Gardner’s batting too much for NZ in match-winning innings as Perry not used as bowler

All-rounder Ashleigh Gardner proved the match-winner but concerns will grow over Ellyse Perry’s future in the Australian Twenty20 side after the game-one win over New Zealand in Hamilton on Sunday night.

Gardner made 73 from 48 balls to take Australia’s run chase from deep trouble to a comfortable six-wicket win and Perry supported her at the end with a solid 23 off 16, including the winning runs at 4-133.

Ashleigh Gardner led the way for Australia in their win over New Zealand.Credit:Getty Images

Gardner and Perry made 71 not out off just 48 balls together, showing Perry’s experience in the middle-order is still invaluable.

But Perry wasn’t used as a bowler for the first time since 2015, adding to those questioning her future as a T20 international since her return from hamstring surgery.

Australian great Lisa Sthalekar told The Age and SMH last week that Perry was still a lock for one-day cricket and Test cricket as a batsman but she was no longer a walk-up start in Twenty20 while she was not seen as a top-four batsman or a regular bowler.

Australian captain Meg Lanning used six bowlers but didn’t use Perry, who instead toiled in the field and made a difference with a diving stop to prevent four overthrows early on and a catch to dismiss top-scorer Amy Satterthwaite for 40.

Perry had previously bowled in 116 of her 120 T20 internationals and not missed bowling in a match since 2015.

The Australians celebrate after the dismissal of New Zealand captain Sophie Devine.Credit:Getty Images

New Zealand skipper Sophie Devine looked dangerous early before she was caught at mid-wicket off Jess Jonassen (3-26) for 17 before Hayley Jensen went out soon after.

At 2-35, New Zealand looked in trouble but the partnership of Satterthwaite (40 off 31) and Amelia Kerr (20 off 29) built the foundation of their country’s score, making 58 runs, with Satterthwaite given a life on 17 when Australian keeper Alyssa Healy dropped her.

Satterthwaite looked ready to take her innings to the next level before taking to the air one too many times and being caught by Perry off the bowling of Nicola Carey.

Maddy Green’s aggressive batting gave her side 15 quick runs before a wide ball from Megan Schutt bounced off her pads into the stumps as the home side reached 6-130.

Australia had a horror start, with Healy caught out for two and Beth Mooney caught at slip for a golden duck off Jess Kerr’s bowling.

Jess Kerr (2-17) deceived Rachael Haynes into spooning a catch to mid-on as Australia fell to 3-14.

Lanning and Ash Gardner steadied the innings with a 48-run stand although the latter stages saw them frustrated with the White Ferns’ tight bowling, with Lanning eventually hitting out in the deep where Green caught her off the spin of Amelia Kerr at 4-62.

From there Gardner took over with her power and placement too much for the White Ferns, who had no answers for her talents with Perry able to knock singles and let the all-rounder take Australia to victory.

Game two of the three-game Twenty20 series is in Napier on Tuesday, with game three at Eden Park, Auckland, on Thursday.

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