England took crucial wickets to shade proceedings at the halfway point of the historic day-night Women's Ashes Test at the North Sydney Oval.
Starting the day with three first-innings wickets in hand they added 45 before strangling the Australians with spin – particularly in the middle session – to leave them 177-5 at the close.
While Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy are still at the crease the hosts retain the ability to hurt England, and they won’t be too unhappy about only losing two wickets across the final twilight session.
However, Heather Knight’s side will be pleased with their work on a slow pitch that looks set to provide some nip-and-tuck cricket over the last two days.
England will have started the day hoping to reach 300 but much of that would have rested on Fran Wilson.
After a number of drives failed to penetrate the ring she top-edged an attempted cross-bat shot and was caught at square-leg by Ellyse Perry off Megan Schutt, for a well-earned first wicket.
Anya Shrubsole, who blocked with the best of them at Canterbury two years ago but who also creamed a first-ball four in the World Cup semi-final, showed a little bit of both gears to hit four fours in her 20 but she too perished off a top edge, caught at fine-leg by Elyse Villani, right in front of a sizeable and vocal group of Richie Benaud impersonators.
The last-wicket pair of Laura Marsh and Sophie Ecclestone frustrated the hosts, putting on a neat 18 with one Ecclestone shot – a pull in front of square off Perry – hinting at a player unlikely to bat No.11 for long.
In all the last three wickets had put on 45, a handy contribution.
Australia’s opening duo of Nicole Bolton and Beth Mooney continued in the same vein as Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield the day before as a slow wicket, some tight bowling and straight fields made scoring a struggle.
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Like England’s openers, Bolton and Mooney would have been pleased to see the shine off the ball but in showing some positivity they were undone – Bolton the first to go, hitting a short ball from Laura Marsh straight to Anya Shrubsole at mid-wicket, who moved well to take the catch.
Although the dismissal wasn’t the best ball Marsh would ever have bowled, she can take a lot of credit for bowling tightly and building pressure.
She gave nothing away and it was a strategy that paid further dividends five overs later as wicket number two - the middle wicket in a spell of 3-13 for England across 13 overs - fell.
This time it was Mooney who departed, in an almost action replay of Bolton’s dismissal.
Too early on a short ball she could only find Sciver at mid-wicket, who did the rest to give debutant Sophie Ecclestone her first Test wicket.
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- AKA: Eccles
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- Age: 18
- Domestic Team: Lancashire, Lancashire Thunder
- Bowling Style: Left-arm
- Fun Fact:
- Dismissed her boyfriend while playing for Alvanley CC in Cheshire League Division 2
- Cricketing Legend:
- Her brother, James!
The impressive Ecclestone was at it again to cap off a fine little mini-session for the visitors, snaring Alex Blackwell LBW to leave the score at 61/3.
Perry and Villani survived through to dinner, and found scoring slightly easier off the reintroduced seamers, but just after the interval Shrubsole got the fourth wicket courtesy of a fine catch standing up to the stumps from Taylor, Villani the player to depart.
Katherine Brunt struck again for England as the session drew to a close, trapping captain Rachael Haynes LBW following the introduction of the second new ball.
A full scorecard is available throughout the match.
Follow all of the team news and results during the Women's Ashes in our dedicated England Women section.