The Monk’s Tale. That will be the one that England will be reading here in Canterbury as they contemplate a heavy loss in the women’s Test that leaves them needing to win all three Twenty20 matches to win the Ashes.
England collapsed to 29 for 5 just after lunch and were finally put out of their misery in the evening session when they were dismissed for just 101.
It was Ellyse Perry of Australia who did the harm taking six wickets as England recorded the lowest fourth-innings score in women’s Test history. Perhaps some Benedictine meditation is in order instead of the reading.
Australia began the day 196 runs ahead, intent on adding a few quick runs to push the total out of England’s reach but quickly enough to leave time to take 10 wickets. When they declared just after morning drinks on 156 and with another 50 for Jess Jonassen, Australia set England a target of 263.
Never before in women’s Test cricket, which stretches back to 1934, has a team chased down such a total. As England’s fiery seamer, Katherine Brunt, in bullish mood at the end of Thursday’s play, suggested, records are there to be broken. This is after all supposed to be a new era of women’s cricket.
That intent soon vanished when Heather Knight’s lbw for five initiated a collapse that swept up England’s star batters Sarah Taylor and Charlotte Edwards for nought and one respectively, and Natalie Winfield and Natalie Sciver soon after.
Taylor, lbw in the first innings playing across the line, looked to overcompensate this time with a huge trigger movement followed by a feeble dangle of the bat outside off inviting Perry’s ball to steam through and ricochet into her off stump. It was a shot that summed up England’s innings: timid, confused and disappointing. The much-lauded Taylor ended the match with a pair, out three times in the last three balls she has faced from Perry, who bowled her in the third ODI, too.
Taylor’s woes with the bat also beg the question – outside the superstars, who can England rely on? On Thursday Edwards demonstrated a distinct lack of trust in her wider team as she refused to use any bowler outside her chosen four. While Australia could rely on runs from “outsiders” like Jonassen, England had no equivalent.
Georgia Elwiss showed that she’s one to watch for the future with a stubborn knock of 46 but it was Perry that took the headlines, and Australia the Test as England go into the T20s 8-2 down and needing to win all three to retain the urn.