Australian opener Rachael Haynes salutes the crowd after bringing up her century (Picture @AustralianWomen'sCricket/ Twitter)

Australian opener Rachael Haynes' patiently crafted century secured victory in their ICC Women's World Cup opener against England.

Australian opener Rachael Haynes’ patiently crafted century secured victory in their ICC Women’s World Cup opener against England.

In their first showdown since the Women’s Ashes, England won the toss and elected to take the ball. The Australian batters were greeted with a lacklustre pitch and snail-paced outfield. The early overs reflecting such, with runs few and far between. England’s main weapon, Brunt, opened proceedings with a maiden. The pitch conditions prompted England to bring keeper Amy Jones up to the stumps by the third over.

Struggling to find any rhythm in the opening stages, Haynes battled to a miserly 12 off 35 balls by the end of the 14th over. Doing the body of the scoring early was star opener, Alyssa Healy, in what threatened to be another tasty showdown between her and Brunt.

Invoking the powerplay to commence the fourth over allowed for a brief spark, with 11 runs coming from it. However, it was short-lived, with the swing of the English bowlers putting a dampener back on the scoring. Healy trying to get things rolling survived an early LBW shout that was overruled by DRS, before ultimately holing out with a poorly timed chip. Her nemesis Brunt, the receiver of the easy catch, brought Australian captain Meg Lanning to the crease.

The missed opportunity

The new partnership started off shaky with a Haynes and Lanning mix-up early, almost costing Haynes her wicket in the 11th over. Haynes charged off after dropping one short, Lanning stuttering, before propping in her crease. If not for a soft throw, causing Jones to have to take the ball well in front of the stumps, Haynes could have been hitting the showers much earlier. A moment England would love to have back.

The moment of confusion seemingly ignited the fire within, with Haynes then proceeding to increase her intensity. She began moving around the crease to use the swing to her advantage.

Making opportunities, even when there appeared none, luck was also seemingly on her side on multiple occasions. The poor English fielding keeping Australia in with a chance, with plenty of wickets in hand.

In a bid to regain the momentum, England switched to spin, however, Haynes’ mindset didn’t change. She continued to move about the crease, opening up the field and making the ball do the work. Completely disregarding her stumps, positioning herself confidently for each shot.

Lanning, now settled, proceeded to follow Haynes’ lead, opening her shoulders and playing shots at will. The game starting to get back on the Australian’s terms, provoked the return of England’s main strike bowlers in Brunt and Shrubsole. The English needing a wicket to slow things back down and stem the bleeding.

Record breaking partnership

The Australians continued their push through the 30 over mark. Lanning and Haynes both flashing the bat at the crowd as their half-centuries arrived in the same over, bringing in the drinks break with style. The run rate had been driven towards the five an over mark, after dwelling in the low threes for much of the innings.

Haynes seemingly found yet another gear after the break, as the pair continued their onslaught until the 43rd over. Lanning playing a cracking cut shot down the throat of Tammy Beaumont, ending her time at the crease on 86. Haynes by then on 98, sitting poised for a World Cup century. Their partnership of 196 puts them second all-time in the record books.

Bringing her century up in the next over, seemed Haynes catalyst to finding top gear. From that moment she put the English bowlers to the sword. Smashing 30 off her last 16 balls before being caught in the deep whilst attempting to slogged another six.

The innings turned what looked to be a likely 250 run total into a big score of 310 for the Australians. 208 of which came off the last 25 overs. Beth Mooney and Ellyse Perry channeling their inner T20 skills over the final few overs to set the solid target.

Natalie Sciver was the best of England’s bowlers with figures 2/68.

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Not without a fight

As expected, England didn’t go down without a fight. Starting off the chase slowly, much as the Australians did, they found themselves a wicket down in the first over. Megan Schutt using her variation to prompt an errant shot from Lauren Winfield-Hill.

Beaumont and Captain Heather Knight settled things for the English, as they dug in and looked to build the run rate. Just as it appeared both batters were comfortable, Tahlia McGrath made the breakthrough with a beautifully pitched ball. Knight picking out Lanning on the drive for 40.

Not done with yet, Beaumont, who had brought up her half-century, appeared to take a back seat. The newcomer to the crease Sciver, not wasting any time grasping the speed of the game, and taking over the chase.

Sitting at 2/144 at the end of the 27th over, England looked a real chance. Beaumont however, was caught out of her ground three balls later for 74, and suddenly the momentum swung back Australia’s way.

Sciver going on to make an impressive 109 off 85 balls, but the support wasn’t there from the other batters. Jones, Danni Wyatt, and Sophie Ecclestone all falling cheaply, with Sophia Dunkley and Brunt unable to go on with their starts.

England running out of balls 12 runs short on 298. The Australian bowlers sharing the spoils with Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, and Alana King all taking multiple wickets.

Tributes flowed

An emotional 48 hours preceded for the players with the shock passing of Australian cricket legends Rod Marsh and Shane Warne.

Commencing with a beautiful tribute and moment of silence prior to the start of play. Both Marsh and Warne were recognised, and remembered, for having large impacts in both countries through their play, coaching, and commentary.

Memories of “Caught Marsh, bowled Lillee” and the infamous “Gatting Ball” flooded the microphone as the crowd viewed the photos on the big screen.

Reflecting the depth of the emotions being felt, both teams held their own tributes before the first ball was bowled. The Australian team formed a circle to embrace each other in a moment’s remembrance, as a knee was taken around the ground by the English. Both teams also sporting dual black armbands.

Shortly after play commenced, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews announced that an agreement had already been reached for the Great Southern Stand at The MCG, the home of cricket, to be renamed the S.K. Warne Stand.

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