The day had started so well for England with Australia resuming their first innings on 9/2. Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole looked threatening, but it was debutant Kate Cross who made the early breakthrough when she came on ostensibly to let England’s openers change ends. Rather than just holding the fort she smashed down the wall as she bowled Jess Cameron (5) with a peach that knocked back her off stump. It was difficult to take her off after she had bowled a wicket maiden and she made it two wickets in her next over as she trapped Alex Blackwell lbw for 0 in her next over. The Aussies were 23/4. Had Jodie Fields’ first ball gone to skipper Charlotte Edwards’ hand at silly point things might have been even worse.
Brunt meanwhile was working up a head of steam and she let Fields know she was there with a couple of decent bouncers and an unfortunate beamer at just above waist height, which Fields actually dealt with well. It did not seem that significant at the time, but it would become so almost immediately after lunch. In the meantime Brunt accounted for the limpet-like Sarah Elliott (13) who dabbed at one outside off stump and was well taken by Sarah Taylor. The Aussies had slumped to 37/5 and England were eyeing a healthy first innings lead. Fields and Ellyse Perry had other ideas. Fields clipped, pulled, cut and drove Brunt for four successive fours to remove her from the attack and just before lunch they brought up the 50 partnership.
Immediately after the break the idea would have been to let the Brunt/Shrubsole combo have another dig at them, but when Brunt bowled another chest-high full-toss the umpires stepped in and she was shown the metaphorical red card for the rest of the innings. Potentially this was a big blow to England but when Jenny Gunn took a great catch in the gully off Cross to remove Fields (43) the Aussies were 92/6 and still had problems. Erin Osborne survived a couple of tough chances to the close fielders and then found her feet and she and Perry began to look more confident as the afternoon wore on and the England bowlers tired. At tea Australia had taken the score onto 159/6 and were firmly back in the game. All the more so as skipper Edwards failed to appear back on the field for the third session due to a knee injury.
Perry (71) finally went after tea when Jenny Gunn actually bowled a ball at the stumps and Perry missed it. Gunn’s relentless outside off line had proved cost-effective if disappointingly negative. 177/7 became 188/8 after England had thrown the new ball to Cross and Shrubsole. Osborne (40) was adjudged lbw to Shrubsole - one of a few generous lbw decisions by the umpires. As the Aussies scraped a lead Shrubsole took her fourth (4/57) bowling Coyte with the perfect inswinger, and then Farrell heaved Sciver to Shrubsole at deep fine leg to end the innings on 207 and a lead of just six runs. Cross finished with the excellent figures of 3/35 having bowled well all day.
England however had an awkward 45 minutes to negotiate to stumps with no Edwards to open,even if she was fit enough to do so, as she had been off the field since tea. For some reason England chose to promote Sarah Taylor to the openers slot. She had kept all day in the heat, does not like opening and has a tendency to be vulnerable early on. It was a recipe for disaster and so it proved when she flashed at a wide ball from Farrell and was caught at first slip for a duck. To make matters worse Heather Knight (1) and Lydia Greenway (5) had also departed, leaving England in deep strife at 10/3. It was left to the heroines of the first innings, Arran Brindle (3*) and Nat Sciver (6*), to see out the final overs, albeit not without the odd scare, with England teetering on the brink at 18/3.
The two batsmen at the crease will be key to England setting any sort of target for Australia, together with Edwards who you would expect to bat come what may, although she cannot have a runner – another mad ICC rule! England’s tail folded quickly in the first innings once Brindle and Sciver were out and the same could happen again tomorrow. If England could eek out a lead of 150 they would at least have something for Brunt, Shrubsole and Cross to bowl at. Final innings pressure does odd things to batsmen so I wouldn’t rule England out of it yet. But 150 looks an awfully long way off as the firey sun sets over the Furnace.