|Women’s Ashes Test, North Sydney Oval (day three of four):|
|England 280 & 40-0: Beaumont 25*|
|Australia 448-9 dec: Perry 213*, McGrath 47, Healy 45, Ecclestone 3-107, Marsh 3-109|
|Australia lead by 128 runs|
Ellyse Perry became only the seventh woman to hit a Test double century as Australia took control of the day-night Women’s Ashes Test against England on day three at the North Sydney Oval.
The 27-year-old, also a football international, made an unbeaten 213 as Australia declared on 448-9, taking a first-innings lead of 168.
England’s openers survived to finish on 40-0 at close of play.
Australia will retain the Ashes if they can force victory on the final day.
But a draw may be the likeliest outcome after only four wickets fell on a day when bat dominated ball,
It would take an almighty turnaround for England, who trail 4-2 in the points-based multi-format series, to find a winning position, given that their first target would be the 168 they need to make Australia bat again.
However, a more positive approach from openers Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield in the final hour may encourage them to believe they can save the game.
A draw would keep the series alive with Australia leading 6-4 – but barring washouts, England would still need to win all three Twenty20 internationals to regain the trophy.
Perry goes large – at last
While Perry’s chanceless innings will rightly take its place in the pantheon of women’s cricket, it was all the more remarkable – given her undoubted talent – that 10 years after her international debut, it was the first time she had reached three figures in Australian colours.
A sporting prodigy, Perry had made her full debut for Australia at both cricket and football while only 16 – and attempted to have a dual career for a while, featuring at World Cups in both sports, although cricket has taken precedence in recent years.
Since the start of 2014, she has passed 50 in 23 of her 35 one-day international innings, averaging a shade under 80 – but had not converted any of them to a century.
But while she was trending worldwide on Twitter by the end of the day’s play – no mean achievement given the profile of women’s Test cricket, which averages one match every two years – she was indebted to century stands with Alyssa Healy (45) and Tahlia McGrath (47).
Australia had resumed on 177-5, with Perry unbeaten on 70, but it was Healy who showed more attacking intent in the early stages, and was the first player in the match to clear the ropes, hoisting Anya Shrubsole over mid-wicket just before the drinks break at the end of the first hour.
Former England captain Charlotte Edwards, now a BBC Test Match Special summariser, has watched Perry’s rise through the international game – and was confident enough to pledge before play that she would eat her hat if Perry did not hit a century.
And Edwards’ faith was repaid soon after that opening hour as Perry helped Laura Marsh down the leg side before removing her helmet and jumping for joy.
|Women’s Test double centuries|
|242 – Kiran Baluch, Pakistan v West Indies (Karachi, 2004)|
|214 – Mithali Raj, India v England (Taunton, 2002)|
|213* – Ellyse Perry, Australia v England (Sydney, 2017)|
|209* – Karen Rolton, Australia v England (Headingley, 2001)|
|204 – Kirsty Flavell, New Zealand v England (Scarborough, 1996)|
|204 – Michelle Goszko, Australia v England (Shenley, 2001)|
|200 – Joanne Broadbent, Australia v England (Guildford, 1998)|
After Healy was caught at mid-on for 45, McGrath survived being dropped by Heather Knight off her first ball and showed no signs of debutant nerves as she took the lead in their century stand.
Perry seemed to adopt a safety-first approach between 100 and 150 – going more than two hours without hitting a boundary, but racking up the singles.
McGrath was out just before the dinner interval, but after Jess Jonassen and Amanda-Jade Wellington fell in quick succession, Perry was seven runs short of her double ton and running out of partners when number 11 Megan Schutt arrived.
Schutt was nearly out twice before Perry, on 194, launched Laura Marsh high into the night sky – and with the crowd cheering a six, Perry ran to celebrate her achievement, only for the third umpire to rule that the ball had bounced just in front of the rope.
Thankfully for Perry, she drove Sophie Ecclestone for four next over to pass the landmark, and had time to launch another six before Rachael Haynes declared.
England toil in the field
Considering England do not play any multi-innings cricket at domestic level, it would have tested their stamina, both physical and mental, to be out in the field for a mammoth 166 overs.
Given that the second new ball was only five overs old at the start of the day, it was a surprise the tourists did not begin with their regular pace duo Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole – instead using Sophie Ecclestone’s left-arm spin in the early stages.
But while they had been able to strangle Australia with spin on day two, England were unable to exert the same level of control on Saturday, serving up too many loose deliveries.
Healy and Perry served early notice of their intentions by hitting Ecclestone for three fours in her first two overs, while fellow spinner Laura Marsh had only conceded 28 runs in 23 overs on Friday, but day three saw her plundered for 81 in 21.
Brunt (1-44 from 22 overs) was their most economical bowler, while Knight gave McGrath a life when she hit her first ball from Georgia Elwiss straight to extra cover, only for the England skipper to shell the chance.
By mid-evening, the pink ball appeared increasingly ragged – giving the appearance that it had been chewed by a dog between overs – but although England were in the field long enough to have the option of a third new ball after 160 overs, it was not taken, for fear that a new ball might disappear to the boundary even quicker.
Even one of the three wickets they did take came from a full toss from Elwiss, which McGrath obligingly chipped to mid-wicket.
Having played conservatively and got bogged down in the first innings, England’s openers can take credit for the way they batted in the final hour, Beaumont in particular showing some of the fluency with which she batted in the World Cup.
But England will need to draw on all their reserves of grit and determination on the final day, with leg-spinner Wellington already showing glimpses of the occasional sharply turning delivery like the one which dismissed Beaumont in the first innings.
‘Why not celebrate twice?’ – what they said
Australia wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy on Perry’s innings: “England bowled really well yesterday but fortunately Ellyse did brilliantly. It was very special for me to be there, I was fist pumping more than her when we were running down the wicket!
“She went up another gear when we needed and full credit to her. She is a very special player. She was very embarrassed about [celebrating early]but it’s not often you get to celebrate a double century, so why not do it twice!”
Perry on the premature celebration: “That’s the second most embarrassing thing I’ve done in this match, after taking that catch after the ball hit me – the crowd tricked me as they were cheering as though it went for six. Their support was just incredible.”
England pace bowler Anya Shrubsole told BBC Test Match Special: “We came up against someone who played a sublime innings. I don’t remember her giving a chance. She’s obviously got a really good technique and she batted brilliantly. We really stuck at it, but sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say ‘well batted’.”
Ex-England captain Charlotte Edwards on TMS, on Australia’s chances of victory: “It’s going to be really difficult. The ball’s not moving off the straight – it depends on whether Amanda-Jade Wellington can get any turn. England can just bat and bat. But you wouldn’t put anything past Ellyse Perry at the moment.”