportunity to halt Australia’s progress when Lanning offered up a chance to Tammy Beaumont on 85, three balls after Mooney had been dismissed by Ecclestone.
Lanning made them pay as she brought up her second T20I century off just 51 balls with flick off her legs which sailed into the stands. It was similar to the shot that got her off the mark— almost as if she had come full circle.
Generally not one to show emotion, Lanning celebrated the milestone with a clenched fist. However, as the helmet came off and she acknowledged the applause, the look on her face indicated that she was not done— England were in for more punishment. Quite fittingly she went on to hit Anya Shrubsole for 14 more runs in that over.
As the hosts continued to feed her with width, Lanning peppered the point and cover boundary as only she knows how. The Australian captain displayed flair, class and versatility in her record breaking knock. Her trademark square drives were on show for all to see, but the shot of the day came against Ecclestone— a little shimmy down the wicket, and a bunt over cover for four. In an innings with 17 boundaries, Lanning smashed a whopping seven sixes on her way to an unbeaten 63-ball 133— the highest ever individual score in T20Is.
Towards the end of the innings, she had Ashleigh Gardner, who was crashing the ball to all parts, for company.The pair shared a 62-run stand in 5.3 overs, before Ecclestone removed Gardner for a 14-ball 27. Eventually, Australia finished with 226-3, their highest ever total in T20Is.
There wasn’t much for the hosts to cheer Sophie Ecclestone took 2 for 42. She wasn’t the only bowler to receive some stick, as all of England’s bowlers went for more than nine runs an over.
In pursuit of 227, England never looked like winning the game as Wyatt and Amy Jones were both back in the pavilion by the end of the second over. Ellyse Perry opened the bowling and found her rhythm straight away, getting the ball to hoop away from the right-handers. Wyatt swung at a full, wide delivery and was brilliantly caught at the third man boundary by Gardner. At the other end, Megan Schutt dismissed Amy Jones for a duck, caught by Mooney at mid-on. Beaumont was dismissed soon after, chasing a wide delivery from Perry. England were reeling at 12 for 3 and the dream of maintaining their unbeaten run at the ‘fortress’ was crumbling around them.
Australia’s intensity in the field never dropped, as they dived, slid and scrambled to cover ground as if their lives depended on it. Where Australia consistently found the boundary, England found Australian fielders, and with every passing over, the visitors tightened the screws
Katherine Brunt, Laura Marsh, and Lauren Winfield provided something for the crowds to cheer with about with counter attacking knocks. Brunt had some fun in the middle with her brief cameo, and later Marsh showed her batting prowess with some lusty hits as England finished on 133— tied with Lanning.
Australia’s clinical performance with both bat and ball was enough to see them register their first win at Chelmsford and thus win the Ashes.
The teams move on to Hove on Sunday (July 28) with England still looking for a way to beat this Australia side.