Half-centuries from Amy Jones and Nat Sciver held up Australia on the third day of the only Ashes Test at Taunton, but three wickets from Sophie Molineux ensured the tourists remained on course to obtain a series-sealing win.
Australia require just a draw to retain the urn, but a stalemate would give England the chance to level the rubber, as they did Down Under in 2017, and Meg Lanning’s side began on day three like a team determined to grind their opponents down.
Some quickfire runs from Beth Mooney, who made her maiden Test fifty, allowed Australia to declare when her wicket fell on 420/8, with a tricky 15 minute period for England’s openers to survive before Lunch. A beauty from Ellyse Perry, who followed up her first-innings century with a ball which swung in before seaming away, bowled Tammy Beaumont and ensured the hosts went into the break one down.
Heather Knight and Amy Jones then set about repairing the damage, putting together England’s best partnership of the day, before the former was pinned in front for Sophie Molineux’s maiden Test wicket, and her first of three on the day.
Georgia Elwiss was next to fall, run out by Nicole Bolton after being called through for a single that was never on, and then, shortly after the tea break, Jones, who had batted well for her 64, holed out to mid on.
When Sarah Taylor was also pinned lbw by Molineux, a swift end to the innings and a tricky decision for Lanning over whether or not to avoid the follow on seemed possible, but Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver put together a doughty sixth-wicket stand to avert disaster, but batted slowly enough to most likely end England’s chances of getting a win to keep their hopes of regaining the Ashes alive.
Sciver completed her maiden half-century in her sixth Test match before Brunt was bowled between bat and pad by Ashleigh Gardner, who marked the occasion of becoming Australia’s third indigenous Test cricketer with a wicket to savour.
Anya Shrubsole and Sciver batted through to the close untroubled. They will resume tomorrow with the latter 38 runs away from a maiden Test century, England 72 runs from avoiding the follow on, and Australia’s victory hopes very much alive.
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