|Women’s Ashes Test, The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, (day three of four):|
|Australia 420-8 dec: Perry 116, Haynes 87, Healy 58, Lanning 57, Mooney 51|
|England 199-6: Jones 64, Sciver 62*; Molineux 3-71|
|Australia lead by 221 runs|
Ruthless Australia are on the verge of retaining the Women’s Ashes after the third day of the Test at Taunton.
After declaring on 420-8 before lunch, they ripped through England’s middle order to leave them 199-6 at the close, trailing by 221 runs.
Only Amy Jones (64) and Nat Sciver with an unbeaten 60 held up the tourists’ charge but England require 72 more just to avoid the follow-on.
With one day to go, England’s hopes of winning the match have all but gone.
Have English hopes been extinguished?
Sunday is the 38th anniversary of the famous men’s Ashes win at Headingley in 1981, but a triumph from this position with just one day remaining would be even more remarkable than the heroics of Ian Botham and Bob Willis.
Leading 6-0 in this multi-format series, a draw would see Australia retain the Ashes with the three Twenty20 games still to play.
England need to reach 271 to avoid the follow-on and they will then have to declare immediately, even with a deficit of 149.
Then it will be a case of bowling Australia out in their second innings as quickly as possible before embarking upon an unlikely final-innings run chase.
If that happens, the excitement levels at Taunton on Sunday evening will echo what was witnessed at Lord’s in the men’s World Cup final seven days before.
England face up to batting dilemma
England began their first innings in an ominous position, 420 runs behind with just over five sessions left and knowing only a win would do; they had to bat well and, just as importantly, quickly.
There was hope after lunch when Jones and Heather Knight were at the crease as they put on 79 for the second wicket at a good tempo, but the loss of the England captain lbw to Sophie Molineux for 28 was a setback from which they never recovered, as they lost four for 52 either side of tea.
Georgia Elwiss was run out by a direct hit from Nicole Bolton after taking on an unnecessary single before Jones was caught at mid-off as the opener tried to hit Molineux over the top.
The left-arm spinner then had a third victim as Sarah Taylor was adjudged lbw for five.
There was some stubborn resistance from Sciver, who brought up her first 50 in her fifth Test in a resolute sixth wicket partnership of 55 with her housemate Katherine Brunt, who was bowled by Ash Gardner for 15.
Yet as they were forced into defensive mode after tea, scoring at less than two an over, the dynamics of the match shifted.
Australia show no signs of letting up
Australia have dominated this series right from the first one-day international at Leicester and are in no mood to stop.
For the third successive morning they came out to bat at Taunton, even if it was only a matter of time before a declaration came.
They added a further 79 runs off 22.4 overs, which included a maiden half-century for Beth Mooney before her dismissal for 51 finally prompted captain Meg Lanning to send England in.
Ellyse Perry bowled opener Tammy Beaumont for a duck with an absolute beauty before lunch before the spinners took over, wheeling away for 59 of the 83 overs bowled.
Molineux sent down 29 of them and was the pick, while fellow Test debutant Gardner chipped in with the late wicket of Brunt.
They have talked about playing positive cricket on this tour and will think there is no reason why they cannot take 14 English wickets on the final day to claim a Test victory.
‘England should just be positive’ – what they said
England opener Amy Jones on BBC Test Match Special: “We’re running out of time because of the rain yesterday, but we wanted to bat positively and play our shots, not just go out swinging. There’s a lot that can happen tomorrow. The red ball’s something totally different to what we do, we’re not used to batting time.”
Australia spinner Sophie Molineux on TMS: “It was nice to get a few wickets but I think we can still go up another notch. We need 20 wickets to win, it was good to see Ash (Gardner) get her first Test wicket and we hope Tayla (Vlaeminck) can tomorrow. Hopefully we can get those last 14 wickets.”
TMS commentator Melinda Farrell: “What do England do now? Just get to the follow-on, make Australia bat again and force them to make a decision. The game’s moved past the point where they can challenge that score, but they should just be positive and then look at the T20 series as its own series – try to win that.”