Solid Sthalekar gives Australia hope
Australia 154 and 4 for 195 (Sthalekar 95*) lead England 244 (Edwards 94, SC Taylor 79) by 105 runs
Lisa Sthalekar played the Test innings of her life, and she's not done yet, to hold off a strong England threat in Bowral and leave Australia with a 105-run lead heading into a prospectively thrilling final day. Sthalekar reached a painstaking and defiant 95 not out and is on the verge of her second Test century after Isa Guha wreaked early havoc again, with three quick wickets following her first-innings five, to leave Australia in trouble 56 runs behind at 3 for 34.
Sthalekar, whose other ton helped seal the last Ashes in Australia in 2003, teased out her runs at 3 an over to firstly help her side into the lead, helped by the in-form Shelley Nitschke's 36, and then into a stronger position after waiting for the loose balls, with the bowlers plugging a wide off-side line. But her work, and that of Kate Blackwell who was unbeaten on 36 and topscored in the first innings, is far from over.
Australia have six wickets left and need the win to regain the prize in this one-off Test with England, the holders, needing only the draw. They came here, though, promising to go for the win and Guha in particular has not disappointed.
While she added only four with the bat, as England's tail sagged losing three for 22 in the morning, her bowling contribution was vital. She bowled the dangerous Alex Blackwell for 24 and picked off Melissa Bulow and Karen Rolton cheaply in succession. Bulow in her second Test did not shine, while Rolton continues to be out-of-sorts following a rare unsuccessful one-day series.
As the middle order were beginning to recover, Holly Colvin then took her first wicket this match, as she took a return catch off Nitschke to break the momentum. Colvin reflected on her side's bowling efforts. "We didn't maintain the pressure on the Australians as a bowling unit and gave away too many loose balls to enable them to capitalise. However, we're prepared to come out and show again how strong a bowling unit we can be. We're determined to take the Ashes home with us."
Australia, though, stood firm and following their rearguard the game is anybody's. An exciting day is in store, too, as Australia promised to go out swinging on Monday. "A draw for us isn't going to cut it," said Sthalekar. "We'll definitely be looking for quick runs to get ourselves into the best position that we can."
She also said that her personal score didn't matter, even though she is nearing her century. "If I need to swing from ball one I'll do it," she said, "I don't care what score I am on." So don't look away, as this series (albeit a one-match series) goes down to the wire.