By Chris Devine at Wormsley
Heather Knight and Laura Marsh wrote their names into the record books as England made Australia toil in the field on day three of the Women’s Ashes Test.
Knight cracked 157 and Marsh faced 304 balls for 55 as the hosts, 113 for six at one point yesterday, battled their way to 314 all out at Wormsley.
Australia augmented a first-innings lead of 17 by reaching 64 for one either side of an evening delay for bad light and rain.
A draw now appears the most likely outcome on a slow pitch, providing there is not a flurry of wickets or a bold declaration tomorrow.
Having joined forces with their side 218 behind, Knight and Marsh extended their valuable partnership to 156 in 73.1 overs.
That comfortably surpassed England’s previous best stand when six down, of 110, and left the pair just one short of the world-record seventh-wicket alliance between India’s Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami.
Knight now possesses the seventh-highest score for her country in Tests, and only Rachael Heyhoe-Flint and Janette Brittin have made more for England against Australia.
After reaching three figures this morning and surviving a scare on 105 when wicketkeeper Jodie Fields spilled a tough chance down the leg side, Knight exhibited greater fluency and was particularly strong off her pads.
While she was responsible for half of England’s runs, the contribution of Marsh should not be underestimated.
Exhibiting stunning powers of concentration and an admirable technique, the number eight defied Australia for more than five and a half hours.
The first of Marsh’s three fours came from the 225th ball she faced and her 330-minute half-century was the slowest for England Women in Tests.
More importantly, Marsh was at the crease for almost 100 overs, during which time 190 valuable runs were added to the England total. As a result, Australia were unable to risk seeking quick runs at the start of their second dig.
Knight had 85 to her name overnight and moved to three figures with a quick single during an attritional opening hour.
The opener was far more attacking thereafter and found the leg-side fence with frequency as Australia delayed their acceptance of the new ball.
The first of two successive fours, through extra-cover and backward point, took Knight past 150 early in the afternoon.
However, a breakthrough eventually arrived for the tourists when Knight set off for a single to cover that was never there and failed to make her ground after being sent back by Marsh.
Sarah Coyte had Katherine Brunt lbw for four with one that kept low, but more than 22 overs - and a tea break brought forward by a brief shower - passed before another wicket fell.
Ironically, Marsh moved past 50 with a crunching square-cut for four off Megan Schutt, who duly gained revenge by bowling England’s dogged all-rounder.
Anya Shrubsole collected eye-catching fours on either side of the wicket before being caught behind to become Erin Osborne’s fourth victim.
That brought England’s first innings to an end and there was further slow scoring to come as Rachael Haynes and Meg Lanning battled away against Brunt and Shrubsole, the latter once again bowling superbly without due reward.
Haynes picked up the pace after the evening interruption, which prevented play for just over an hour.
The left-hander pulled and drove powerfully but gave her wicket away when spooning a catch to cover off Jenny Gunn.
Lanning finished unbeaten on 29 and had first-innings centurion Sarah Elliott for company at stumps.
Australia 2nd Innings
6:56pm - STUMPS - Aus 64/1; Lanning 29, Elliott 10 - Lanning drives straight for four in the penultimate over from Hazell before skipper Charlotte Edwards bowls the final over of the day. A draw now looks the most likely outcome and that is largely down to the superb partnership between Heather Knight and Marsh for England.
6:47pm - Laura Marsh has bowled three economical overs and fellow spinner Danni Hazell is going to have a crack at Australia before stumps.
6:38pm - That’s a glorious stroke from Lanning, who cuts Gunn for a boundary to reach 22. A minimum of six overs remain this evening and first-innings centurion Sarah Elliott is at the crease.
6:29pm - WICKET! Haynes c Beaumont b Gunn 23; Aus 40/1 - Haynes will not be striking any more fours; she picks out cover in Gunn's second over.
6:25pm - Jenny Gunn takes over from Brunt before Haynes lofts Shrubsole over mid-on for her fourth boundary.
6:16pm - That’s interesting. A delivery from Brunt pretty much rolls along the floor after pitching. In the next over Shrubsole finds the edge of Lanning but the ball does not quite reach the cordon. A more controlled nick races away for four soon after.
6:13pm - Shrubsole beats Lanning again. The 21-year-old seamer has been superb in this game. Haynes looks to be seeing it well; a powerful pull for four off Brunt is followed by a cover-driven two.
