ANI Photo | Women’s T20 WC: Defending champions Australia start with crushing 97-run win over NZ, Gardner shines with fifer

Top knocks from Alyssa Healy, captain Meg Lanning and a fifer by Ashleigh Gardner powered defending champions Australia to a 97-run win in their ICC Women’s T20 World Cup campaign opener against New Zealand in Paarl on Saturday.
A dominant performance with bat and ball saw Australia sending a message to their rivals as the world’s top-ranked team began their title defence with aplomb.
Ashleigh Gardner’s career-best figures of 5/12 stood out with the ball, while Alyssa Healy creamed a glorious half-century to top-score in the first innings.
Defending 173/9, two wickets in Megan Schutt’s first over set the tone for the Aussies with the ball, as both openers departed without scoring.
And the World Champions showed their quality with the ball to keep New Zealand tied down during the fielding restrictions, taking a third wicket when Darcie Brown was adjudged to have got her fingers to a catch to dismiss Bernadine Bezuidenhout (14).
Amelia Kerr’s (21) resistance was ended by Ash Gardner, and a tight run-out saw Maddy Green (9) become the fifth wicket to fall as New Zealand’s effort began to peter out.
And the final wicket saw New Zealand bowled out with six overs remaining and still 97 runs short.
The White Ferns struggled to deal with the quality of Australia’s attack, with Brown taking 1/11 from her four overs and Gardner finishing with a stunning five-wicket haul, ending with 5/12 from three overs. Megan Schutt took 2/8 in her two overs. Ellyse Perry also took 1/4 in one over.
Earlier, a brilliant Healy half-century and some big middle-order hitting helped Australia reach 173/9 – a total that proved out of New Zealand’s reach.

Kiwi skipper Sophie Devine won the toss and opted to bowl first, and a stunning catch gave New Zealand a superb start, with Eden Carson’s brilliance sending Beth Mooney back for a first-over duck.
Australia flexed their batting muscles to send a message to their title rivals first up. Losing Beth Mooney for a two-ball duck didn’t hurt the Aussies’ mojo, with Healy and Lanning putting together a stunning 70-run partnership for the second wicket.
Australia’s quality shone through in the remainder of the Powerplay, as Healy and Meg Lanning rattled up the score, with 47/1 being Australia’s highest-ever total after six overs against New Zealand in a Women’s T20 World Cup match.
Amelia Kerr and Lea Tahuhu struck to remove Lanning and Ash Gardner (3) respectively, but a strong Australian batting line-up continued to keep the scoring rate high as the innings headed into its final third.
Healy did finally fall after reaching her half-century, with Tahuhu dismissing the opener for a 38-ball 55. And while stunning hitting late on from Ellyse Perry (40 off 22 balls) threatened to take the game away from New Zealand, the bowlers hit back with a flurry of wickets at the death as Australia finished nine-down for 173. Lanning also played a knock of 41 runs in 33 balls. Grace Harris found the boundary three times in her six-ball 14. Even number eleven Darcie Brown got in on the act, finishing unbeaten on six from just two balls.
No other team in the tournament possesses the depth of quality with the bat of Australia, who had the world’s top-ranked T20I batter Tahlia McGrath (8) coming in at number seven.
Amelia Kerr was the most impressive bowler for White Ferns, taking 3/23 in four overs. Lea Tahuhu also took 3/37 in her four-over spell. Jess Kerr, Hayley Jensen got one wicket in their respective spells.
Gardner was adjudged as ‘Player of the Match’ for her five-wicket haul.
Brief Scores: Australia: 173/9 (Alyssa Healy 55, Meg Lanning 41, Amelia Kerr 3/23) defeated New Zealand: 76 (Amelia Kerr 21, Bernadine Bezuidenhout 14, Ashleigh Gardner 5/12). (ANI)

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