Knight and Elwiss dig deep to keep England’s dream alive
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
Georgia Elwiss made a dogged 41 not out to help England bat out a draw