Australia gained ground in the one-off Women’s Ashes Test in Nottingham by holding the hosts to 116/5 in their quest of 268 by day’s end on day 4. It was another back-and-forth day in Nottingham. After holding Australia to just 257 in their second innings with Sophie Ecclestone’s second game-changing spell and Lauren Filer’s vital contribution, England shot themselves in the foot with a collapse of 4 for 18 when they had the upper hand. Although Australia’s strong return with the ball, led by Ash Gardner, kept both teams in the hunt for the four-point advantage in the multi-format series opener, despite a swift fifty opening stand and a generally bright start to the chase.
Beth Mooney continued in the same manner when Australia began with the overnight total of 82 without loss, but Phoebe Litchfield was prevented from reaching her first half-century. Kate Cross made up for dumping the Australian rookie on 34 earlier in the day by catching her four short of the milestone by knocking her down with a gorgeous inswinger. Similar mistakes were made by Nat Sciver-Brunt, who dropped Mooney off the first ball of her spell and paid the consequence. Ellyse Perry needed some time to get comfortable, but Mooney continued to play with good intentions and kept the runs coming.
Thanks to some excellent fast bowling from Filer, who took out Perry for the second time in a row and then got past Tahlia McGrath’s defenses to reduce Australia to 157/3 at lunch, England was able to rally late in the session. Their success story has since continued, with Ecclestone now commanding attention. Jess Jonassen was bowled for just 14 as a result of the post-break scoring slump.
With three boundaries off Cross, Annabel Sutherland staged a brief counterattack, but Ecclestone again struck, preventing Mooney from reaching her century. Mooney continued, falling 15 short of the goal. Sutherland was also sent packing by the spinner, who top-edged her pull to make an easy catch. Gardner was in and out in a flash. Australia was in serious trouble at 198/7, but their skipper put up a hand.
Healy counterattacked after scoring zeroes in her previous three Test innings to revive Australia’s hopes of putting up a 300-plus total. With three wickets still standing and Australia’s skipper three runs short of what could have been a match-winning fifty, the eight-wicket team completed the session with Australia leading by 264 runs.
Australia’s demise happened almost as quickly on the other side of the Tea. Healy did reach her fifty in 61 balls, but all it took for England and Ecclestone to end the match was three overs. However, it was Lauren Bell who delivered the breakthrough, ending Australia’s celebrations by dismissing King immediately after Healy handed over the strike. Soon after, the half-centurion ended up chipping a low full toss off Ecclestone to midwicket, and three balls later, Ecclestone captured Darcie Brown LBW to limit Australia to 257 in the second innings.
With momentum in their favor, English starters launched the pursuit of 268 rather quickly. With boundaries flying freely, the hosts accelerated to 6 RPO in the opening eight overs. Even Sutherland was welcomed into the attack with back-to-back fours by Emma Lamb, who was fortunate to have the outside edge slip through the cordon both times as Australia looked to make quick changes with the ball. In just 8.3 overs, she raised the team’s first fifty.
In a last-ditch effort to score, Healy pitched the ball to Gardner after drinks, and she caught Tammy Beaumont at first slip to support the captain’s decision. Despite a desperate review, Lamb was adjudged LBW to McGrath after one brought two.
Even though she blasted Gardner over midwicket to get the scoring started with a six, Heather Knight wasn’t going to allow the two rapid dismissals to slow her down. However, after witnessing her deputy lose her wicket in the same over, Heather Knight was forced to make a decision. The spinner, though, had the last laugh when she trapped Knight’s LBW with one that turned in quickly to knock her low on the pads, sending Knight packing. In no time, England’s odds dropped from 55/0 to 73/4, and survival mode set in.
Although the run rate decreased, Australia wasn’t finished yet. A last-minute bowling substitution allowed Australia to score once more when Kim Garth persuaded Sophia Dunkley to nip one behind and score her first Test cricket run. While Danni Wyatt (20*) held down the fort for the hosts, who still need another 152 on the final day, five wickets in the closing hour of play had turned the game in Australia’s direction.