A fanfare of trumpets accompanied the news of Lauren Bell’s addition to the test squad. She was not picked to play. The train of thought behind this sequence of decisions is hard to follow. Her next test chance does not follow next week. Lisa Keightley learned from her grave error of the India test last year and gave Sophie Ecclestone a support spinner; a feather in the debut cap of Charlie Dean.
Healy (wk), Haynes, Perry, Mooney, Lanning (c), McGrath, Gardner, Sutherland, Jonassen, King, Brown
Beaumont, Winfield-Hill, Knight (c), Sciver, Dunkley, Jones (wk), Brunt, Dean, Shrubsole, Ecclestone, Cross
This Aussie batting line-up looked horribly strong. To everyone’s amazement Beth Mooney did play, despite a broken jaw just days earlier; a quite astonishing display of human courage. Tahlia McGrath, who took the visiting bowlers to pieces in the one T20 completed, would appear no higher than No 6.
Heather Knight won the toss and put Australia in. You can think long and hard about that decision. One unlikely line of thought is Meg Lanning will make a challenging declaration on the fourth morning, and the England batters will take a tiring attack apart and win just after tea. Or perhaps not. The ECB website offered us a 5-day game, but that remains only a dream for the England captain.
First Day, Play!
The game started just as every English well-wisher wanted. Alyssa Healy fell to Katherine Brunt, then Mooney to Anya Shrubsole, both edging behind to Amy Jones. (4-2)
Haynes and Perry looked to be getting away, but Nat Sciver produced the ball that the English bowlers must have dreamed of all winter: It drew Ellyse Perry into a hook which skied into the leg-side for Jones to claim her third catch.
Perry’s record is utterly ridiculous. In tests alone her batting average is 86, bowling 19. She scored a double hundred off the hapless English in 2017.
From there the wheel turned. Knight dropped an edge by Lanning off Ecclestone just before lunch, and later Sciver dropped another bowled by her partner-in-arms, Brunt. Tests aren’t won like that.
England’s two spinners went wicketless, Ecclestone bowling more loose deliveries than she normally would in a complete season. Helped by Haynes’ 86, Lanning’s 93, McGrath’s 52 and Gardner’s 56, Australia reached well beyond 300 and had three wickets in hand by the close.
This at once reduced England’s chances of regaining the Ashes alarmingly, They would have to finish the innings off pronto, then score 400+ in quick time, then take ten more wickets against the strongest batting line-up in the world. And, despite the two spinners bowling 32 overs, England still fell three short of the 100 required in the day.
The quicks bowled well, beating groping bats many times before lunch; but the next two sessions saw Australia take a firm grip on the trophy.
Score: Australia 327-7