The solitary Test match in 2013’s women’s Ashes series ended with the spoils shared as England batted through the final afternoon to save the game. At different stages of the fourth day both sides were hopeful of victory, but with England chasing a notional target of 245 from 45 overs, they batted sensibly for a well-earned draw.
2013’s new Women’s Ashes format involves a solitary Test match, three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches. With six points on offer for a Test victory and two for each of the limited-overs clashes, the sides are tied on two apiece after the Wormsley stalemate.
Sir Paul Getty’s Ground at Wormsley, Buckinghamshire, often labelled England’s most picturesque cricketing venue, provided the perfect backdrop for a match that had as many twists and turns as England men’s thrilling victory at Chester-le-street two days earlier.
With women’s Test matches increasingly rare and a total of six debutants (four Australian and two English), both sides displayed the application and fight required for the longest form of the game.
Day one unquestionably belonged to the visitors, who hold the Ashes as a result of their victory in Sydney in 2011. After their skipper, Jodie Fields, won the toss and elected to bat, her top order batted with patience and a good deal of skill to blunt England’s probing attack. Debutant Anya Shrubsole picked up her first Test wicket, that of Rachael Haynes, but England were frustrated by Sarah Elliott, Meg Lanning and latterly Jess Cameron in favourable batting conditions. Elliott, returning to the side after the birth of her first child, sat 95 not out at the close of play.
On the second morning, the Southern Stars asserted their authority with Elliott completing an excellent hundred from 269 balls. Alex Blackwell, not out overnight, added a handy 50, and Ellyse Perry, who is also an international footballer, contributed a rapid 31* as Australia declared in a strong position on 331-6.
Before they knew it, England were 113-6, with prize assets Sarah Taylor and skipper Charlotte Edwards back in the hutch, with debutants Erin Osborne and Holly Ferling sharing five wickets. Of the top order, only Heather Knight stood firm, and with England staring down the barrel of the dreaded follow-on, she was joined by Laura Marsh. They arrested England’s slide and shared a 36-over partnership worth 59 to reach the close 149 behind.
The pair’s vigil continued on the third day, with opener Knight completing an outstanding first Test century. She was finally run out, perhaps the only way she was ever going to be dismissed, for 157. Records had tumbled – this was England’s highest seventh-wicket stand and Knight’s was England’s seventh highest score ever. Despite losing her partner, Marsh stood firm to reach a marathon 55 from 304 balls. When Osborne claimed her fourth wicket to end England’s innings, they were just 17 behind.
Australia, aware of the value of the six points victory would bring, reached the close 81 ahead for the loss of just one wicket.
With all three results possible, Australia set about trying to build an imposing lead and Fields scored an excellent 78* after the loss of four early wickets. She declared on 231 for 5, giving her bowlers 45 overs to skittle England.
Taylor and Edwards, stalwarts of England’s batting line-up, ensured that England reached the close just two down as the match ended with honours even. Knight was named player of the match for her mammoth innings.
The series now heads to Lord’s on August 20 for the first of three ODIs with all to play for after the sharing of the points at Wormsley.
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