With half-centuries to Rachael Haynes, Meg Lanning, Ashleigh Gardner and Tahlia McGrath Day 1 of the lone Ashes Test finished with the Australian Women’s Cricket team firmly in the box seat at 7/327.
At the end of Day 2, Australia still remain firmly in control, with England finishing the day at 8/235.
While Australia and England both lost crucial early wickets, the key difference was that Australia’s middle order really stood up, let by Lanning and Haynes. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for England; Heather Knight was their highest scorer on 127* with the next highest score being Sophie Eccelstone who finished the day on 27*.
It was an incredible innings by Knight and her second Test century. Without her innings, England would be in dire straits and perhaps would have struggled to reach the follow on target.
The stats are not kind to England either. To win this game, the team will need to make history. In the 142 women’s Test matches played, no team has ever gone on to lose after scoring in excess of 300 in the opening innings which bodes very well for Australia.
Here are some talking points from Day 2.
The importance of tactics
As followers of women’s cricket know, the opportunity for women to play Test cricket is extremely limited.
This is only the fifth scheduled Test for the Aussie women since 2015.
So given that limited opportunity, it comes as no surprise that captain Lanning continues to refine her tactics. Particularly positive today was the use of her bowlers, short spells and regular rotations were used and had great impact.
Post Day 1, Lanning said that the goal was for Australia to score at least 350 runs before considering declaration. But, early wickets to England meant that Australia made the decision to declare at 9-337.
What did you make of this tactic? Was it worth wasting an hour this morning for an additional 10 runs, particularly considering that anything above 300 is considered a solid score.
In my view, no harm came from continuing to bat this morning. Had the wicket of Annabel Sutherland not fallen, perhaps Australia could have made it to that elusive 350.
There are so many things I love about the WBBL, but one of my favourites is the international players which come to Australian shores to compete. For me, that means that when Australia plays international cricket, I am so much more familiar with their opposition whether it be England, India, New Zealand or South Africa.
Over the years, a player I have had great admiration for is Katherine Brunt. A fierce competitor who at age 36 has been a constant in the English team even battling her way back after several injuries.
Even though it was at the expense of Australia, Brunt’s bowling deserves commendation. She finished the innings with 5/60 and did most of the damage with the ball for England. These wickets moved her into the top 10 wicket-taker in women’s Test matches.
Special mention also to Amy Jones, who took a record-equalling six catches in a women’s Test innings. The only other woman to take six catches in an innings was Lisa Nye.
Australia took their chances in the field
One of the key talking points from Day 1 was how England failed to take their opportunities in the field with Lanning and Haynes both dropped early in their innings.
The same thing certainly cannot be said of Australia’s innings in the field. Even Haynes dropping Charlie Dean on 9 runs was not costly, with McGrath taking a catch on the very next ball.
Spin bowlers like Alana King and Ashleigh Gardner helped build pressure for Australia with lots of swing and movement in the pitch and each of the bowlers played their role with Darcie Brown also taking her first Test wicket making her the youngest player to take a Test wicket for Australia since Holly Ferling at age 17.
Alana King was also rewarded with a Test wicket on debut, dismissing Brunt for 1.
Fielding was tight and clinical, characterised by Brown’s brilliant dive to dismiss Amy Jones.
I was also particularly pleased for Ellyse Perry who finished on 2/35. Perry has been a stalwart of the Aussie team, but was dropped for the T20I portion of the Ashes. In her bowling innings she demonstrated why she is such a key part of this squad and I’m looking forward to watching her bat in the second innings.
Retirement on the cards for Rachael?
In an interview at the end of Day 1, Haynes said “I think it probably will be my last Ashes Test, so I just want to enjoy it.”
Say it ain’t so, Rachael… say it ain’t so?
Given that the women’s Ashes only takes place every two years it’s perhaps not a surprise that Haynes may not see herself as part of the squad that travels to England in two years. She has had an illustrious career and has also recently become a mum.
Fingers crossed that we see more women’s Tests in future, so that this is not her last one. … and just quietly, I noticed that Haynes spent most of the day fielding under the lid. Another curious tactical decision by the captains given this is a position usually reserved for a more junior player. Perhaps Haynes was the only player who put her hand up to do it. Given her heroics with the bat yesterday, I would trust Haynes at almost any fielding position.