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In a nail biting loss to Australia in the Women’s World Cup opener in Hamilton, England came up just short of a world record pursuit.

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Set 311, the defending champions were brought agonizingly close by Nat Sciver’s 109 not out.

England only managed three runs from the final over, bowled by Jess Jonassen, to finish on 298-8 and lose by 12 runs.

On a day when Australia paid respect to renowned leg spinner Shane Warne and wicketkeeper Rod Marsh, the tournament favorites scored a total of 310-3, the highest by any side against England.

Rachael Haynes scored 130 points, while skipper Meg Lanning scored 86.

When Katherine Brunt joined Sciver at the crease, England needed 78 from 49 balls with only four wickets in hand.

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Their batting offered England a chance in the penultimate over, but Australia valiantly sent the ball to left-arm spinner Jonassen, who took a sensational one handed return catch to dismiss Brunt and virtually end the match.

Despite another defeat by Australia, who went undefeated in winning the Ashes earlier this year, Heather Knight’s side can be encouraged by how far they pushed the tournament favorites.

England’s toughest test in the group stage is now behind them, and they should still advance to the semi finals, which begin on Wednesday in Dunedin against the West Indies (22:00 GMT on Tuesday).

In the other game on Saturday, South Africa escaped an upset against Bangladesh, who were making their World Cup debut.

The Proteas were bowled out for 207 runs, but Bangladesh were dismissed for 175 runs to win by 32 runs.

Jonassen had only given up 16 runs in her first two overs, so entrusting her with the final set was a risky move.

However, the catch she made to dismiss Brunt, sticking up her left hand to hold on to a bullet, was deserving of a match victory.

 

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