By Rob Barnett
England restricted Australia to a narrow first-innings advantage in the Women’s Ashes Test but lost three wickets early in their second dig.
In line with Charlotte Edwards’ prediction that the multi-format series will be even matched, the hosts replied to her side’s 201 with 207 on a stifling day on nearly 50-degree heat at the WACA.
Two of Test debutant seamer Kate Cross’ three miserly scalps reduced the hosts to 37 for five, but the middle order launched a recovery.
Ellyse Perry top-scored with 71 from number seven while Jodie Fields and Erin Osborne supported her via forties. Anya Shrubsole returned to double yesterday’s wicket tally for a four-for.
The tourists suffered a disappointing start to their response, losing Heather Knight, Lydia Greenway and Sarah Taylor to close on 18 for three, meaning a lead of 12.
Usual opener Edwards is unable to bat until five wickets are down after being off the field for much of the day having injured her left knee.
Greenway filled in for Edwards at the top of the order but was the second of three wickets to fall in consecutive overs. Rene Farrell, who took four first-innings wickets, bowled Knight and had Taylor held at first slip, the latter falling in a wicket-maiden, either side of Greenway going lbw to Perry.
Arran Brindle and Nat Sciver, the mainstays of England’s first innings, admirably survived five overs of intense pressure.
Australia resumed this morning on nine for two, having lost Elyse Villani and Meg Lanning to Shrubsole yesterday.
They were soon five down when Cross struck in her first two Test overs, having not conceded a run, and Katherine Brunt also broke through.
Cross bowled Jess Cameron and trapped Alex Blackwell in front for nought before Brunt had Sarah Elliott, a centurion in last summer’s Ashes Test, caught behind to leave the hosts rocking.
As England attacked and the seamers threatened, it was almost a case of four or nothing for the rest of the morning. Home skipper Fields hit her second and third balls to the boundary and later did likewise to the first four deliveries of a Brunt over, dominating a fifty partnership with Perry before lunch.
Brunt’s first ball after the interval proved significant, a second head-high full-toss seeing her removed from the attack for the innings, robbing England of the leader of their attack.
In the next over a brilliant, diving catch by Gunn ousted Fields for a smooth 43, giving Cross her third breakthrough and halting a stand of 55. Cross eventually returned 3-35 from 18 outstanding overs, including 10 maidens.
However, that was the only wicket of the afternoon session, half way through which Edwards was hurt and had to leave the field for the rest of the innings, with Gunn filling in as captain.
Meanwhile Perry and Osborne continued to rebuild, sharing a half-century alliance before the former brought up her maiden Test fifty.
Gunn, bowling outstandingly to go at less than one an over, broke a partnership of 85 by cleaning up Perry. But Osborne continued to resist until pinned in front for 40 by Shrubsole with the new ball.
Shrubsole bowled Sarah Coyte to earn figures of 4-51 just before Farrell was last out to Sciver.
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