Women's Ashes: Australia beat England in opening ODI as Alex Blackwell stars

Australia celebrate a wicket
Australia won the Ashes in 2015 but England claimed victory in their last series down under in 2013-14
Women's Ashes: First one-day international, Brisbane (Allan Border Field)
England 228-9 (50 overs): Winfield 48, Sciver 36, Gardner 3-47
Australia 231-8 (49.1 overs): Blackwell 67*, Villani 38, Hartley 2-40
Australia won by two wickets; lead multi-format series 2-0 on points

Australia began their Women's Ashes defence with a tight two-wicket victory over England in the first one-day international in Brisbane.

Lauren Winfield (48) top-scored for England as they made 228-8, with off-spinner Ashleigh Gardner taking 3-47.

Alex Blackwell (67 not out) anchored Australia's response but the home side slipped to 181-6 with seven overs left.

However, Gardner (27) struck two sixes in an important cameo as Australia won with five balls remaining.

In the multi-format series, teams earn two points for a win in all limited-overs games, with four points for a win in the Test.

The second ODI begins on Thursday at Coffs Harbour (04:40 BST).

The fact that England came so close is a credit to their skill with the ball, after their batting fell short.

Winfield and Sarah Taylor (34) put on 56 for the second wicket, but Winfield's run-out, along with some good fielding from Australia, slowed England's middle order.

Elyse Villani took a superb catch on the edge of the boundary to dismiss Natalie Sciver for 36, and prevent England from accelerating in the final few overs.

In reply, Australia - who will be without injured captain Meg Lanning for the whole series - were reduced to 20-2 as England's seamers began tightly, and they kept the hosts in check for the first 20 overs.

However, veteran Blackwell steadied the side, and she was helped after Alex Hartley dropped a simple caught and bowled chance with the batter on 36.

Blackwell recovered quickly, hitting seven boundaries in her 86-ball innings, and Gardner's big hitting late in the game swung things Australia's way.

England came close to pulling off a surprise victory as Amanda-Jade Wellington was run out by Sciver from mid-wicket to leave two runs needed from the final six balls, but Jess Jonassen drove her first delivery for four to ensure Australia's victory.

Alex Blackwell
Alex Blackwell has scored 25 half-centuries in 141 one-day appearances for Australia

'Australia outplayed us' - what they said

Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell told BBC Sport: "Our bowlers did a magnificent job. They got together as a group before play. They're really lifting and wanting to bring more to the table. The discipline they showed today was outstanding.

"A game like that, even though it was not a lot of runs to chase, we were losing wickets and it was hurting us. I know I've been playing well coming into this tournament, and I went out there with confidence.

"I take batting at six very seriously - I haven't done it for very long, but I seem to be flourishing in that role."

England all-rounder Laura Marsh told BBC Sport: "It was a really good game. Probably for the spectators, it was a good game to watch but unfortunately we were probably a few runs short.

"None of the batters went on and got a big total. They outplayed us today. Match-winning performances is being able to put good partnerships together. We put a few together but didn't extend them. We'll learn a lot from today."

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