17/04/2024

Meg Lanning and Heather Knight at the end of the epic draw in the Women's Ashes Test match in Canberra. Image: cricket.com.au

Test cricket again proved the winner on an enthralling final day of the Women's Ashes Test in Canberra.

Test cricket again proved the winner on an enthralling final day of the Women’s Ashes Test in Canberra, with England snatching a draw from the jaws of victory in the final hour of the match.

Australia started the day at 2-12 and managed to build a defensible target quickly before losing wickets just before the lunch break.

Chasing quick runs after lunch, Tahlia McGrath, Ashleigh Gardner and Jess Jonassen were able to help the Aussies get to 216, giving England a gettable 257 run victory target in 49 overs.

Just as England looked like they were marching ahead to a famous victory led brilliantly by captain Heather Knight, vice-captain Nat Sciver, and young superstar Sophia Dunkley, the game changed.

Here are the moments that mattered from an exhilarating Day 4 in Canberra:

Watchful start as Mooney, Perry negotiate opening Brunt burst

With 109 overs available for either team to force a result on the final day, Mooney and Perry strode to the crease to consolidate, before looking to set a formidable score.

With thick cloud cover at the start of the day and with Brunt and Shrubsole bowling with a seven-over old ball to start the day in favourable conditions, the first half-hour of play became even more crucial.

The Australian pair were able to see off the early threat as they slowly started to tick over the scoreboard and edge the lead towards triple figures. England attacked with its aggressive field settings keeping the field up, challenging Australia to risk going out to chase a decent target.

As the messaging has been since the start of the week from the Australian camp, Australia remains locked on getting a result in the test to secure the Ashes.

Jones drops Mooney and Perry as lead starts to grow

With Mooney and Perry looking increasingly settled at the crease, chances for England were few and far between in the opening hour. One did come which was squandered and would ultimately prove costly.

Amy Jones who has kept so well in this Test match, pouching seven catches, saw a thick edge come off Beth Mooney’s bat off the bowling of Kate Cross.

It was a regulation chance for a wicketkeeper, but Jones was late to move to her left and saw the ball spill out of her hands and trickle away to the boundary for four.

Jones had another moment in Cross’ next over when the seamer saw another chance go down at the hands of the wicketkeeper.

This time, a thick edge from Ellyse Perry looked to be traveling straight to Heather Knight at first slip. Jones dived across and spilled her second chance in as many overs from the Manuka end as the frustrations grew on the field for England.

Beth Mooney raised her bat soon after, notching her second Test half-century as the Mooney/ Perry partnership continued to grow.

DRS Desperation as England goes searching

After no wickets falling after the first 90 minutes of play on the final day and the game slipping away from any chance of a result, England opted to review on two half-chances before lunch.

A spell from the spinner Sophie Ecclestone saw England appealing, what felt like, every over. On a couple of occasions, there was enough reason to make Heather Knight want a closer look.

The first, an LBW cry to dismiss Beth Mooney two runs shy of a half-century. Discussions between the England captain and bowler took 14 of the available 15 seconds to come to a decision on whether to review.

Secondly, a pair of reviews, one from the umpire for a stumping, and another for caught behind from England. Ecclestone just beating the outside edge of Elysse Perry’s bat was deceptive enough to draw out the review.

Set batters depart before Lunch as Dean opens Test account

Perry and Mooney were cruising along and moving closer to the 100 run partnership with Australia back in firm control of proceedings out in the middle.

After being whacked around in the first innings by the Australian batters, Sophie Ecclestone finally got herself in the wickets column when she trapped Ellyse Perry in front and was given out LBW for 41. Perry didn’t review.

With England operating with two spinners to try and get through overs to force Australia into some wild shots to try and move the game along quicker, to bring about wickets.

As the lunch break neared, Charlie Dean struck Beth Mooney in front for 63 which was adjudged out LBW. Mooney sent the decision upstairs but was confirmed out on ball tracking with three red lights, handing Dean her first Test wicket as lunch was called.

With 71 overs left in the day in the remaining two sessions, it set up an intriguing first half-hour after the break to see Australia’s tactics.

Lanning leaves almost straight after Lunch

With the likely result being a shaking of hands, the question became more about ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

All eyes were on Meg Lanning, coming out to bat after lunch and whether should take on an attacking or defensive gameplan.

