England’s dreams of clinching the one-off Test of Women’s Ashes 2023 were dashed on day four when they lost five wickets in a late collapse. England struggled to 73-4 after starting brilliantly at 55-0 in pursuit of their target of 268 at Trent Bridge, with Ash Gardner of Australia getting three key wickets.
England were 116-5 at the stumps of the one-off Test in the ongoing Women’s Ashes 2023, requiring 152 more runs to complete the highest-ever run chase in women’s Test cricket. Australia had been slammed out for 257 earlier in the match, owing to a remarkable effort by Sophie Ecclestone, who bagged five wickets for 63, earning her a total of ten wickets in the match. A triumph in the Test match earns four points, which are divided if the match is drawn.
England were left seeking to surpass Australia’s 198 for 3 in the 2011 Ashes, as well as break their own record for the highest fourth-innings score of 245 for 9 in last year’s draw with Australia in Canberra, after having been given a target of 268.
Gardner, Australia’s off-spinner allrounder, had England’s first-innings double-centurion Tammy Beaumont piqued at slip for 22 and dismissed Nat Sciver-Brunt to an erroneous pull either side of Tahlia McGrath’s LBW of Emma Lamb on day five, dashed their hopes.
England’s opening combo, Emma Lamb and Tammy Beaumont, got off to a good start but collapsed quickly. Nat Sciver-Brunt and skipper Heather Knight also departed in quick succession, putting England in jeopardy. With a 37-run partnership, Sophia Dunkley and debuting Danni Wyatt put up a quick fight, but Dunkley was inevitably trapped behind off Kim Garth.
Gardner subsequently dismissed Heather Knight as she claimed three wickets for nine runs in 17 balls, leaving England on 73 for 4. Kim Garth caught Dunkley behind just as Sophia Dunkley and Danni Wyatt had begun to help stabilise things for England, and at the end, England nonetheless required 152 runs with five wickets in hand.
Earlier in the day of the Women’s Ashes 2023 one-off Test, Australia had begun the day at 82-0 but collapsed, losing wickets quickly thanks to Ecclestone’s prowess and a resurgence by England’s speed attack. Lauren Filer, specifically, made an impression with two wickets before lunch.
England, on the other hand, squandered many catching possibilities throughout Australia’s innings, notably an early chance to dismiss Alyssa Healy.
England had missed six chances against their rivals, who had built a 267-run lead on the back of 99-run partnerships between the opening pair Beth Mooney and Phoebe Litchfield and 50-run partnerships between Mooney and Ellyse Perry before Alyssa Healy found some timely form and fortune to put on 59 for the eighth wicket with Alana King. That helped Australia recover from 149 for 1 to 257 all out in their second innings, owing in major part to Ecclestone’s 5 for 63, giving her the match statistics of 10 for 192.
Ecclestone’s feat was enhanced by her tireless travail throughout Australia’s first innings of the Women’s Ashes 2023 one-off Test, during which she bowled 46.2 overs, 28 of them consecutively, for 5 for 129, her maiden five-wicket haul in Tests. This total came from fewer overs, 30.5, but it was nearly double that of England’s seamer Kate Cross, who had 17.
Ecclestone was the hosts’ sole frontline spinner, with Knight bowling five overs in Australia’s second innings and fellow part-time spinner Sophia Dunkley bowling just two in the first.
Litchfield had only scored one run to her overnight score of 41 when she smashed an Ecclestone delivery to Cross, who was unable to hold on at cover. Cross, on the other hand, was beaming when she had Litchfield out leaving for the second time in her debut Test, this time with one that curved back in sharply from a decent length and smacked into the top of off-stump four runs short of a half-century.
Mooney reached her fifty by sweeping Ecclestone to the boundary and was on 55 when Sciver-Brunt came in, having bowled just five overs in Australia’s first innings after suffering a knee injury, but she couldn’t hold a powerfully struck return catch on her follow-through.
Lauren Filer, England’s young quick, turned things around with two wickets in four balls, having Perry out cutting on to a short delivery and then producing another, fuller, ball that seamed in anew to beat McGrath’s flick and ricochet off the front pad before hitting the off stump.
Filer’s pace and movement put the Australians under strain, but it was left-arm spinner Ecclestone’s distinctive speed that accounted for Jess Jonassen, a faster ball that was too full for her attempting slog sweep and went low under the bat into the stumps. Ecclestone, the No. 1 bowler in both white-ball forms, has dismissed Jonassen for the second time this match.
After her undefeated century from No. 8 in the first innings, Annabel Sutherland was promoted to No. 6, and she received a life on nought the second time when she flicked Ecclestone hard and low to square leg, where Wyatt shelled the opportunity. Ecclestone next got one to turn in a long distance, and Mooney edged into a leg stump to fall for 85.
When Gardner came out ahead of Healy, who was facing the potential of a double pair in Ashes Tests, tensions rose and threatened to explode when Cross had Gardner devoured at second slip on the third ball she encountered in the one-off Women’s Ashes 2023 Test.
Then Cross fired one in that appeared to have spurned Healy’s bat by barely missing the first ball before touching the bottom of Amy Jones’ gloves, only for Ultra-Edge to indicate Healy had a feather to it and England had squandered another, albeit difficult, chance.
Healy faced four more balls before getting started, bisecting slip and gully, and from there she appeared to ease progressively into her bat, as evidenced by her brilliant off-drive to send Filer’s fuller ball down the ground for four. She needed to after Wyatt made amends for her previous gaffe by spooning Ecclestone to her at square leg, Australia losing four wickets for 20 runs in a stretch of 33 balls.
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Filer was able to take advantage of one of the cracks Gardner had indicated when she got one spewing up into King’s back as she took defensive action, and King edged Lauren Bell to slip after Healy wrapped up her fifty with a single towards cover.
Ecclestone secured her five-for by trapping Darcie Brown at an LBW for a third-ball duck after Healy spooned a full toss from her straight to midwicket in the one-off Women’s Ashes 2023 Test.
There hasn’t been a Women’s Test result since Australia thrashed England at Canterbury in 2015, but this match is currently poised to break a sequence of six stalemates.
With batting depth to spare, England will need to sustain their aggressive tactics against Australia’s three spinners on an eroding ground with turn and variable bounce. The result of the Test match advocates Australia, and England will need a heroic effort to clinch victory and keep their chances alive and kicking in the Women’s Ashes series.
Women’s Ashes 2023 One-off Test Brief scores:
England 463 & 116/5 (Emma Lamb 28; Ash Gardner 3-33) trail Australia 473 & 257 (Beth Mooney 85, Alyssa Healy 50, Phoebe Litchfield 46; Sophie Ecclestone 5-63, Lauren Filer 2-49) by 151 runs.