Women's Ashes: England end Australia's unbeaten run with T20 victory

By Mark MitchenerBBC Sport
Women's Ashes: Third Twenty20 international, The Bristol County Ground
England 139-5 (20 overs): Brunt 26*, Winfield 25*
Australia 122-8 (20 overs): Perry 60*, Brunt 3-21, Ecclestone 3-22
England won by 17 runs (England 2pts; Australia win series 12-4)

England ended Australia's hopes of an unbeaten Women's Ashes series with a 17-run win in the third and final Twenty20 international at Bristol.

Sophie Ecclestone (3-22), Katherine Brunt (3-21) and debutant Mady Villiers (2-20) all starred with the ball.

Chasing 140, Ellyse Perry's unbeaten 60 was in vain but the Aussies win the multi-format series 12-4 on points.

Earlier, Brunt and Lauren Winfield added an invaluable 43 from the last four overs as England posted 139-5.

But in terms of the series, it was too little, too late after the drawn Test in Taunton ensured the trophy would remain with Australia - while the tourists had already taken an unassailable lead on points after handing England a 93-run hiding in the first T20 at Chelmsford.

Australia with the Women's Ashes trophy
Australia have now won the Ashes on their last two visits to England

England's young spinners shine under the lights

With the Ashes gone, the series gone and even the T20 mini-series lost, England handed a full international debut to Essex all-rounder Villiers - and the 20-year-old did not disappoint.

Though not required to bat, the off-spinner - who took three wickets for Surrey Stars in last season's Super League final - was energetic in the field, with a strong arm when deployed on the boundary.

Brought on to bowl the eighth over, it was nearly a dream start for Villiers when opener Alyssa Healy offered a return catch to her second ball in international cricket, but the waist-high chance was spilled.

Undaunted, she had Healy caught at long-off from a full toss next over, before having the dangerous Ash Gardner stumped for a golden duck.

An accurate spell helped England put the squeeze on in mid-innings as her first three overs yielded only seven runs (with no boundaries) - although a Perry six and a Jess Jonassen four in her final over rather dented her debut bowling figures.

It is easy to forget that Ecclestone, three years into her international career, has only just turned 20 herself - but she is slowly becoming England's go-to bowler, removing captain Meg Lanning cheaply as she bowled a wicket maiden in the powerplay, before picking up two more lbws at the death.

Veteran pace bowler Brunt, named player of the match for her efforts with bat and ball, conceded afterwards that, at 34, her body may not stand up to another Ashes in a couple of years' time.

But with her competitive spirit, she remains the heart and soul of this team - hustling England towards a competitive target after coming in at 84-5 when hitting boundaries had again been a problem for the top order, and taking crucial wickets at both ends of the innings.

Perry continues to set the standard

It is a sign of Australia's global dominance of women's cricket that they will take it as a disappointment that they did not go through the entire multi-format series unbeaten.

Just as England were largely untroubled by West Indies during their series in June, the number two-ranked side in the world spent much of the Ashes on the ropes, only occasionally able to land a flailing punch on the Australians who sit comfortably at number one.

Perry, an easy choice as player of the series, finished with 378 runs from eight innings - a record since the multi-format system was introduced in 2013 - at an average of 94.50. Naturally, the previous record of 351 had been set by Perry herself with 351 down under in 2017.

While her batting form alone would allow her to walk into any women's side, when you add her wickets - including the 7-22 in the third ODI at Canterbury - and athletic fielding, it is difficult to argue that at 28 she is the world's leading female all-rounder.

Yet this was a rare occasion when she lacked support among Australia's deep batting line-up, with Healy (28) the only other player to make double figures.

The fielding remained strong, with Lanning able to call upon seven genuine bowling options from the raw pace of Tayla Vlaeminck, experienced swing bowler Megan Schutt, the nagging medium-paced seam of Delissa Kimmince, and three different variations of spinners in Gardner, Jonassen and Georgia Wareham.

These sides will meet again in a tri-series also involving India, in Canberra and Melbourne at the beginning of February, before Australia host a T20 World Cup for which - based on this series - they should be overwhelming favourites.

'Australia have a lot to be proud of' - what they said

Katherine Brunt and Heather Knight
Will Heather Knight be able to call upon Katherine Brunt in a future Ashes series?

England skipper Heather Knight: "It's bittersweet after the series result. We talked about today being day one of our turnaround. There's frustration looking back at the ODIs, we played some good cricket but didn't do it for long enough. Had we been smarter, we would have got into winning positions. We've got to put a shift in now, as we've got a T20 World Cup in seven or eight months - and we've got some catching up to do [to Australia]."

On debutant Mady Villiers: "She took to it like a duck to water, she's a real competitor, she bowled brilliantly. And people forget Sophie Ecclestone's only 20 as she's been around for three years."

Australia captain Meg Lanning: "It's been closer at times than the scoreboard suggests, but we've played our best cricket when the series was on the line. The first and second ODIs were big moments in the series as we didn't play our best cricket but got some momentum."

Player of the match Katherine Brunt: "We've not played our best cricket. We did our [fitness] testing and we're as fit and as strong as we're ever been. But mentally at times, we just weren't there. When Australia put their foot down, they kept it down."

Ex-England batter Ebony Rainford-Brent on BBC Test Match Special: "Australia have a lot to be proud of - they're setting the standards on and off the field. And this is as tough as it will get for them - they've made mincemeat of the number two side in the world for most of the series. They have been ruthless and clinical."

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