In a sweltering hot and airless (not to mention crowdless) Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, the England Academy team were pipped at the post by their Aussie counterparts, chasing down England's below par 232 all out, with two wickets and more just nine balls to spare.
Things had looked good for England after Emma Lamb (44) and Evelyn Jones (42) had taken their stand to 82 in the 16th over before Lamb went caught off a leading edge at extra cover. Five overs later Jones followed caught at mid-off off the legspin of Wellington. Next ball Georgia Adams (16) was caught pulling a short ball straight to midwicket. England had stumbled to 112/3. Fran Wilson (62) and Sophie Luff (21) rebuilt nicely and at 25 overs a score of around 275 looked a distinct possibility on a great batting track. But Luff gloved a dab to the keeper at 161, Dunkley (2) drove one straight back to the bowler at 167 and Threlkeld (10) was bowled at 192. But still Wilson was there. She passed 50 for the third time on this tour, but then rather gave her wicket away with five overs to go smashing McGrath to Hancock on the deep midwicket boundary. Unfortunately the tail could not wag, or indeed use up all the allotted overs, as Steph Butler (5) and Alex Hartley (0) left Freya Davies (4*) without any partners and with 12 balls unused.
In reply Australia made a lugubrious start through Patterson and Molineaux. Patterson was caught behind off Cross in the 9th over for 15 with the Aussie reply hardly underway on 23/1. When Hartley picked up a wicket in her 4th over and Ecclestone one in her 2nd, things were looking very rosey for England with the Aussies on 52/3 in the 18th over. But the Aussie middle order of Graham (38), Banting (44) and Stalenberg (42) started to move the Aussie score along from the 23rd over with all the bowlers coming in for a bit of stick. With 11 overs left the Shooting Stars needed 57 with five wickets in hand, but Gardner (21) and Stalenberg both lifted 6s just over Kate Cross at cow corner off the unfortunate Ecclestone and the target was down to just 44 in ten overs. The returning Cross and Langston tried to pull it out of the bag for England, and a couple of late wickets put some pressure on the Aussies, but Price (20*) and Hancock (5*) kept their heads and knocked the singles to ease past England's score in the 49th over.
It was the best game of the tour to date, and the girls will have probably got more out of a close game than they have out of some of the easy victories. The tour ends on Sunday when England are due to take on the Aussies again in two T20s. However the Aussies, with a squad of only 13, struggled to field 11 players today. Hopefully they can do so on Sunday.
England batting - Lamb 44, Jones 42, Adams 16, Wilson 62, Luff 21, Dunkley 2, Threlkeld 10, Langston 6, Butler 5, Davies 4*, Hartley 0.
England bowling - Cross 9.3-0-41-2, Langston 10-2-36-2, Davies 4-0-31-0, Hartley 7-2-19-1, Ecclestone 10-0-53-2, Butler 4-0-26-0, Dunkley 4-0-24-1