England’s chances of regaining the Women’s Ashes are even slimmer after having to toil on the opening day of the Test match at Taunton.
Needing to win this game to keep the series alive, they watched as Australia racked up a formidable looking 265-3.
Ellyse Perry top scored with 84, as she shared an unbroken partnership of 105 with Rachael Haynes, who is on 54.
With bad weather forecast for Friday, England will need something special to force a victory from this position.
Perspiration but no inspiration as Ashes slip further away for England
Having picked three spinners, England captain Heather Knight really needed to win the toss and bat in order to force the game. Instead Australia got the chance to make first use of the wicket, forcing England to find something special to turn things in their favour.
Katherine Brunt bowled the out-of-form Nicole Bolton in a good opening spell from the Yorkshire pacer, but it was not backed up as over 60% of Australia’s runs came in boundaries and many of those from some very loose deliveries.
A second wicket arrived through Scottish youngster Kirstie Gordon who impressed in a warm-up game but came into this match having never played a four-day game. The wicket of Alyssa Healy, bowled for 54, was a special moment, especially for parents Fiona and John, who had driven 10 hours down from Scotland to see their daughter make her debut.
It was a day when everything needed to go England’s way, but there were too many slips in front of a good crowd of over 2,000 at Somerset’s home ground.
Knight dropped opposite number Meg Lanning just before lunch when she was on 26, a costly error with Lanning eventually out for 57, while a host of close lbw shouts also went against England.
On a challenging day, England also had to contend with injury concerns – left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone spent a period off the field after falling on her shoulder while opening batter Tammy Beaumont suffered a blow to the thumb and was left awaiting the result of an X-ray to assess the damage.
Perry shrugs off pitch worries to make England suffer again
With the game played on a used pitch, albeit one used on more than a month ago on 8 June for New Zealand’s victory over Afghanistan at the men’s World Cup, there was much discussion about whether this was a fitting wicket for a game of this stature.
The Australian camp was particularly unhappy, but winning the toss and therefore avoiding the pitfalls of batting fourth on a turning pitch gave them a big advantage.
Having won all three of the T20 games, the visitors only need a draw to retain the Ashes. However, Healy had said half jokingly that the tourists were not looking simply for a draw, instead looking to win every game of this multi-format series.
Healy, watched on by husband Mitchell Starc, the leading wicket-taker in the men’s World Cup, showed that positive intent as she shrugged off the early loss of opening partner Bolton to smash 12 fours in a lively 58.
The run rate slowed down after her departure but Lanning, recording her maiden Test half-century, and then Perry took up the mantle.
Haynes joined Perry and they took the game away from England with an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership of 105.
However, play became very sedate after tea with Haynes in particular struggling as they managed only 58 runs in 33 overs in that final session. At one stage, the left-hander managed a solitary run from 44 deliveries.
Perry blasted through the England batting line-up in the third T20 match at Canterbury with figures of seven for 22, and she showed her class with the bat on this occasion.
The 28-year-old smashed 213 not out in the last women’s Test match in Australia in November 2017 and she was once again an immovable object as far as the England team were concerned.
Perry has now amassed 297 runs from 579 deliveries since she was last dismissed in a Test and that show of patience and class has put her team in a commanding position.
What they said:
Anya Shrubsole (England): “I think it’s relatively evenly poised. Day one at Taunton, I think that’s what you expect. It’s a decent batting track.
“We stuck at it, never let them get away from us and made it hard work, and with a bit more luck we could have had a few more wickets.
“If we can get a pick up a couple tomorrow morning then the game opens up a bit more and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do.”