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August 26, 2005
Australia 131 and 179 for 7 lead England 298 (Brunt 52, Guha 31, Liddell 4-45) by 21 runs
England stand on the brink of regaining the Ashes for the first time in 42 years after making significant inroads into Australia's batting lineup on the third day. By the close, Australia were 179 for 7, a lead of just 21 runs.
But Australia hadn't even looked likely to take the game into the fourth and final day after Katherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn reduced them to 18 for 4. Kate Blackwell, though, led the fightback, and was 72 not out by the close, having put on an unbroken stand of 112 with Shelley Nitschke as England's bowlers tired.
Their pace attack will come back refreshed tomorrow morning, though, confident of blasting out the final three wickets needed for the series victory. But it was a familiar feeling that England could do without, as Australia set about putting together some late resistance. Their rearguard had echoes of Hove, where Australia's last three partnerships put on 240 - and England will be keen to avoid a repeat as they go in for the series kill tomorrow.
The home side certainly bossed the first two sessions of the day. Brunt put on 85 with Isa Guha, an England record last-wicket stand, to take the home side to 289. Brunt added 52 and Guha made 31 to boost England from their overnight total of 222 for 9. Then Australia felt the pressure: by tea they had put on just 58 in 52 overs. At that stage, Gunn's 16 overs had cost just 4 runs, a ridiculous economy rate - and two of those runs were wides. It was agonising stuff all round.
The Blackwell twins combined well and battled hard in a stand of 28, constructed over an hour, but Alex eventually fell to Isa Guha on 14. It took another 50 minutes for England to get another breakthrough on a bowler-friendly pitch, as 46 for 5 became 58 for 6.
Australia were inching along at an agonising rate of one run per over - in stark, sorry contrast to the fireworks elsewhere in the Midlands, at Trent Bridge - and dots were coming thick and fast.
Cathryn Fitzpatrick took 44 balls to get off the mark, but fell soon after, when Clare Connor brought on Charlotte Edwards; an inspired change. Edwards struck with her legspin in her first over, leaving victory there for England's taking.
But they like to do things the hard way, and Australia took command of the final session - if not the match. After watching their colleagues crumble, Blackwell and Nitschke decided the best form of defence was attack, and they upped the run-rate to a heady 1.8 runs an over. They were helped by some loose bowling as England's bowlers, unused to being in the field all day, began to tire.
Should England complete victory on the fourth and final day at New Road - and the signs are that they will - then a miserable week for Australia will be completed. Last Sunday England defeated them in a one-dayer for the first time in 12 years. Australia may still lead that series, but there are signs their empire is crumbling.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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