6:03pm - Shrubsole really does possess a terrific ability to bowl yorkers. Another cracker is dug out by Lanning, who is then beaten all ends up next ball.
5:58pm - Play actually recommences just before 6pm, Katherine Brunt continuing from the Deer Park End.
We will indeed get back on at Wormsley. Play is set to resume at 6pm with 17 overs still to be bowled #WomensAshes
— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) August 13, 2013
5:24pm - Perhaps I spoke too soon. It certainly wouldn't be the first time! The heaviest rain appears to have passed and the Wormsley groundstaff are working hard to ensure we can see more play today.
5:02pm - Goodness me. It is absolutely bucketing down. I can't imagine there is any chance of the players returning this evening.
4:58pm - And now it is raining. Oh dear.
4:52pm - BAD LIGHT STOPS PLAY - Aus 22/0; Haynes 11, Lanning 11 - That's a shame. It is too gloomy to continue.
4:51pm - Haynes produces a classy drive down the ground off Brunt before Shrubsole almost yorks Lanning, who responds with a pull to the fine-leg fence. It's getting rather dark.
4:45pm - This is hard work for Australia's openers. Runs are not proving easy to come by as England's new-ball pair maintain their discipline.
4:29pm - Boundaries for Meg Lanning and Haynes get the tourists up and running. Brunt and Anya Shrubsole are looking to pitch the ball up.
4:21pm - Knowing that early wickets would put England on top, Australia have made a cautious start. After four overs they are one without loss.
4:10pm - Katherine Brunt is right on the money at the start of Australia's second dig, finding inswing to discomfort Rachael Haynes.
England 1st Innings
3:58pm - WICKET! Shrubsole c Fields b Osborne 9; Eng 314 all out - Shrubsole's fun comes to an end as she nicks behind. England put on 201 for their last four wickets and trail by 17 on first innings.
3:57pm - And now Shrubsole gets down on one knee to heave Osborne over midwicket. That almost went for six.
3:54pm - Anya Shrubsole belies her position at number 11 with a glorious cut for four off Erin Osborne. England are up to 309.
3:46pm - WICKET! Marsh b Schutt 55; Eng 303/9 - Marsh's resistance is over! After a staggering 342 minutes at the crease, she is cleaned up by Schutt.
3:41pm - A single from Marsh takes England to 300. Charlotte Edwards' team would certainly have taken this position when they were reduced to 113 for six yesterday.
3:34pm - FIFTY! Marsh (291b 3x4 0x6) - Well done Laura Marsh! A square-cut four off Megan Schutt takes England's number eight past 50. She has been batting for five and a half hours.
3:25pm - Happily that shower has passed and play will resume shortly.
3:07pm - RAIN STOPS PLAY AND TEA - Eng 295/8; Marsh 48, Hazell 8 - I'm afraid the umpires now have no choice but to stop play as the rain intensifies. An early tea will be taken.
2:58pm - Hazell is struck on the pad by Osborne and another enthusiastic lbw appeal is turned down. The rain is getting stronger, yet the umpires are happy to stay out there.
2:48pm - After a drinks break, Sarah Elliott replaces Osborne. The runs have dried up for England in the last 20 minutes.
2:39pm - Holly Ferling returns from the Deer Park End. Believe it or not, one of her nicknames is Bambi. Very light drizzle has started to fall but play continues.
2:27pm - As I fill my face, Marsh continues to hold firm for England. Eleven runs have been added since Brunt departed, leaving England just 46 behind.
2:18pm - Ice cream is brought to the Wormsley press tent! This job is tough at times...
2:10pm - Marsh is likely to open up now in the role of senior batter. She collects her second four when drilling Osborne past cover and now has 39. Danni Hazell is new to the crease.
2:04pm - WICKET! Brunt lbw Coyte 4; Eng 274/8 - Ah...Brunt falls lbw to one that kept low.
2:02pm - Katherine Brunt gets off the mark with a boundary. She has plenty of ability with the bat and will be eager to help England secure a lead.
1:54pm - WICKET! Knight run out 157; Eng 269/7 - Moments after Laura Marsh picks up her first boundary with a square cut, from the 225th ball she has faced, Knight's epic innings is brought to an end. The opener set off for a single to cover but was sent back and did not make her ground.
1:45pm - 150! Knight (331b 19x4 0x6) - Heather Knight cracks Sarah Coyte through extra-cover to pass 150 and then adds another off-side four next ball. England are now just 67 behind. The partnership has also gone beyond 150.
