Australia is set to retain the women’s Ashes after England played for a draw rather than trying for the victory it requires on day three of their Test at Taunton.
England ended Saturday on 6-199 with Nat Sciver (62 not out) and Anya Shrubsole (1 not out) at the crease, still 221 runs behind Australia, which declared just before lunch at 8-420.
England debutant Amy Jones (64) and Sciver both notched their first Test half-centuries but the hosts refused to take risks after tea, scoring at less than two runs an over, as the match petered out as a contest.
Sciver insisted losing the wicket of Jones to Sophie Molineux’s second over of the third session dictated this slow play and that England did not discuss any specific plans regarding how to affect the outcome of the match.
“Unfortunately the wickets at the other end dictated how I played,” Sciver said.
“Amy obviously played really fluently and really well.
“We needed to play really as positively (as possible) and she got out doing that, so we can’t really fault that. We didn’t think too much about the score.
Obviously the way we needed to play was positively. It’s kind of gone the other way a little bit because the pitch is doing a little bit more and they’ve got some good spinners.’’
Both debutant slow bowlers Ashleigh Gardner (1-24) and Molineux (3-71) took their first wickets, with the latter the pick of the Australian attack.
Gardner’s victim Katherine Brunt (15) put on 57 with Sciver in 26.4 overs, after the fall of Jones, as momentum eked away from the contest.
Molineux, who returned from shoulder surgery to be drafted into the Test squad, relished the opportunity to play four-day cricket, taking the crucial wicket of England skipper Heather Knight (28), who put on 79 runs with Jones in England’s most positive period of the Test.
Knight, like Sarah Taylor (5), fell leg before to the slow left-armer while Jones was caught at mid off.
“I love Test cricket. I played a lot of longer-format cricket growing up back home and just to put the whites back on again I felt quite at home,” Molineux said.
“We’ve got 14 wickets to go and they’re not going to be easy, so we’ve got to get a good night’s sleep in tonight and come back pretty fired up.”
Earlier, England’s series nemesis Ellyse Perry (1-30) bowled opener Tammy Beaumont for a duck in the over before lunch after skipper Meg Lanning called a halt to Australia’s innings, following the dismissal of Beth Mooney (51).
With the new ball at its disposal, Australia will attempt to dismiss England for less than 270 on day four in order to enforce the follow on and chase victory.