McGrath showed a glimpse of intent, making the most of a full-length Ecclestone delivery by putting it to the boundary.

Lanning’s personal intentions may never be known after Katherine Brunt continued her dominance with the ball, causing the Australian skipper to edge one comfortably to the opposing captain in the slips.

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Australia chase quick runs as wickets fall ahead of a declaration

As Lanning’s departure brought the newly minted Belinda Clark Medalist Ash Gardner to the crease to partner McGrath, Australia went about trying their arm to increase the runs slowly but surely.

Gardner took the lead role as McGrath played conservatively as Gardner was the more attacking batter, taking on both the spinners and seamers. She made it to 38 before holing out to Sophie Ecclestone at fine leg off the bowling of Nat Sciver.

Annabel Sutherland showed intent from the beginning but struggled to find much fluency as Tahlia McGrath took the lead role as the established batter to her junior teammate.

She took on Charlie Dean, hitting her straight down the ground for a boundary before Dean got one through the gate and bowled the South Australian for 34.

Still, the declaration didn’t come, which meant Alana King was padded up and practicing her swings as Jess Jonassen went out to bat with Sutherland, chasing quick runs. She obliged hitting 14 runs off six balls, prompting the call from Meg Lanning to declare the second innings closed, leaving England 257 runs off 48 overs minimum for victory.

England make it to tea unscathed, setting up final session

The loudest roar from the crowd came at the moment that Meg Lanning called her batters in and declared, setting England a target of 257 runs to chase down and 48 overs to do so.

The initial challenge for England was not to drop any wickets in the six overs leading up to the tea break.

Tammy Beaumont and Tammy Winfield-Hill were able to do just that on top of the 23 runs on the board, keeping England in the hunt. 

Not an impossible chase, the prospect of a result added excitement to the final session. An ODI-like situation gave spectators an opportunity to make some noise.

Beaumont was the more aggressive of the opening pair, scoring 18 of the 23 runs off 20 balls whilst Winfield-Hill scored four from 17.

Haynes blinder stops Beaumont in her tracks as England openers make strong start

With the target and overs set for the final session, the English pair of Beaumont and Winfield-Hill started tentatively after the break before slowly upping the scoring rate and signaling their intent to make something of the chase.

The pair registered a 50 run opening stand and looked increasingly comfortable at the crease as Lanning searched for answers.

She turned to her golden arm in Tahlia McGrath to take the ball from the Manuka end. Beaumont smashed her first ball straight to short cover where it was intercepted by a flying Rachael Haynes who took a magnificent catch low down.

Heather Knight came to the crease and started showing the same intent right from ball one. Winfield-Hill grew in confidence batting with her skipper and her too, started to free her arms and take on the Australian bowlers. As England played their shots, believing that a result their way is entirely possible

England tick over halfway there as pressure grows on Australia as final hour approaches

With Australia content to play for a draw, England continued to play its shots.

Lauren Winfield-Hill lost her wicket, spooning another catch to Rachael Haynes off Ellyse Perry but it didn’t deter as the England captain Knight and vice-captain Sciver kept ticking the scoring rate along.

Australia moved from hunting wickets with the attacking fields to protecting the boundaries and trying to limit the flow of runs. At times, had six fielders patrolling the boundary. Gifting easy singles and twos to the tourists as England ticked over the halfway mark of runs required.

They reached the final drinks break of the Test with England requiring 104 runs from the final hour (17 overs).

Darcie Brown dethrones Knight in the final hour

The most exciting moment of the match so far, 18-year-old Darcie Brown traps the England captain and brick wall, Heather Knight, who looked as if she’d never be dismissed.

The game felt as if it was slipping away from Australia, applying an ultra-defensive field with six players sitting on the boundary.

Knight was able to build an impressive partnership with Natalie Sciver at the other end, 72 runs from 69 deliveries.

The wicket also ended Knight’s impressive batting dominance that saw her finish with the fifth-most runs made by an individual in a women’s test match.

The wicket brought a huge roar from the crowd which lifted the spirits of the Australians, nearly willing the second wicket in consecutive balls that was originally given out by the field umpire but overturned after an England review.

The 2022 Betty Wilson Young Cricketer of the Year rejuvenated life into the Australian camp in their endeavours to not let the Ashes slip away on home soil. 

