|Women’s Ashes Test, The Cooper Associates County Ground (day one of four):|
|Australia 265-3: Perry 84*, Healy 58, Lanning 57, Haynes 54*|
|England: Yet to bat|
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 would have wanted 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 more than 60% of Australia’s runs came in boundaries and many of those gifted by loose deliveries.
A second wicket arrived through Scotland-born 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 Test 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 opener Tammy Beaumont suffered a blow to the thumb and was left awaiting the result of an X-ray to assess the damage.
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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 Twenty20 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 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 hit 213 not out in the Test 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.
‘Relatively evenly poised’? – what they said
England pace bowler Anya Shrubsole on BBC Test Match Special: “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.”
Australia opener Alyssa Healy on TMS: “It’s nice to start the Test match the way we have, and get through the day largely unscathed. I tried to cash in as much as I could with the new ball, it took some spin later and the more we can cash in during the first innings, the better.
“There’s still a long way to go – the weather forecast doesn’t look great, we could be on and off a little, but we’ll see what damage we can do. You saw how emotional the three debutants and the cap presenters were, the Baggy Green is very special and it’s great to see it in an Ashes series.
“Ellyse lives for this format, and we hope she can bat as long as she can tomorrow.”
TMS commentator Melinda Farrell: “A wicketless last session, just the one after lunch – really, it’s been the sort of day when the game has meandered away from England.
“There weren’t too many runs being scored at times, Australia were very patient in the way they built their innings and definitely finished the day in the dominant position.”