Quick wickets put Australia on edge before rain intervenes in Women’s Ashes Test

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

As in the three previous women’s Test matches going back to 2019, rain intervened to derail an emerging contest and to stifle the chances of a result. The second and third sessions of the third day at Manuka Oval were washed away, reprieving Australia from the precarity of two early wickets for 12 runs in the third innings. That was an overall lead of 52, after England captain Heather Knight turned her overnight 127 into an unbeaten masterpiece of 168 to close the first-innings deficit to 40 runs, with her team all out for 297.

Resuming at 235 for eight to start the day, Knight’s innings continued to get help from Sophie Ecclestone, and Ecclestone kept getting help from luck. Her first ball of the day was dropped at second slip from Ellyse Perry, and another nick from Tahlia McGrath 10 overs later followed suit. Australian captain Meg Lanning was the one who couldn’t hold on. Ecclestone didn’t score many herself but stayed in while Knight did, their partnership reaching an even 100 runs before McGrath got the No 10 batter leg before wicket. It was England’s highest ninth-wicket stand, and the third best in all women’s Tests.

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Having moved within 68 of Australia’s score, Knight would have known that getting bowled out would have its advantages. With time in the match ticking down, conceding a lead might make Australia more likely to have time to set a target that England could chase. Alternatively, using good bowling conditions on a dark overcast morning with a new ball might let England rack up wickets and control the fourth-innings target themselves.

So Knight and last batter Kate Cross swung hard before Cross on 11 pulled Perry to fine leg, caught after a sensational run and dive by Darcie Brown for the second time in the innings. Cross ran from the field to let Knight enjoy a leisurely walk off alone, raising her bat for those 168 runs, in an innings where Ecclestone made 34 and the next best was 15.

Heather Knight scored an unbeaten 168 for England.
Heather Knight scored an unbeaten 168 for England. Photograph: Lukas Coch/EPA

Then it was time for the Katherine Brunt show again, as five wickets in the first innings became seven in the match. Brunt had taken Alyssa Healy’s edge for a duck on day one thanks to a loose drive, but completed a pair for Healy third ball of the innings with an impeccable delivery, angling in before swinging away, leaping off a length, and grabbing the crisp edge of a defensive shot. Fifth over of the day, Brunt got one to seam into the left-handed Rachael Haynes, taking the inside edge onto her thigh pad for Tammy Beaumont at short leg to take a smart left-handed catch.

Ellyse Perry came to join the injured Beth Mooney with four minutes to go before lunch, the light disappearing, Brunt with two wickets for four runs, and England every chance to further apply the squeeze. But the first few drops of rain spared Perry from facing a ball, lunch was taken early, and the players never got back on. They will do what they can to create a match if the fourth day’s weather allows, but from here it’s most likely that the only useful pressure to apply will be on administrators, to make them belatedly stop this farce of denying women’s matches a fifth day once and for all.