After the mauling meted out to England in the ODI leg, Australia met England in the test match at Taunton. A draw or victory would be a sufficient result for them to ensure that they keep the Ashes away from England.
In a bid to retain the Ashes from England, Australian captain Meg Lanning won the toss and elected to bat first on the same pitch where some matches of the league stage of the Men’s World Cup was played in June. Being a ‘used’ pitch, Lanning indicated that the pitch would bring spinners into play as the match would go on. Australia brought in fast bowler, Tayla Vlaemanick, for her debut Test match. Sophie Molineux and Ashleigh Gardner also made their debut.
England wanted to bat first as well but hoped that the cloudy morning would help get some swing for the faster bowlers early in the match. With the track being conducive to spinners, England brought in slow-left arm bowler Kirstie Gordon into the attack for her debut. She had put in an impressive performance in the warp-up game for England Academy Women taking 8 wickets. Amy Jones also made her Test debut for England.
Katherine Brunt opened the bowling along with Anya Shrubsole, and accounted for Nicole Bolton early for 6 runs, being bowled through the gate. With the score on 25/1, Meg Lanning joined Alyssa Healy and the two got together to build a strong foundation for Australia. In the middle, Sophie Ecclestone had hurt herself but came out soon after. Healy scored her maiden half-century off 61 balls as they added 66 runs for the second wicket. However, with lunch around the corner, she missed a ball from Kirstie Gordon as it cannoned onto the stumps, giving her the first wicket on debut. She hit as many as 12 fours on her way to 58. Gordon could have had Lanning before lunch as well but Heather Knight missed a simple catch at short cover. She was on 26 then. Australia finally reached lunch at 106/2 off 30 overs with Meg Lanning unbeaten 27 and Ellyse Perry on 10.
The second session was very important from England’s point-of-view. They had to break this partnership before it could blossom and threaten to take this match away from them. Ecclestone tried very hard as she hardly gave anything away that could be used to Australia’s advantage. She even coaxed some lbw appeals, for both Perry and Lanning, but none was granted in her favour. However, the Australian pair kept on scoring by pouncing on the bad balls from the other end as Lanning reached her fifty as the players took the drinks break. Australia also put up 150 on the board in the process. Lanning got out soon after with Ecclestone finally having some luck to get the desired breakthrough, being dismissed for 57.
Rachel Haynes joined Perry but immediately survived a close call when another lbw appeal was not granted in Ecclestone’s favour. What followed was a calm period with the game moving along gently. Perry scored a half-century when she whacked a four off the bowling of Anya Shrubsole. Australia reached 203/3 on the tea break scoring 97 runs off 37 overs in that session losing only the wicket of Lanning. They were poised for a big score with Perry and Haynes both looking settled in the crease.
The final session of the day saw Perry and Haynes ticking the scoreboard over slowly but surely. England had more bad news when Tammy Beaumont was forced to leave the field for an X-ray on the hand hit while fielding on short-leg. In the 87th over of the innings, Perry survived a run-out attempt with Georgia Elwiss off-target when she was on 71. Again, in the last ball of the 93rd over, Haynes sent Perry back half-way to create a run-out chance but Brunt’s throw was poor. Perry was on 77 then. They survived for the rest of the day and remained unbeaten to end the day on 265/3 for Australia. They added 62 runs in 33 overs in that session.
With 250+ runs scored and 7 wickets still intact, Australia will look to push the scoreboard further before attacking England’s batting line-up. Much of England’s fortunes will be determined by Tammy Beaumont’s X-ray. If she would not be able to participate in the match further, it will surely dent England’s chances. England also got a scare when Ecclestone bruised herself and went off the field for treatment. Although she did come out again, she was not able to bowl with the same menace with which she created the chances earlier. With the partnership reaching 105 runs and yet unbroken, England will want to come out tomorrow and break this partnership soon if they wish to compete. Ecclestone will be the key as will the spin of Kirstie Gordon, which should be a handful on this track. With rain likely tomorrow, it will be interesting to see how far the match progresses.