In a devastating spell either side of lunch, Anya Shrubsole tipped the balance England’s way on day one of the women’s Ashes Test here in Canterbury. However, an unbeaten 95 down the order by Australia’s debutant Jess Jonassen frustrated the home side later in the day to leave the match evenly poised with the visitors on 268 for 8.
It was Shrubsole who drew first blood. In just 27 balls the bowler, in what she termed “probably her best spell for England”, tore through the Australian top order, picking up four wickets for eight runs to leave Australia reeling on 87 for 4.
Shrubsole’s first wicket set the tone. As England appeared to be drifting wicketless into lunch, she bowled an over that should be used in coaching manuals for years to come. Known for her late, hooping in-swing, Shrubsole, whose first spell went wicketless, set the Australian opener Elyse Villani up perfectly.
A back-of-a-length delivery swinging into off-stump, followed by a menacing yorker. Repeat. By the fifth ball Shrubsole had got her victim, as Villani’s probe outside off could only find a thick edge into the hands of Heather Knight crouching low at first slip.
Shrubsole’s next over proved a carbon copy of the one before as she induced Meg Lanning, Australia’s captain and the No 1 batsman in the world, to edge once again to Knight.
She then added the wickets of Nicole Bolton and run-machine Ellyse Perry, and Australia were wobbling on 99 for 5 when Katherine Brunt claimed the scalp of Alex Blackwell leg before.
Shrubsole, the unrewarded workhorse of the recent ODIs whose economic spells had failed to produce wickets, now found herself the prize pony of the Test match.
“I was a little bit more patient in that second spell,” said Shrubsole. “I don’t think I bowled well with the new ball particularly. I was potentially a bit impatient and tried to do too much with it. When I came back I think I settled into a better line and length and let the pitch and the ball do the talking. That was the secret. It swung pretty much all day.”
However, as in Perth almost 18 months ago when these two sides last met in a Test match, England’s early dominance soon found itself prey to the topsy-turvy nature of Test cricket. In front of a crowd edging 2,000, it was Australian all-rounder Jonnassen who proved a thorn in England’s side as she grafted her way to a faultless 95 not out. With England failing to pass 200 in their last two matches against the visitors, this could yet prove a daunting target.
England’s lack of experience in the longer format reared its head in the evening session as the seamers, so dangerous earlier in the day, failed to bowl a challenging line and length.
Jonassen easily added 81 with tailenders Megan Schutt and Kristen Beams, and the prospect of becoming Australia’s 13th centurion on debut lies just one night and five runs away.