In a game with six points at stake, it was going to take an extraordinary batting collapse or a serious spell of quick bowling to ever push for a result at Wormsley. The wicket was good; too good, in fact. There was no rough for the spinners to work with, little pace for the seamers and only variable bounce – and that is if we’re being generous.
Giving the test match a higher points ranking was always going to be dangerous. Awarding it six points highlights how important test cricket is; it is still seen by the majority of the players as the pinnacle of their career. However, the women play fewer and fewer four day matches, and by placing so much emphasis on the game in terms of points, the willingness of either side to take risks to push them into the front lessened by the day. A Sheffield Shield style points system, with points awarded by innings, would maybe work better for the future.
It seems strange given the match situation to praise Australian captain Jodie Fields for a brave declaration, but in some ways it was. After the runner arrived in the 82nd over to pass on a message from the dressing room, Fields and Osborne proceeded to put on 34 runs in four overs. Arran Brindle and Danielle Hazell suffered the most; Hazell saw two balls disappear back over her head for two respective boundaries, before Brindle’s poor line saw three identical deliveries hammered to the boundary in quick succession. Fields was aggressive from the off. After reaching her half century, she smashed 24 off the next 25 deliveries.
Her declaration in the 86th over, setting England 249 to win from 45 overs, may have seemed overly cautious. But the speed with which Fields and Osborne went about making their runs highlighted how fast the outfield was. Once it beat the infield, the ball nearly always travelled to the boundary. There was also nothing in the pitch; keeping a total down was reliant on tight bowling and although Australia generated the pace that England lacked, they were not as economical.
Elysse Perry again achieved the bounce and carry that had eluded England. Although England never looked as though they would try to chase down the target, Perry’s first few overs – fast, reasonably full with the odd short ball to keep the batsman awake – kept them in check. Quite why Australia chooses to hide Holly Ferling from the new ball is a mystery. The pace she generates is not dissimilar to Perry, yet Australia chose to go with Meg Schutt. When Ferling was brought on from the Deer Park End, her first ball took a wicket. Heather Knight hit to square leg and ran through for a quick single; Perry’s throw hit and Knight was out by a yard.
Sarah Taylor and Arran Brindle played their shots. There is hardly a shot in Taylor’s repertoire that looks inelegant. The way she handled Erin Osborne’s spin was particularly impressive, rocking back on her feet to cut her through the covers being the highlight of the spell. When Brindle fell, caught and bowled by Sarah Elliott, to leave England on 48/2, there was no sense of panic among the players. Charlotte Edwards put her disappointing first innings behind her to join Taylor in some strokeplay.
The game was in danger of drifting to a draw after yesterday’s slow going, but some smart work from England’s bowlers kept things interesting. Meg Lanning, whose bowling later on in the day was reminiscent of Lasith Malinga, except with a higher arm from which the ball was slung, was caught by Brindle after scooping a leading edge into the air off Anya Shrubsole. An unbelievable piece of fielding from Lydia Greenway then accounted for Elliott. Elliott, century-maker in the first innings, cracked a drive to Greenway at cover. Greenway fielded one handed before instantly shying at the stumps, running out Elliott by some way. Shouts of “Greenway!” echoed from the player huddle as England hauled themselves back into contention.
Jess Cameron played her shots, including smashing the first six of the match over cow corner off the tiring Shrubsole. Katherine Brunt was absent for much of the day with an upset stomach and although Shrubsole bowled consistently well, Laura Marsh claimed the final wicket, trapping Alex Blackwell LBW for 22.
Speaking afterwards, Edwards said that she was proud of the way her bowlers had come through the test match; “We came in today believing we could still win and I think we showed that in our first session. We believed we could get some early wickets, put some pressure on and maybe chase 200 over 60 overs.”
Both she and Jodie Fields were supportive of the new structure, though Edwards suggested that maybe a change in wickets would be more beneficial. By producing wickets with more spice in them, or maybe even moving to a county ground – while there is no denying the beauty and tranquillity of Wormsley, a ground which sees cricket on a more regular basis may be more beneficial – there may be a better chance of forcing a result.