1:40pm - We now have a few threatening clouds around but play resumes as scheduled.
1:02pm - LUNCH - Eng 254/6; Knight 147, Marsh 30 - Marsh survives an lbw appeal from Schutt and is beaten outside off by Perry prior to lunch. England will be thrilled with that session; their seventh-wicket pair have now been together for 69 overs.
12:54pm - The acceleration of Knight since drinks has been highly impressive. She collects four more through the leg side off Schutt. Marsh drives Perry confidently down the ground, but another excellent piece of fielding, this time from Elliott, saves one.
12:45pm - Marsh almost registers her first boundary, only for Osborne to pull off a terrific diving stop at third man.
12:42pm - Megan Schutt is given her first spell of the day and immediately concedes four to Knight, who has proved strong on the leg side today. A fine glance down past wicketkeeper Fields takes the 22-year-old to 142.
12:33pm - After 100 overs, Australia finally take the new ball!
12:29pm - Knight clips Elliott to the fence at backward square-leg and this is now England’s highest seventh-wicket stand in Tests, surpassing the alliance of 110 by Karen Smithies and Jo Chamberlain against Australia at Hove in 1987.
12:19pm - CENTURY PARTNERSHIP - We have spin from both ends now as Australia persist with the old ball. Sarah Elliott and Osborne are operating and England appear increasingly comfortable as the partnership moves into three figures. Knight has pressed on since bringing up her individual hundred.
12:11pm - Australia clearly feel the new ball would make scoring easier for England, but I’m surprised it has not been taken by now. The impressive Perry is posing problems. However, she would surely represent more of a danger with a fresh cherry at her disposal. England are 208 for six; Knight has 114 and Marsh 20 from 172.
12:02pm - Knight collects two fours off Ferling either side of a scare on 105. Wicketkeeper Fields was unable to take a tough chance down the leg side.
11:56am - Another lbw appeal from Perry against Marsh is turned down. Runs are still proving hard to come by but the concentration of England's batters appears unwavering.
11:42am - CENTURY! Knight (263b 11x4 0x6) - Holly Ferling is introduced and Knight steals a quick single to midwicket to bring up a wonderful hundred. The Wormsley crowd voice their approval.
11:39am - Ellyse Perry wraps Marsh on the pad but umpire Mark Benson remains unmoved. The new ball still hasn't been taken and Knight is on to 99.
11:22am - Osborne continues as Australia reject the chance to take the new ball straight away. Knight laces the spinner through the covers for four and the follow-on is soon avoided as Marsh picks up her first run of the day with a tickle down to fine-leg off Coyte.
11:17am - Marsh survives a half-hearted lbw appeal for lbw from Coyte, who is keen to pitch the ball up, in another maiden. Rumours that Geoffrey Boycott and Chris Tavare were seen offering advice to Marsh this morning remain unconfirmed, but this has been an outstanding display of determination from England’s number eight. She came to the crease with the team in trouble and has dug in superbly. Knight is into the nineties.
11:08am - Facing Sarah Coyte, Heather Knight drives square of the wicket for England’s first run of the day before picking up two more off Osborne to reach 88.
11:03am - Erin Osborne, who picked up three wickets yesterday, starts us off from the Deer Park End. Laura Marsh plays out a maiden, which means she has now faced 120 balls in making 13.
10:57am - Knight and Marsh get a warm welcome as they emerge from the pavilion. We're all ready to go on day three.
10:50am - As Knight alluded to in her post-match interview, the second new ball is only six overs away. Ellyse Perry and 17-year-old Holly Ferling have each offered a significant threat thus far and will hope to make inroads with a fresh nut. Ferling did not open the bowling, but made an impact when she was introduced with the key wickets of Sarah Taylor and Charlotte Edwards.
10:40am - The two teams are busy going about their warm-up drills at present, with play set to resume at 11am. Knight spoke to the media after play yesterday and you can read her comments here.
10:27am - Here are the highlights of day two, which ended with England 172 for six in reply to Australia's 331 for six declared.
10:15am - Good morning once again from Wormsley, where England are on the comeback trail in the Women's Ashes Test. Heather Knight and Laura Marsh batted together for 36 overs yesterday evening to dig the hosts out of a hole. They will resume with 85 and 13 to their name, with 10 more runs needed to make Australia bat again.