Dunkley’s delicious stroke play takes England to pole position

After surviving an LBW shout first ball from Darcie Brown, that was originally given out the first ball she faced, adjudged out but shown to be going over the top of the stumps by a whisker, Dunkley continued where her skipper left off and started stamping her intent on the Australian bowlers.

She paddle-swept, cut, pulled, and manipulated the vast expanses of Australia’s spread field at Manuka Oval, with her intent and stroke play taking England to a winning position.

She hit Annabel Sutherland for consecutive sixes in the first over of her second spell from the Manuka end. The first she ramped to fine leg – where the fielder was fielding at a square fine-leg position. The second, she advanced down the wicket and hit the ball that was in the slot firmly over long-on. 

Sciver continued on her attacking way from the other end, posting a classy half-century as England continued to edge closer to a favourable result

Lanning, Mooney provide safe hands to make vital breakthroughs

The day ticked closer to an end, the skies got ever so darker, the runs required kept on getting whittled down. The drama of Test match cricket.

Sciver and Dunkley were doing it easily and continuing to make the most of Australia’s spread fields as they got the runs required under the balls left in the day.

Then the game changed. Not long after reaching her half-century, Sciver pulled a ball straight into the waiting arms of Meg Lanning just behind the wicket table. 

Dunkley continued to press on as Amy Jones joined her at the crease. All Jones needed to do was knock singles around and get Dunkley on strike to continue playing the way she has been.

Jones proceeded to loft the ball out to deep mid-wicket, looking to play the big shot and clear the rope. With not a lot of power on the shot and with the field spread, the ball fell into the waiting arms of Beth Mooney who claimed the big wickets and exposed the tail.

Dunkley continued trying to go big and farm the strike and play aggressively. Trying to hit the leg-spinner out of the attack again with Australia hunting wickets, Dunkley went down the wicket to King and attempted to clear the rope once more but the ball landed inside the field of play and in the way once again, was Beth Mooney. With a broken jaw, moved and jumped to her right and ended up taking the catch two-handed.

Lanning persists with Sutherland who keeps striking at the death

With the overs ticking down and with Sutherland bowling well, eyes were on Lanning to see whether or not she will keep the youngster or turn to her ace and trump card Ellyse Perry to finish the job.

She persisted with Sutherland and it continued paying dividends, with Sutherland mixing up her lines and lengths before delivering a short ball to Katherine Brunt which caught the edge through to Alyssa Healy.

Wickets continued to fall as Shrubsole attempted a quick single and was run out at the non-striker’s end. 

Alana King struck again not long after when Charlie Dean attempted a lap sweep which went straight up in the air and was easily pouched by Alyssa Healy. The umpires though intervened and wanted to check whether or not King had bowled a rare back-foot no-ball.

It was deemed by the third umpire Bruce Oxenford that it was a legal delivery by a matter of inches which meant Dean had to depart, bringing number 11 Kate Cross to the crease with 12 runs to get and two overs to survive.

England go from the brink of victory to holding on for a draw with one wicket remaining

Extraordinary scenes to cap off the match at Manuka Oval. From inevitable draw to England in full control, to monster collapse, to returning full circle and the match somehow ends with points shared. All coming to a head in a frantic final hour.

England’s top order did all of the hard work to get the runs that should’ve seen them comfortably get over the line. But Test cricket is a funny game and pressure gets to everyone.

With Australia needing one wicket for victory, Sutherland was again trusted to bowl what would be the final over from the Manuka end. Cross the number 11 saw out the 6 deliveries, even taking a single off the last ball. Taking control and strike of the final over.

The debutant Alana King was persisted with and with every passing ball, the field kept one coming up. Much like the conclusion to the Men’s Test in Sydney, The test ended with a picture for Test cricket’s purists, with every fielder around the bat, hoping for an edge with one wicket to win.

Australia’s rookie pair were trusted with bowling the final 11 overs of the match, a match that turned several times on the final day and ended up with the points getting split. Only 40 minutes removed from what looked like a sure victory to the tourists.

The result leaves the multi-format Ashes series beautifully poised as we move into the one-day international leg, with Australia holding a slender six-point to four lead.

Crucially, after escaping with a draw, Australia only needs a victory in one of the upcoming matches to retain the Women’s Ashes.

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