Ellyse Perry drives through the covers

NewsImage
Australia Women 420 for 9 dec (Mooney 51) and 230 for 7 (Perry 76*) drew with England Women 275 for 9 dec (Sciver 88, Jones 64, Molineux 4-95)

As Australia drew their Test with England to retain the Ashes, it was only fitting that Ellyse Perry should still be at the crease late on the final day at Taunton.

Perry"s performances have been a shining light in this series, not least in the Test, which ended in the non-defeat the tourists needed after she added an unbeaten 76 to her 116 in the first innings.

Almost as appropriate was the fact Sophie Molineux joined Perry until shortly before the captains shook hands on the draw when Australia lost the wicket of Ashleigh Gardner to close with a lead of 335 runs, which demonstrated their dominance of the match, despite the result. Spinning all-rounder Molineux made a stellar debut in the long format, claiming four wickets to destroy England"s hopes of reviving the match after a severely rain-affected second day, and then put on 41 runs in a 50-plus partnership with Perry.

On a pitch offering little to anyone, the draw gave Australia eight points to England"s two - they split the four points on offer in the Test - to retain the trophy with six points left to be claimed from the upcoming three T20s.

It kept alive Alyssa Healy"s bold claim before arriving in England that Australia would not lose a match in the series and breathed life into the debate about whether women should play five-day Tests. In fact, it raised many questions. Should Australia have been more attacking and pressed for a result, given England"s declaration before lunch while still trailing by 145? Should the women"s game have pitches prepared specifically to promote attacking cricket? Or did the Australians simply do what they needed to do to achieve the result they came for - to win the Ashes.

Once the follow-on had been avoided, attention turned to a possible England declaration and, when Jess Jonassen trapped Laura Marsh plumb lbw attempting to sweep for her second wicket of the day - and the innings - then Heather Knight made the call to give her team a crack at the Australian batsmen before lunch.

Any sense of damned if she did and damned if she didn"t over denying last batsman Kirstie Gordon the chance to have a swing with Sophie Ecclestone needed to be tempered by the realisation that England"s hopes of winning the match had been placed in peril long before.

Similarly Australia were faced with the dilemma of whether to put the match too far beyond doubt to be interesting, or press for victory and, incidentally, an exciting end to the Test.

As it happened, two early wickets to Marsh forced Australia to put the shutters up - if they hadn"t already - after Ecclestone had begun for England in fine fashion, threatening with every ball of the first over - a maiden - to Rachael Haynes, opening the batting in place of Nicole Bolton, who had injured her thumb while fielding.

Lunch was taken after five overs, by which time Haynes was still not off the mark after facing 15 balls and Healy was not out 13 off 15. Marsh came into the attack at the resumption and struck with her second and sixth deliveries, bowling Healy through the gate with a gem that angled across the right-hander, and then trapping Haynes lbw.

At 15 for 2, Meg Lanning and Perry dug in, building a 48-run partnership before Lanning"s remarkable dismissal. Replacing Marsh, debutante spinner Gordon struck in her first over with a full toss which Lanning looked to punish on the on-side but managed to pick out Georgia Elwiss at cover, much to the batsman"s disbelief and, possibly, the bowler"s as well.

Ecclestone was rewarded when Beth Mooney tried to slog her over mid-wicket and found a cat-like Tammy Beaumont pouncing on the catch at short leg. By that time, Australia had extended their lead to 250 and Perry had a half-century in sight.

Perry, carrying a leg-muscle complaint and who benefited from a favourable but apparently errant lbw decision when on 20, brought up her fifty with a four off Katherine Brunt, who did not return from tea after injuring her right arm while fielding late in the second session. Perry did emerge, with the bat, alongside Jonassen after the break, squashing any hopes of a declaration.

Instead, the height of excitement through the final session was watching Player of the Match Perry in action again, and seeing what Molineux could do with the bat. Gardner also chimed in with the only six of the match before she was out for 7. The only other action of note, and it was certainly not positive, was seeing England wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor struck on the shoulder by an Anya Shrubsole delivery to Perry that spat up off a full length. Taylor remained behind the stumps for some time before leaving the field for treatment, replaced by Amy Jones.

Earlier, Jonassen had claimed the wicket of Natalie Sciver, upon whom England"s hopes had fallen late on day three, only growing as she neared her ton. But Sciver added only 26 runs to her overnight score before she was out for 88 chopping on.

Molineux had claimed the first wicket of the day when she tempted Shrubsole to try and hit her over the leg side, only to find herself out of her ground for a stumping by Healy. That gave Molineux match figures of 4 for 95.

Sourav Ganguly at the Eden Gardens

Shaiman Anwar cuts behind point for a boundary

Wasim Jaffer plays a drive

Andre Russell looks on

Ravi Bopara launches one over the leg side

Yashasvi Jaiswal has been in outstanding form in the Vijay Hazare Trophy

Comments