England comfortably held Australia to a draw on the fourth day of the day-night Test at North Sydney Oval to keep their Ashes campaign alive. The teams split the points for Australia to lead 6-4 in the series. With three T20s in the offing and Australia needing only 2 points more to retain the Ashes, England have plenty on their plate to ruminate over.
They will have been encouraged by their batting display on the last day. Heather Knight batted serenely for her 79 off 220 balls, her second 50 plus score of the match. “I’m enjoying batting at the moment. I’m hitting them well. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of the pink ball under lights”, she reflected at the post match conference.
With England at 206/2 in their second innings and the day drawing to a close, both captains decided to shake hands and call it a draw. The pitch came in for plenty of criticism for its lifeless nature. Unfortunately the spectators, who turned up in large numbers, had to witness a petering out draw.
Though the Aussie coach Matthew Mott questioned England’s intentions with their slow scoring rate on the first day, England’s coach Mark Robinson reckoned the pitch put a dampener on the proceedings. "Ultimately we want to play on better wickets ... the biggest disappointment is it wasn't a fresh wicket, which I don't get for this one-off Test, pink ball and we haven't got a fresh wicket," he countered.
Rachael Haynes, the Aussie skipper seemed to echo his thoughts when she said, “It was a little bit frustrating. I felt a little bit for our bowling group. Later in a Test you expect a little bit of variable bounce at the very least.”
Still the game was very much in the balance on the third day after Ellyse Perry hit an imperious double century in Australia’s first innings, a rare phenomenon in women’s Test cricket like the proverbial blue moon. On 194, she hit one which to all appearances looked a six. She celebrated joyously only to learn that her hit had missed the rope by inches. No matter. She reached her momentous landmark with a straight drive and celebrated properly. Her knock was also the highest score by an Australian in women’s Test cricket. She rescued Australia from a potential collapse: Australia were at one point 168-5. They trailed England by 112 runs at that stage.
Perry found willing allies in Alyssa Healy and Tahlia McGrath who scored 45 and 47 respectively. Their knocks put Australia in a commanding position on the third day to declare at 448/9 with a lead of 168 runs. England were under pressure not to trigger a collapse of their own in the second innings. However they were steady and reduced the deficit down to 128 with no wickets lost at the end of the third day.
England made an encouraging start on the first day after electing to bat first. Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont put on a partnership of 104 runs and England looked to be on course for a huge score. However Australia made inroads into the middle order and England ended up with 235-7 on the first day. England threatened to throw away the foundation which Beaumont and Knight had built.
However they managed to eke out 45 more runs to post a competitive first innings total of 280. Perry snapped up three wickets which coupled with the double ton richly earned her the Player of the Match Award. After toiling in the Test, the bowlers will get no respite as we move into the least bowler friendly format, the T20s the first of which begin on the 17th of November.
ENGLAND WOMEN 280 1ST INNINGS
TT Beaumont 70
HC Knight 62
EA Perry 3/59
TM McGrath 2/45
AUSTRALIA WOMEN 448/9d 1ST INNINGS
EA Perry* 213
TM McGrath 47
LA Marsh 3/109
S Ecclestone 3/107
ENGLAND WOMEN 206/2 2ND INNINGS
GA Elwiss* 41
HC Knight* 79
A Wellington 1/69
TM McGrath 1/12