By Glen Robertson
An injury-hit England failed to inflict a further defeat on the hosts as Australia recovered from losing the Women’s Ashes series with a seven-wicket success at the MCG in the second Twenty20 international.
Natasha Farrant and Jenny Gunn were ruled out of the contest, joining Heather Knight and Anya Shrubsole on the sidelines, and they witnessed a comprehensive victory for Australia, themselves missing the injured Jodie Fields and Sarah Coyte.
Player-of-the-match Holly Ferling took 2-14 from three overs, including the key scalps of Danni Wyatt and Sarah Taylor early on, as England managed 98 for six having been inserted.
The hosts passed the total with 4.5 overs to spare, skipper Meg Lanning top-scoring with 42, as they recorded their third victory of the series to pull the score back to 10-6 with one game to play.
England’s day got off to a bad start when it was confirmed Farrant and Gunn had both suffered back injuries and would be unable to play.
With Knight and Shrubsole, having respective hamstring and hip problems, already on the sidelines, it left skipper Charlotte Edwards without four important players and three frontline bowlers.
And to make matters worse, the toss did not go her way and England were asked to post a total first on a slow pitch.
Wyatt was ousted in the game’s opening over by the recalled Ferling, playing on to a full straight one, and the Australia star also accounted for Taylor in the fifth, when the wicketkeeper was bowled playing across the line.
Lydia Greenway reached 1,000 T20I runs with a four off her legs down to fine-leg, but chipped one up off the leading edge against Ellyse Perry to be caught by Erin Osborne at midwicket.
Edwards battled on but she was unable to go on to a big score as she did in the first T20I and, by the time she offered a return catch to Osborne on 28, the tourists had also lost Natalie Sciver for four and were struggling on 62 for five after 13 overs.
Arran Brindle helped get the score up towards 100 with a run-a-ball 26, while Amy Jones added 14 before falling to Rene Farrell.
But England’s total of 98 was always going to be difficult to defend, despite the slow outfield that had helped contribute to just seven boundaries in 20 overs.
Australia, who saw their chances of regaining the urn disappear at Hobart on Wednesday, lost Elyse Villani, trapped lbw by Danni Hazell, in the fifth over but took the attack to England.
Lanning hit a six and a couple of one-bounce fours off Sciver while Alyssa Healy offered great support to her captain as the hosts rapidly closed in on England’s total.
Georgia Elwiss eventually had Lanning well caught in the deep, but by that time Australia were just five runs away from victory.
Jess Cameron was dismissed without scoring, bowled by Brindle, but Healy flicked the winning run through square-leg to level up the T20 leg of the series at 1-1 ahead of Sunday’s finale in Sydney.
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