By Chris Devine at Wormsley
Laura Marsh reflected proudly on the remarkable 304-ball 55 that helped England out of a tight spot in the Women’s Ashes Test.
Unbeaten on 13 at the beginning of day three, Marsh batted past tea and had spent 343 minutes in the middle by the time she was finally bowled by Megan Schutt.
The majority of Marsh’s epic innings was played out in the company of Heather Knight, who converted her overnight 85 into a tremendous 157 – the third-highest individual score for England Women against Australia.
Charlotte Edwards’ side were therefore able to reach 314 in their first innings, before Australia closed 81 ahead on 64 for one.
When it was light-heartedly put to Marsh she had lived up to her nickname ‘Boggy’, the all-rounder replied: “I was pretty stuck in there I suppose. It was just the job the team needed and I tried to hang in there.”
The 26-year-old added: “I’m really pleased. When I went in it was 113 for six and we were pretty up against it. I was just pleased to be able to hang in with Heather and support her.
“It’s the best I’ve seen her bat in an England shirt - fantastic discipline, great technique. She did an exceptional job.”
Marsh, who has opened the batting on numerous occasions in limited-overs cricket, drew laughter from the media when she jokingly suggested her efforts had left Australia “nearly as bored as I was”.
As exhibitions of concentration go, this was right up there and Marsh now boasts the slowest fifty by an England player in terms of minutes at the crease.
“Naturally I do like to be a bit more positive, but I tried to be positive in defence and approach it that way” she explained.
“You just have to switch on and off again when there are breaks and it was really helpful to have Heather at the other end for the vast amount of the time I was there because she just played brilliantly and we kept each other going.
“We tried to do it in 15-minute blocks, bat time and pick up runs as the time went along, try not to look too far ahead.
“There were a few balls out there that I might naturally have wanted to swing at but I guess the team needed me to stick in there and be disciplined with my decision-making.”
Although a draw now appears favourite, particularly given the placid nature of the wicket, Marsh believes the final day could yet prove dramatic.
“I think all three outcomes are still possible,” she said.
“It depends how the first session goes tomorrow; the Aussies might come out swinging a bit to get a few runs on the board. That could go in our favour.”
Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell graciously described Knight’s knock as “a perfect Test innings” and also had fulsome praise for Marsh.
“I think England did very well to fight back and get themselves into a position where the game’s still alive,” said Blackwell.
“Credit to Boggy and Heather; they did very well and showed a lot of determination.
“I think that was a very fine innings from Heather. There weren’t many chances that she provided so it was a perfect Test innings.”
Elaborating on Marsh’s defiance, Blackwell added: “In the Test matches I’ve played against England there have been similar innings like that in the past, where the team hasn’t got off to a good start with the bat and someone’s going to have to dig in and provide the support up the other end.
“So I think Laura did a great job there and (there was) a lot of mental exercise out there I guess. She proved she can handle that.”
Australia took 20 overs to accept the second new ball, a decision that surprised and confused many observers.
“We were hoping to get a wicket and then take the new ball to try and wrap up the tail,” explained Blackwell.
“It didn’t play out the way we were hoping; we wanted to wrap it up a lot quicker today but we still maintained a small lead and that’s really positive.
“Both sides would be keen to get a result but it’s going to be difficult with just the one day left.”