England skipper Heather Knight constructed a stunning unbeaten century on the second day of the Ashes Test against Australia.
Despite Knight’s brilliance with the bat, her side are still 102 runs behind and facing an uphill battle in their bid to claim a first win Down Under.
Knight dazzled with a fine 127 not out at the Manuka Oval in Canberra as England finished the day on 235-8 after Australia had declared on 337-9. And if it had not been for Knight – and her gutsy innings – the Ashes could already be over with the hosts having controlled this one-off Test thus far.
The next best score behind Knight was a battling 27 not out from No 10 batter Sophie Ecclestone. Knight batted patiently for 249 balls and scored 13 fours and one six in a character-filled innings which lasted 343 minutes. Without her England would have been doomed.
Too often England’s out-of-sorts batters crumbled under the heat and the hosts’ pressure.
In fact, five batters could only muster single figures as England were in trouble at 46-3 and 79-4. They then slipped to 118-5 and were reeling at 150-7 as wickets continued to tumble.
But when Anya Shrubshole departed at 169-8, skipper Knight and Ecclestone dug deep to salvage some much-needed pride.
Their hard-fought unbroken ninth-wicket partnership of 66 has kept this Ashes series alive.
Ecclestone, in particular, deserved credit for her 70-ball innings which proved the perfect foil for Knight as the pair rebuilt when England were in danger.
However, trailing 4-2 after the curtain-raising T20 trio of matches, England remain firmly under the pump in their bid to end the Aussies’ dominance. Unless they can somehow force victory with two days remaining – and the Aussies firmly in charge – Knight knows her team might be forced to produce something special in the three 50-over ODI matches which conclude the series.
Australia, of course, have won the last two Ashes series and have arguably the best side in the world but Knight and her team can still make history if they can somehow force a victory – or emerge with at least a draw – Down Under.
There are four points up for grabs in this Test, which is of huge significance for both teams, and for difference contexts. If Australia win the Test then England cannot win the Ashes. Australia only have to draw the series to retain the famous Ashes urn.
However, if England can somehow turn this four-day game on its head and clinch an unlikely victory, then they would go into the ODI series with a two-point lead. And, more importantly, the pressure would be on the hosts to produce.
That scenario would bring this series to life – and finally give England fans something to smile about after a dismal winter following the senior men’ side’s abject failure.
Australia resumed the day on 327-7 and didn’t waste much time in declaring, confident they could make early in-roads into England’s flaky batting line-up.
England pace bowler Katherine Brunt finished with an impressive five-wicket, rewarded with figures of 5-60 from 21.1 overs, while Natalia Sciver weighed in with 3-41.
Unfortunately for England, Australia’s bowlers also had plenty of success. Star all-rounder Ellyse Perry and Annabel Sutherland both chipped in with two wickets each respectively.
Only one of Australia’s seven bowlers failed to take a wicket, showing the strength – and variety – in depth the hosts possess.
This Test is still alive, but Knight will have to work some more of her magic if England are going to stand any chance of winning.
Scorecard: Day 2 of 4
Australia 337-9 dec (Lanning 93, Haynes 86, Gardner 56, McGrath 52, Brunt 5-60, Sciver 3-41)
England: 235-8 (Knight 127 not out, Ecclestone 27 not out, Perry 2-35, Sutherland 2-52).