The Tahlia McGrath all-round show sinks England in Ashes opener
Tahlia McGrath’s all-round performance at her home ground helped Australia to beat England by nine wickets in the Ashes opener on Thursday (January 20) at the Adelaide Oval. Promoted to no. three, McGrath put on a scintillating performance with the bat scoring 91 runs and was involved in an unbeaten 144-run stand with her captain Meg Lanning, who herself scored 64.
Chasing a total of 170, Australia made a good start with the bat with Lanning hitting a couple of boundaries in the first three overs. She looked fluent with the bat from the word go and hit the ground running. She was opening the innings in absence of Beth Mooney but managed to put the debate of her tendency to start slow in the format to bed.
At the other end, Alyssa Healy didn’t manage to go big and was dismissed in the fourth over of the innings of the bowling off Sophie Ecclestone. At the end of the fourth over, Australia’s score was 26 for one and a rebuilding was the need of the hour and rebuild they did. McGrath’s fluency was visible from the get go as she smashed two fours against Katherine Brunt. But, it was Sarah Glenn, whom she and Lanning particularly took a liking to, hitting four fours in five balls she bowled at one stage.
Heading towards the halfway stage of the innings, with the required rate was climbing towards nine, McGrath caught hold of the chase by the scruff of the neck. A couple of fours off Ecclestone and a six off Freya Davies saw her reach a 28-ball fifty. Lanning supported her well at the other end. Despite the many boundaries in the innings, it was the running between the wicket and regular rotation of strike which was quite impressive and kept England under pressure.
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The stand was dominated by McGrath. When it crossed the 100-run mark, the Southern Australian had added 76 off those runs. With 17 runs required off the last four overs, England captain Heather Knight introduced herself into the attack, a plan which worked into the hands of the Aussies.
McGrath hit two consecutive fours to enter the 90s and handed over the strike to her skipper, who only hit two more fours but also ended the chase. If the bowling card of England didn’t have a sorry telling, it did after their captain’s 17-run over to finish the game. McGrath’s 91 came off just 49 balls with 13 fours and a six while Lanning made 64 runs off just 44 deliveries, which included eight fours.
Earlier in the evening, the Aussie skipper won the toss and elected to bowl first. After a couple of tight overs, the England openers got into the act. Tammy Beaumont pulled three fours off Tayla Vlaeminck in the fourth over which indicated that the visitors were on charge. Danielle Wyatt then stepped out twice against Jess Jonassen in the next over hitting two sixes down the ground. Those two shots forced the left-arm spinner to bowl from over the wicket, a trick she continued through the innings.
After kick starting the inning with some boundaries, Beaumont let Wyatt take the centerstage as the latter managed to hit away four fours in the next three overs. Meanwhile, the duo put on fifty runs for the partnership and continued on their merry-way. At the halfway stage, England were 82 for no loss, with Wyatt inching towards her third 50 plus score against Australia in T20Is.
Debutante Alana King’s introduction into bowling saw the hosts get their first breakthrough. She got her maiden international wicket in her second over as Beaumont tried to flick one to the leg side, but only managed to chip it back to King. The wicket did stop the momentum for sometime but Wyatt managed to get a four and a six off King’s next over, making sure that England were not left behind too much.
Natalie Sciver, who joined Wyatt in the middle, started off slow, scoring only six runs in her first 12 balls faced. However, a boundary off Jonassen made her instantly pro-active. She smashed 16 runs against Nicola Carey’s second over, which included two fours and four doubles. Another four of the first ball off the 17th over by McGrath meant Sciver had raced to 32 from 22 balls.
However, McGrath responded back with a brilliant yorker, which Sciver failed to dig out as the ball crashed the off-stump. As Knight joined Wyatt, who had taken a bit of a back step in the last few overs, was about to face another smearing yorker by McGrath. The England opener, who was batting on 70 off 54 balls, was bowled too by the local star.
The dismissals of the two set batters saw Lanning bring King back for her last over. A five-run over meant she finished her spell with figures of one for 28. McGrath continued her excellent spell dismissing Amy Jones caught on the long-on boundary. She ended with figures of three for 26. Megan Schutt’s last over yielded 14 runs which propelled England’s score to 169 for four. Both Knight and Sophia Dunkley remained unbeaten on tens.
England 169/4 in 20 overs (Danielle Wyatt 70, Natalie Sciver 32; McGrath 3/26) lost to Australia 170/1 in 17 overs (Tahlia McGrath 91*, Meg Lanning 64*; Sophie Ecclestone 1/29) by nine wickets. POTM: Tahlia McGrath