What a great day at Taunton!!
And not just because England won, although I have to say that helps!
The atmosphere was electric before the start. The media were there in force with pre-match pitchside interviews for radio and television. Photographers were getting set-up. The crowd started to trickle in, filling up the traditional small stands. The owners of the penthouse flats on the far side of the ground settled down with a coffee on their balconies to watch proceedings. The Ashes were about to get under way - NOT the WOMEN'S Ashes!
There is always that nagging fear that the game might not quite live up to all the hype, and when England reduced Australia to 35/3 with the MegaStar, Meg Lanning, one of the wickets to fall, there was a mixture of anxiety and euphoria amongst the bloggerati (a word I think I have just made up for those of us who blog on women's cricket). It was great to see England doing so well, but the game, being broadcast on Sky and on BBC radio, needed to be a good contest. We needn't have worried. Ellyse Perry and Alex Blackwell ensured it was a decent game. They added 121 in 161 balls for the fourth wicket, before Blackwell was run out by a direct hit from Heather Knight at mid-off. It was the first of four run-outs by England, who until that time had not had a great day in the field, with fumbles in the field, missed stumpings and a dropped catch (Perry on 21 at the time) by Becky Grundy off her own bowling. The run-outs took the wind out of the Aussie sails which meant they ended up on 238/9, rather than the 260/270 they looked like achieving at one stage. It looked a decent score on the board, but with an outfield like glass and no movement in the air or off the pitch for the seamers and no spin for the spinners, it was well below par. England just needed to bat sensibly.....just....
Charlotte Edwards pulled the first ball of the England innings for 4, and all seemed right in the world. The crowd had grown to around 3,500 and they were enjoying themselves, even if the sun had given way to some rather ominous grey clouds and the occasional spit and spot of rain. But Edwards dragged one on from Perry; Knight clipped Coyte to mid-on; Jones swatted a long-hop from Osborne to midwicket; and Taylor edged Osborne behind trying to dab the ball down to third man. England were 80/4. England's previously fragile middle-order was exposed, but this was still a good batting track, and none of the Aussie bowlers really looked that threatening. Did they? But still there was little confidence that England would pull it off.
Again unnecessary pessimism. Nat Sciver, despite some indifferent form in the County Championship, rose to the occasion like a leaping salmon. She, together with a more circumspect Lydia Greenway, gradually brought the game round England's way. They got to 30 overs with the score on 124/4. England still needed 115 from 20 overs. Eminently doable, but if they lost a wicket now..... They did not. Instead they hit Jonassen for eight; Beams for 10; Perry for seven and Osborne for 10 in consecutive overs. 35 off four overs and the game was theirs to lose now.
Cue slight palpitations when Greenway departed with 37 still needed and then Sciver with 22 still needed, but Georgia Elwiss looked like the calmest of calm people on a calm day as she cut her first ball off Osborne for 4 and then lofted her over extra cover for 4 more. Her glove punch and smiles with the enigmatic Katherine Brunt as she edged Osborne for 4 two overs later, before cutting her for the winning 4 two balls later, were great to witness. As was the noise of the enthusiastic and partisan Somerset crowd, who gradually came to life as the Sciver/Greenway combo took the game by the scruff of the neck.
England won with more than four overs to spare. Why were we ever worried?
It really had been a grand day out. Perhaps it was the day that women's cricket finally came of age?