Friday, 10 January 2014

Shrubsole gives England hope

England ended the first day of the vital six-point Ashes Test with their tails up thanks to two late wickets from Anya Shrubsole, after what had been a disappointing day for them with the bat. Bowled out for just 201 on a pitch that did not look to have too many demons and with an outfield like glass, the Aussies had just six overs to negotiate before stumps. But they lost both openers with just nine runs on the board and they will have to dig in tomorrow if they are not to allow England to take a crucial first-innings lead.

All started well for England as Charlotte Edwards won the toss and had no hesitation in opting to bat. As she struck the first ball of the match off her legs for four she probably thought all was right in the world. England had opted to give right-arm pacer Kate Cross her first Test cap, in preference to either Georgia Elwiss or Danni Wyatt, with Nat Sciver also, less surprisingly, also making her Test debut. Cross’s inclusion suggested a positive approach to the game from England in search of twenty wickets to claim the win. It was an intent matched by the Australian’s who opted for the fast-scoring Elyse Villani as opening partner for Meg Lanning in preference to the hometown Nicole Bolton. They too went with three seamers in Perry, Farrell and Ferling.

Having moved almost untroubled to 28/0 with a string of boundaries off Perry and Ferling it was a surprise when England lost their first wicket, as Heather Knight (14) chased a wide one in Ferling’s first over and was caught at first slip. Things went from bad to worse as first Sarah Taylor (1) and then Charlotte Edwards (17) both played round straight balls from Perry and Sarah Coyte and were adjudged lbw. England were teetering on the brink at 32/3.

Not for the first time Lydia Greenway and Arran Brindle set about rebuilding the England innings. Brindle batted fluently towards a well-deserved half century, punishing the over-pitched and the wide short balls she was offered by Farrell and Ferling. Greenway was more circumspect, but solid in her defence, if occasionally playing well away from her front pad. They survived to lunch taking the score to 69/3.

In the afternoon period they had taken the score to 96/3 when Greenway got an inside edge to a gentle inducker from Perry and was bowled for 22, but Brindle found another willing ally in the icey-cool Nat Sciver and with tea approaching England looked to have taken the upper-hand at 154/4, but Brindle inexplicably played inside a straight ball from Farrell and lost her off stump to the last ball before tea to swing the game back to the Southern Stars. She had made 68.

Post-tea England’s last five wickets could add little more. Jenny Gunn (3) came and went in three balls; Nat Sciver (49) was denied a maiden half-century given out caught down the legside wafting at a shocking delivery from Farrell; Brunt smashed a short ball to gully and Perry pinged Shrubsole plumb in front with a good yorker. Dani Hazell (15) lead a charmed life, missing as many as she hit, before she spooned Farrell to midwicket and England’s innings came to an end with Cross unbeaten on 3. Farrell finsished with a slightly flattering 4/43 and Perry 3/41.

I don’t suppose Aussie openers Lanning and Villani were too chuffed at the prospect of six overs from Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, but both got off the mark with sweetly timed cover drives. Unfortunately Villani then jammed down on a full ball from Shrubsole and edged the ball to a gleeful Knight at first slip. In Shrubsole’s next over, and the last of the day, Lanning chased a wide one and edged through to keeper Taylor to whoops of delight from the England team. At 9/2 and with two in-form batsmen back in the hutch the Aussies are in a spot of bother.

England will be hoping that the Brunt/Shrubsole combo can inflict some more early pain tomorrow before the heat gets too oppressive. Anything more than a lead of 50 could prove to be decisive. With six points on the line the stakes are high.


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