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Australia’s Ash Gardner scythes through New Zealand in first T20 international | Australia women’s cricket team

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A defiant half-century by Ash Gardner steered Australia to a six-wicket victory in their opening women’s Twenty20 cricket international against New Zealand in Hamilton.

Chasing 131 for victory, the world champions looked like mere mortals when they suffered a nightmare start to their run chase, to be reeling at three for two and later 14 for three at Seddon Park. But they showed why they haven’t lost a T20 series since late 2017 when they cruised to 133 for four with 12 balls to spare thanks to Gardner’s unbeaten 73.

Gardner rode her luck in the three-game series opener after being dropped on 30, sharing an unbeaten 71-run fifth-wicket stand with the returning Ellyse Perry.

Gardner showed no sign of rust after Australia came out of a two-week quarantine on Saturday, thrashing six fours and three sixes in her 48-ball knock that marked her fourth T20 half-century, leaving her side on track to claim their first T20 series in New Zealand.

There were encouraging signs for Perry in her international return after a year sidelined with a hamstring injury: she stroked three fours in her classy knock after surprisingly not being thrown the ball during New Zealand’s knock of 130 for six. The hosts have now claimed just one win in 18 trans-Tasman games across all formats.

But Australia didn’t have it all their own way. They were three for two after Alyssa Healy fell on the last ball of the first over before Beth Mooney was caught behind for a golden duck off the opening delivery of the second. Alarm bells were ringing when Jess Kerr reduced the shellshocked visitors to 14 for three after veteran left-hander Rachael Haynes gifted a catch to mid-on.

The Australia captain, Meg Lanning, enjoyed some luck to help settle the innings with a 48-run fourth wicket stand with Gardner. Maddy Green dropped Lanning on 24 but snapped her up at long on for 28, reducing the visitors to 62 for four.

Earlier, the spinner Jess Jonassen helped Australia restrict New Zealand by claiming 26 for three off four overs – her best T20 return against the White Ferns. At one stage she took two wickets in four balls.

New Zealand’s Satterthwaite fell for 40 off 31 balls with five fours and a six, sharing a 58-run third wicket stand with Amelia Kerr. The Astralia quick Tayla Vlaeminck had plenty of speed but little luck, with Healy dropping Satterthwaite’s chance off her bowling. She took 26 off her four overs in her first game for Australia since breaking down with a foot stress fracture more than a year ago.

The second T20 will be played in Napier on Tuesday.

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