By Chris Devine at Wormsley
England were grateful for the defiance of Heather Knight as they moved to the brink of avoiding the follow-on in the Women’s Ashes Test at Wormsley.
After Australia declared six down with 331 on the board, Charlotte Edwards’ side were undermined by the loss of five wickets for 33 runs either side of tea.
However, opener Knight held firm to end the second day unbeaten with 85 of 172 for six, a score that left England requiring just 10 more to make Australia bat again.
Knight received dogged support in the evening session from Laura Marsh, who went virtually strokeless for more than an hour and ultimately faced 114 deliveries for 13 not out.
Earlier in the day, Australia’s Sarah Elliott added nine to her overnight 95 before England hit back with a trio of wickets.
There was a sense of surprise when Jodie Fields called her side in around 25 minutes prior to lunch, particularly as Ellyse Perry had raced to 31 from 24 balls.
Yet Fields’ decision appeared to be justified when Holly Ferling and Erin Osborne combined to leave England in deep trouble at 113 for six.
Ferling removed Sarah Taylor, who hit a fluent 33, and Charlotte Edwards in quick succession, while off-spinner Osborne accounted for Lydia Greenway, Tammy Beaumont and Jenny Gunn.
Thankfully for England, Knight would not be shifted. Timing the ball sweetly in attack and rock-solid when defending, she barely offered Australia a sniff.
Elliott was understandably the centre of attention when play began.
Australia’s number three was not rushed in her search for a century, the landmark eventually arriving courtesy of a single to cover in the eighth over of the day.
Elliott’s terrific 276-ball knock came to an end soon after when she was caught at point off the tireless Anya Shrubsole, who deserved better than her final figures of 2-57.
Katherine Brunt then bowled Fields for six with one that kept a little low and the introduction of off-spinner Marsh immediately accounted for Alex Blackwell, who was lbw for 54.
Perry wrested some momentum back for Australia with a series of aggressive strokes.
Australia's subsequent declaration left England with four overs to face before lunch, which Knight and Arran Brindle played out with the minimum of fuss.
Although Brindle fell lbw on the front foot to Perry early in the afternoon, England appeared to be on course for a healthy total as Taylor, driving with great fluency, helped take the score to 80 without further loss.
However, the number three was then surprised when Ferling found extra bounce to induce a top-edge to square-leg and Taylor’s exit sparked a flurry of wickets.
Ferling struck again by trapping Edwards lbw with a full delivery and Greenway was caught and bowled looking to work Osborne to leg.
The tea break failed to halt Australia’s charge and Osborne soon had Beaumont held at short-leg and Gunn pinned in front.
Having seen several partners come and go, Knight showed admirable defiance in battling on and eventually found a willing ally.
Marsh found life tough early on, particularly when facing Perry, but knuckled down thereafter as Fields rotated her bowlers.
By stumps, both batters appeared settled and Knight, like Elliott 24 hours earlier, knew a maiden Test hundred was not far away.
England 1st Innings
6:27pm - STUMPS - Eng 172/6; Knight 85, Marsh 13 - That's a truly terrific effort from England's seventh-wicket pair, and Knight in particular. Ten more runs will be needed tomorrow to make Australia bat again.
6:20pm - Two overs remain today. Can Knight and Marsh see the day out?
6:13pm - Now Perry returns and there is a scare for England as an appeal for a catch down the leg side is turned down. Marsh, 13 not out, is able to continue.
6:05pm - Knight cracks Haynes to the cover rope, bringing up a valuable fifty stand from 186 deliveries.
6:01pm - Left-arm seamer Rachael Haynes is given an over as Australia ring the changes in search of a breakthrough. England are 161 for six and Knight has 78.
5:46pm - Ferling does return but Knight is happy to see extra pace on the ball and collects the first four for 15 overs with a convincing pull.
5:39pm - Elliott and Osborne continue to wheel away. Surely it can't be long before we see Ferling, who only bowled one over in her last spell, or Perry again? We will play on beyond 6pm as there are still 13 overs to be bowled.
5:27pm - Osborne returns and concedes three singles, the second representing Marsh's first run in some time.
5:22pm - A third maiden in succession keeps England on 136 for six. This partnership has seen 23 runs added in 17 overs.
