Knight and El­wiss dig deep to keep Eng­land’s dream alive

The Guardian - Sport - - The Ashes Cricket -


280 & 206-2 448-9 Dig in was the in­struc­tion and dig in Eng­land did. It mat­tered lit­tle that Heather Knight’s side man­aged just 166 runs at a shade un­der two an over on the fi­nal day of the Women’s Ashes Test. What they had achieved by los­ing just two wick­ets in their sec­ond in­nings was save the game, split the avail­able points and keep their dreams of re­gain­ing the tro­phy alive.

Af­ter for­go­ing any chance of vic­tory on a dis­as­trous third day, it was the best they could have hoped for. The de­gree of dif­fi­culty re­mains high in the short­est form, need­ing to sweep the three T20s be­gin­ning on Fri­day, but had they ca­pit­u­lated again yes­ter­day it was all over.

Fu­elled by that pres­sure, and led skil­fully by their cap­tain Knight with an un­beaten 79 across 220 med­i­ta­tive balls, the visi­tors ex­e­cuted their plan per­fectly by suck­ing the oxy­gen out of the con­test. She found im­pec­ca­ble sup­port from Ge­or­gia El­wiss, who was equally ef­fec­tive with 41 not out from 190 balls.

Those balls-faced counts be­came just as im­por­tant as the runs they ac­cu­mu­lated as Eng­land went about bat­ting Aus­tralia out of the game – just as Ell­yse Perry had done to them 24 hours ear­lier. They were aided by a com­pli­ant pitch, which never looked like break­ing up or pro­vid­ing any mean­ing­ful as­sis­tance to the home bowlers.

Knight was ap­proached by her op­pos­ing num­ber Rachael Haynes with an hour re­main­ing, elect­ing to shake hands on a draw. The Aus­tralian cap­tain ac­knowl­edged af­ter play that she knew their chances were shot af­ter a wick­et­less mid­dle ses­sion where they weren’t able to break the re­sis­tance of Knight and El­wiss.

The high­light of the day was when Tammy Beau­mont be­came the first wicket to fall just in­side the first hour when Eng­land still trailed by 97. It came from 20-year-old debu­tant Amanda Welling­ton, who bowled the opener with a leg break to die for. Sure enough, com­par­isons to Shane Warne came thick and fast. On the avail­able ev­i­dence, they aren’t with­out merit.

The only other wicket to fall was 11 overs later when an­other debu­tant, all­rounder Tahlia McGrath, slipped a straight yorker on to Lau­ren Win­field’s boot when Eng­land were 79 in ar­rears. But any mo­men­tum was sapped either side of the tea break as the pink ball be­came in­creas­ingly man­gled by the sur­face.

That only 28 runs were added in the third hour, with­out the scent of a chance, high­lighted that Knight and El­wiss were the per­fect Eng­land bats­men for the job at hand.

The lat­ter was brought into the side to bol­ster the visi­tors’ bat­ting af­ter the ODIs, a se­lec­tion that was val­i­dated by her pa­tient ap­proach. The Aus­tralians were spent, part-timers turned to in hope.

When the sec­ond new ball be­came avail­able, open­ing bowlers Megan Schutt and Ell­yse Perry were briefly able to get it bounc­ing and swing­ing, but by the time that in­ter­val ar­rived Eng­land were only 19 runs from tak­ing the lead. They did so shortly there­after, Knight let­ting out a smile as she went on to reach her half­cen­tury in 162 de­liv­er­ies.

Af­ter play, the Aus­tralian cap­tain was crit­i­cal of the wicket but proud of her bowlers for sol­dier­ing on. “It was a lit­tle bit frus­trat­ing,” Haynes said. “I felt a lit­tle bit for our bowl­ing group. Later in a Test you ex­pect a lit­tle bit of vari­able bounce at the very least.”

She gave gen­er­ous credit to Knight and El­wiss, but said there was “noth­ing lost” for her side for fail­ing wrap up the Test. “I cer­tainly don’t sit here and feel empty or lost about where we are at,” she said. “Our team is in a very good po­si­tion.”

That they are, need­ing to win just one of the three T20s that be­gin this Fri­day at North Syd­ney to re­tain the Ashes.

Score­board, page 11

James McCaw­ley/Getty Im­ages

Ge­or­gia El­wiss made a dogged 41 not out to help Eng­land bat out a draw

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