Earlier in the day she had lead the Australian attack on the English batsmen, who resumed at a precarious 18/3. In fact she was the Australian attack. When she did not have the ball in her hand the Aussie bowling looked pretty toothless. Arran Brindle (35) and Nat Sciver (23) once again set about rebuilding the England innings, but they both eventually fell to Perry’s second spell of the day, having patiently accumulated runs without too many alarms during the morning session. At 73/5 England were still in trouble, but Charlotte Edwards (56) came in at seven, after being off the field for the last few hours of the Aussie innings, and immediately stroked her first ball for four. From there on she and Jenny Gunn (44) proceeded to double the England score and began to take the game away from a flagging Stars’ team.
The crucial period was the hour after lunch when you would have expected Perry and Farrell to have been unleashed by the Aussie skipper Fields at the throats of the England batsmen. England started the session at 92/5. But she did not, and that may have been due to the fact that Perry had been pushed too hard during the rest of the game – required both to carry the bowling attack with spells that were too long, and the batting, where she made an invaluable 71 in over three and a half hours at the crease. By the time she was finally thrown the ball England had made it to the relative safety of 151/5 and Edwards had her fifty. Perry had her lbw a few balls later, but it was too late for the Aussies to claim the high ground in a match which has had more twists and turns than a mountain road. Another came just before tea when Gunn dangled her bat at an innocuously wide delivery from Osborne and managed to edge the ball through to Fields. Her 44 was her highest score in ten Tests, which had seemed unlikely after her poor first innings dig.
After tea Farrell (3/34) and Perry (5/38) wrapped up the England innings with 190 on the board and a lead of 184. Would Australia be able to get the positive start they wanted in chasing down a relatively low total? Elyse Villani had been picked as opener for this very task, and she set about the England attack with gusto pulling Katherine Brunt for consecutive fours off the first two balls of their reply. She should have been caught by a diving Sarah Taylor off the next as she gloved another short ball just behind the stumps, but the ball spilled agonisingly out of the keeper’s gloves as she hit the deck. Brunt was immediately withdrawn from the attack in favour of Kate Cross, probably to calm down, but Villani carried on her merry way hitting three more boundaries in quick succession off Shrubsole. A sizzling Brunt returned to the fray and another short ball accounted for Villani (21) as she skied a top edge high to Sciver at first slip, with the score on 28. After three overs Brunt again made way for Cross, who produced a stunning and match-changing spell of 3/0 claiming the wickets of Meg Lanning (15) wafting outside the off stump and edging through to Taylor; Jess Cameron (0) edging her first ball through to Knight at first slip; and the hapless Alex Blackwell (0) who bagged a pair as she too was caught behind. Australia had been reduced to 40/4.
Sarah Elliott (5* off 53 balls) and Jodie Fields (13) decided to try and dig in with Cross and Gunn giving them very little, but Fields toppled forward slightly when trying to get a bat on a leg-side slider from Gunn, and before she could move Taylor had the bails off. It meant that Perry, who deserved a lie down in a cool dark room, had to trudge out to the wicket and face the last few overs of the day. As she played the last ball out into the covers she immediately took off her helmet and trudged wearily back to the pavilion. The Aussies finished on 57/5.
England will need to be patient in the morning, but you would expect them to wrap up this game probably before lunch. The Aussies will try and dig in. Elliott makes Chris Tavare look attacking so England will not fear her run-making ability. At the other end they need to stifle and then remove Perry, Osborne, Coyte, Farrell and Ferling to grab the vital six point carrot which dangles invitingly over their heads. It has been a great Test Match, but is there yet one last twist in the tail?