5:15pm - Knight almost offers a catch to gully off the medium-pace of Sarah Coyte. Progress has been understandably slow since Gunn's exit as England's seventh-wicket pair dig in. Marsh has two from 46 balls.
5:08pm - After a drinks break, Australia introduce batting star Sarah Elliott to bowl some off-spin. She starts with a maiden.
4:55pm - Holly Ferling, who triggered England's slide before tea, comes back on as Perry takes a well-earned break. Knight responds with a drive through mid-on for four.
4:49pm - Perry has found a lovely rhythm from the Deer Park End and Marsh is struggling to lay bat on ball. Three deliveries in a row beat the outside edge.
4:45pm - Avoiding the follow-on has to be uppermost in England's thoughts now. The hosts need 182 to make Australia bat again. At present, the score reads 126 for six.
4:33pm - Laura Marsh, a handy player to have coming in at number eight, survives an lbw appeal from Ellyse Perry and almost chips to mid-on later in the over.
4:27pm - FIFTY! Knight (126b 6x4 0x6) - Knight has held firm while the wickets have tumbled around her. A cut to the off-side sweeper brings up her fifty.
4:21pm - WICKET! Gunn lbw Osborne 6; Eng 113/6 - The wait for a partnership goes on as Gunn falls lbw looking to slog-sweep. Osborne now has three.
4:14pm - Jenny Gunn is Heather Knight’s latest partner and the new batter clips Erin Osborne through midwicket for four. England need a partnership.
4:04pm - WICKET! Beaumont c Blackwell b Osborne 1; Eng 102/5 - Things go from bad to worse for England as Tammy Beaumont pops up a catch to short-leg from the fifth ball after tea.
3:41pm - TEA - Eng 99/4; Knight 39, Beaumont 1 - England will welcome the chance to regroup here. Ferling's double strike provided Australia with momentum and the hosts have work to do this evening.
3:29pm - WICKET! Greenway c & b Osborne 4; Eng 97/4 - Australia strike again as a leading edge from Greenway loops back to Osborne.
3:28pm - Knight collecs four more when Ferling strays on to her pads. Lydia Greenway then gets off the mark with a swept four off spinner Erin Osborne.
3:20pm - Knight has a crucial role to play now; facing a fired-up Ferling, she drives between the fielders at cover and mid-off to reach 34.
3:10pm - WICKET! Edwards lbw Ferling 3; Eng 84/3 - Edwards is not happy about this. She misses a full ball from Ferling and is given out lbw. From my viewpoint, that looked as though it may have been sliding down.
3:06pm - The vastly experienced Charlotte Edwards has joined Knight in the middle. This is the England captain's 11th Ashes Test.
2:58pm - WICKET! Taylor c Elliott b Ferling 33; Eng 80/1 - But now Taylor is out. Ferling delivers a sharp bouncer and a top-edged pull loops to square-leg.
2:56pm - Ferling again poses a problem for Knight. On this occasion, a healthy edge drops short of Meg Lanning at first slip. Taylor drives with panache again and collect fours to the left of mid-off. She has now surpassed her previous Test best of 28.
2:50pm - The enthusiastic Ferling gets a go with the ball and wastes little time in beating Knight outside off stump. Undeterred by the scare, Knight drives through the vacant mid-on region. A loopy full toss from Schutt is then put away by Taylor, who looks to be in great touch.
2:41pm - England women are 60 for one at drinks, Taylor having settled in very nicely alongside Knight.
2:29pm - Taylor drills Sarah Coyte down the ground to bring up England's 50 and then repeats the trick two balls later. Excellent batting.
2:15pm - Holly Ferling gets a round of applause from the press tent after appealing enthusiastically for lbw ... while standing at fine-leg. “It’s a good view from there, isn’t it Holl,” shouts 12th man Gemma Triscari. Soon after, Taylor draws purrs of admiration with an effortless push to the extra-cover rope.
2pm - WICKET! Brindle lbw Perry 5; 36/1 - Brindle props forward to Perry and is adjudged lbw. Sarah Taylor is the new batter.
1:56pm - As Brindle adopts a cautious approach, Heather Knight is looking to play her shots. The latter collects four with a sweetly timed drive through backward point but is then beaten when Perry gets one to nibble away. Brindle duly opens her account with a stroke through the covers off Megan Schutt.
