On 265 for three, it’s hard to see a scenario over the next three days where Australia lose © Getty
England have not lost this Test and nor have Australia won it.
Yet already after 100 overs of play, the events of day one have dictated the converse is closer to the truth. On 265 for three, it’s hard to see a scenario over the next three days where Australia lose. By virtue, it’s just as tough to imagine how England can turn this around.
All it takes is two points for the draw to take the Ashes holders to an insurmountable eight points. One of them at least is in the bag. For England, they takeaway a chastening lesson: live by the toss, die by the toss.
The saying goes that when faced with two choices, flipping a coin to determine a decision works best because only when that coin is in the air do you realise what you’re actually hoping for. That’s not the case for England.
For with a 6-0 deficit and against a superior Australian pace attack, tactics had to be skewed one way. Was the pitch “used”? Not strictly so – the last match on this particular surface was 40 days ago when New Zealand beat Afghanistan. But has it been made to look that way? Without question. Winning the toss and batting first on a pitch you don’t want to be last on was the only decision.
What made matters worse was it seemed Meg Lanning was the beneficiary of the flip side of England’s misfortune. The world’s best batter needs luck as much as Bill Gates needs a tenner in a discarded pair of old jeans. But upon calling correctly and informing Heather Knight she’d be in the field first, she lived something of a charmed life to pick up her maiden Test half-century (yep, really – from 122 deliveries) in her seventh innings in the format.
On 26, she checked a drive straight to Knight at cover. The cheers in the stands were already in effect before the ball hit the turf, allowing Australia to go into lunch just two rather than three down, with 106 scored. The second reprieve was on judgement: given not out on 42 when Sophie Ecclestone hit her in front of leg stump. With no DRS, right and left-handers played the slower bowlers nostalgically with bat and pad firmly tucked together. Reviews showed this one to be taking out leg stump with a red rather than amber impact.
Ecclestone, though, was able to claimed the prized scalp when she pushed Lanning back and took her off stump for 57. There was an element of courage to it. The 20-year old had to leave the field in the first session after hurting her right shoulder when diving to catch an aerial whip through mid-wicket. She returned before the lunch, bowling the final over before the break, and came out 20 minutes before everyone else to see go through her paces with England assistant coach Mark Davis.
But what joy there was at Lanning’s demise was tempered by what had come before and what was already out there.
A highlight reel of a cross-seam delivery from Katherine Brunt ran roughshod over Nicole Bolton – drawing her into a defensive shot on middle stump and then clipping off – to give her another poor return with jus six runs. But at the other end, Alyssa Healy’s was embarking on a blitz that would eventually take her to a maiden 5o off 61 balls with 11 fours. An enforced slowdown eventually saw her dismissed for 20 balls later for 58, with debutant Kirstie Gordon nabbing the breakthrough by bowling the right-hander around her legs in bemusing fashion.
By then, though, 92 runs were on the board and when Lanning departed, 160 was up with Perry as well set as you can be on 34.
Has there ever been a sportsperson who makes you disbelieve in luck? Probably. Sunday’s men’s final at Lord’s showed us just how indulgent cricket can be to chaos and here came one of the game’s marquee allrounders to show us that, actually, it can be whatever you want it to be.
At the North Sydney Oval in the previous Ashes Test she took her own legend to new heights with an unbeaten double hundred, and while you generally err on the side of caution to say anyone’s guaranteed a three-figure milestone, it seems almost negligent not to jot Perry down for second Test hundred when she resumes.
Seriously though, what more can you say that hasn’t been said? Perhaps the worst thing about Perry is her modesty. Because if anyone has shown the capacity to reach such heights and maybe find appropriate and new superlatives to apply, it would be her.
By the time Haynes joined her, Perry already looked like she was going to make the most of the two-year wait between Tests. She finished the day on 205 balls, but most came out of the middle of her bat, even the ones for none. She now has 297 runs in the format without being dismissed.
Her elbow was high enough to block out the sun and the snap of her wrists depended on whether she wanted runs in front, behind or through however many fielders there were stationed at cover. Her half-century came in 117 at which point Perry recharged. Back-to-back fours in Anya Shrubsole’s second over with the second new ball was about as thrilling as things got.
By then, she had already eased her partner into proceedings before they walked off side-by-side with a solid 105 between them. “Sometimes she looks like she’s playing a different game,” said Haynes.
Nevertheless, the game Haynes was playing suited her well. She sat firm on 41 for 26 balls before ticking off a second half-century 10 years after her first, also against England, at Worcester.
The 32-year old’s first duty on Friday will be to help Perry to her century, then worry about her own. But the overriding factor will be the need for acceleration especially with rain in the air.
“That would be nice,” was Haynes’s response when offered the prospect of batting just once. There was inconsistent bounce for the seamers as the day wore on. With seven wickets to play with and the middle-order dashers to come, Australia hold all the cards and most of the seats at the table, too.
Brief Scores: Australia women 265/3 (Ellyse Perry 83*, Alyssa Healy 58, Meg Lanning 57, Rachael Haynes 54; Katherine Brunt 1-30) vs England women