Moving day. In golf, the penultimate day of a four-day tournament is termed as such because it is when competitors try to set themselves up for the final push in the last round. On the third day of the four-day women’s Ashes Test match here at Canterbury it was Australia who, 106 runs ahead overnight, entered the field of play hoping to move far enough out of reach of England to orchestrate a first Test win on English soil since 2001.
England however, who had looked miserable with the bat the day before as they crawled to 168 all out, were full of energy, intent and vigour and restricted Australia to 90 for 4 on a rain-curtailed day to set up an intriguing finale. The Australian lead is 196.
If England were a team looking for inspiration then Katherine Brunt provided it with ball in hand; she looked a player possessed. The “Barnsley Express” could not be kept away from the action, as she piled into the Australian batting from the off, picking up two wickets in the space of four balls. Australia suddenly were vulnerable on 2 for 2.
Brunt’s third ball thudded menacingly into opener Elyse Villani’s front pad, prompting a loud appeal. Brunt’s fourth ball swung away from the right-handed opener, beating her outside edge. By Brunt’s fifth ball, Villani didn’t have a chance as a searing leg-cutter whipped through the gate to demolish the opener’s off-stump. Just four balls later, Brunt’s pace, swing and seam had done for captain Meg Lanning as well, trapped lbw.
Bowling at speeds that consistently hit the 75mph mark, this was the fastest seen in this series and up amongst the fastest ever in women’s cricket. Nicole Bolton, who fell eventually to Anya Shrubsole for 25, conceded that it was “some of the best bowling I’ve faced in my career. And they’re two world-class bowlers.”
“Brunt’s grunt is Bothamesque,” tweeted Jim Maxwell, the veteran Australian commentator. But it wasn’t just her grunt that could be likened to England’s legendary all-rounder.
England took inspiration from their captain’s lead as they huddled around Charlotte Edwards before taking to the field. “She keeps it pretty simple,” Brunt said of Edwards’ pep talk. “She knows how to get us going. She’s been captain for a long time and she’s been put in many difficult situations.”
Disappointingly, it was moving day for the covers too which were being dragged on and off the pitch at an alarming rate. Torrential rain storms and bad light meant that only 38 overs were bowled in the day. Frustration for Australia, who recovered from Brunt’s early onslaught but who may have lost too many overs to force a result.