1:47pm - Arran Brindle, who has yet to score, plays out a probing over from Ellyse Perry after the interval. England will be keen to go beyond Australia's first-innings total and the pitch still looks to be playing well.
1:01pm - LUNCH - Eng 16/0; Knight 10, Brindle 0 - Knight clips Schutt through backward square-leg for the first boundary off the bat in England's innings. There was not too much to concern the hosts in that little four-over spell. Jodie Fields' declaration was certainly bold but will it backfire?
12:56pm - Heather Knight and Arran Brindle make a solid start against Australia's new-ball pairing of Ellyse Perry and Megan Schutt.
Australia 1st Innings
12:35pm - DECLARATION - Aus 331/6; Perry 31, Osborne 10 - This has surprised a few people in the Wormsley press tent! Australia declare in order to have a crack at England's openers before lunch. I'm surprised they didn't look for more runs, particularly with Perry scoring so freely.
12:32pm - A deft late cut gives Perry four more and puts England on the defensive. This partnership has yielded 39 in six overs.
12:28pm - England's second frontline spinner, Danni Hazell, enters the attack from the Deer Park End. After seeing a nick off Marsh land short of slip, Perry crunches Hazell down the ground. She already has 23 and looks dangerous.
12:16pm - Ellyse Perry, who may well prove Australia's principle threat with the ball, joins Osborne and is quickly into her work, racing into double figures with the aid of fours off Marsh and Brunt.
12:09pm - WICKET! Blackwell lbw Marsh 54; Aus 287/6 - That's what I call a good bowling change! Laura Marsh takes over from Shrubsole and traps Blackwell in front.
11:56am - FIFTY! Blackwell (161b 6x4 0x6) - Blackwell reaches 50 with a leg-side two off Brunt.
11:52am - The ever-threatening Shrubsole almost strikes again as an edge from Erin Osborne drops just short of the wide solitary slip.
11:47am - WICKET! Fields b Brunt 6; Aus 277/5 - Fields cuts to the boundary but is bowled next ball by one that seemed to keep a little low. This is turning into a good morning for England.
11:40am - Australia captain Jodie Fields is the new batter. Blackwell collects her sixth four with another cut, this time off Katherine Brunt.
11:34am - WICKET! Elliott c Greenway b Shrubsole 104; Aus 266/4 - Shrubsole deserves this. Elliott's lengthy stay at the crease comes to an end when she chases a wide delivery and picks out point.
11:33am - Freed up by reaching three figures, Elliott shows her class with a late cut for four off Gunn. England go up in unison when Shrubsole raps Blackwell on the pad, but the appeal is rejected.
11:27am - CENTURY! Elliott (269b 13x4 0x6) - Elliott moves to 99 with a clip through midwicket for two. In Gunn’s next over, Blackwell, who has looked very good this morning, drives confidently to the cover rope. Shrubsole almost yorks Ellliott but the number three survives and brings up an excellent hundred with a single into the covers.
11:11am - Anya Shrubsole has unsurprisingly started from the Dibley End. A powerful cut from Blackwell brings the first boundary of the day and takes the partnership to 86. However, the former skipper is beaten all ends up next ball.
11:02am - Sarah Elliott immediately adds to her tally with a single off Jenny Gunn and is brought back on strike straight away by Alex Blackwell. The rest of the opening over passes by quietly, meaning Elliott stays on 96.
10:57am - Here we go then. The bell has been rung and day two is about to begin. There are a few clouds around but the forecast is good and we should avoid any interruptions.
10:40am - As I'm sure you know by now, this match is part of a new multi-format Women's Ashes series. The solitary Test is worth six points (two apiece if the game is drawn) and will be followed by three one-day internationals and three Twenty20s, each offering two points to the winner. Australia are the current holders of the Ashes, having won the one-off Test at Sydney in 2011.
10:32am - While we wait for play to begin, why not take a look at the highlights from day one?
10:15am - Anya Shrubsole was the pick of the England attack yesterday. After play, she spoke to the media together with Elliott, who has her nine-month-old son Sam on tour with her.
10:10am - Hello again from beautiful Wormsley. It could be a special morning for Sarah Elliott, who will begin day two of the Women's Ashes Test unbeaten on 95 in an Australian total of 243 for three. England's bowlers plugged away well after losing the toss. They will now be seeking early wickets this morning.
I've been over to the picturesque scoring hut to test out my photography skills. You can see the result below: