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Women’s Ashes: Taylor and Knight combine to put England in lead

Australia 203-4 England 204-5

England took the lead in the series on Sunday night with a comfortable five-wicket victory over Australia here in the last of three one-day internationals. The win gives England a two-point lead in the multi-format series, with three T20 matches still to play.

Set 204 for victory, England chased down the target in 33.2 overs, Heather Knight and Sarah Taylor destroying the Southern Stars’ bowling attack with a 126-run partnership. Knight blasted 69 off 65 balls while Taylor chimed in with 64 off 59 deliveries as the pair recorded the second highest partnership against Australia in England Women’s history.

The match was reduced to 36 overs a side after damp patches in the sparse outfield forced a delayed start.

England’s chase had a shaky beginning when Charlotte Edwards was out crunching the ball to Alex Blackwell, the Australian vice-captain nailing a brilliant catch at short extra cover.

But Knight and Taylor’s partnership then laid a solid platform for the hosts, while Natalie Sciver (18) and Jennie Gunn (3) finished the job after Erin Osborne, who finished with 3-49, had Knight caught at mid-off in the 21st over. Ellyse Perry had taken to the England bowlers with relish after Australia won the toss and elected to bat, but the fast bowler was on the end of some punishing shots and ended wicketless, with 0-29 off 6.2 overs.

Australia’s innings stuttered when Alyssa Healy, replacing opener Rachael Haynes after she failed to score in her two previous outings, was gone for a duck swatting an Anya Shrubsole ball straight to Dani Hazell at square leg .

Hazell couldn’t repeat that effort four overs later, dropping Meg Lanning on seven when the opener played a carbon copy of Healy’s shot. It was a costly error for England as Lanning led the revival, ably supported by Jess Cameron (28) and Jodie Fields (27).

Sarah Taylor, who took the Player of the Match award, was outstanding with the gloves, stumping Cameron and then diving to her right to take a spectacular one-handed catch when Fields attempted a reverse sweep, handing Hazell two more wickets. In the previous over, Lanning spoiled a stunning innings of powerful drives and cuts when she also tried to play an ugly reverse sweep, only for Holly Colvin’s delivery to slip past and remove the bails.

With Lanning gone for 64 off 87 balls and Australia 3 for 120, the visitors could have been in trouble, but Perry and Alex Blackwell accelerated the run rate through a combination of quick running and big hitting, Perry blasting a short ball from Shrubsole over the square leg boundary for six.

Perry and Blackwell added 77 runs in the final 10 overs to set England the challenge of scoring almost a run a ball to snatch victory. They did it with 16 balls to spare.