Perry stars as Australia hit back
England 201 and 3 for 18 (Farrell 2-5) lead Australia 207 (Perry 71, Shrubsole 4-51) by 12 runs
A late evening collapse by England's top-order left Australia jubilant and rounded off an excellent fightback, after they had been reduced to 5 for 37 on the second morning. Although England had edged back in front after conceding a first-innings deficit, they were three down at stumps.
Rene Farrell added to her first-innings 4 for 43 by dismissing both of England's openers: Heather Knight for 1, with a quicker delivery that broke through her defence to hit off stump, and Sarah Taylor, caught at first slip for a duck, attempting to cut a wide ball. In between, Ellyse Perry had Lydia Greenway trapped lbw for 5.
For Perry, it was the end to a day in which she confirmed her status as a true allrounder, achieving her highest score in all international cricket and frustrating England's bowlers in the process. She shared a vital partnership with Jodie Fields, as the two steadied Australia before lunch. Their 55-run partnership was ended when Test debutant Kathryn Cross, whose 3 for 35 in 18 overs included 10 maidens, struck again, tempting Fields to cut a wide one outside off and edge straight to Jenny Gunn at gully. Gunn took a spectacular catch diving to her left and Fields departed for 43.
The partnership between Perry and spinner Erin Osborne then proved a further irritation for England. Perry, initially frustrated by her inability to score runs freely, found an able partner in Osborne, as the two of them worked hard to rotate the strike and keep the runs flowing. Osborne grew in confidence, playing some beautiful drives down the ground, hitting five boundaries in her 40.
England were further hampered by the removal of Katherine Brunt from the attack. In her first over after lunch, the ball slipped from Brunt's hand, resulting in her second head-height full toss of the day and the suspension of England's most dangerous bowler for the rest of the innings.
The scorching Perth heat gradually sapped the strength of England's other quicks, with captain Charlotte Edwards only able to bowl them for short periods. Anya Shrubsole and Gunn both left the field between spells as England were forced to bowl Test debutant Natalie Sciver and part-time medium-pacer Arran Brindle, neither of whom proved effective at breaking the partnership of Perry and Osborne.
It did not help that Edwards was off the field for 40 minutes before tea and remained so for the entire evening session, after an awkward dive in the field left her undergoing treatment on her knee, and unable to open for England.
Australia had recovered to 177, having added 140 for the loss of just Fields, before Gunn finally made the breakthrough, surprising Perry with a fuller ball and bowling her for 71, a score which she had fought 172 balls for. It was an apt reward for Gunn's efforts - she bowled 18 overs at a cost of just 14 runs - as both she and spinner Danielle Hazell attempted to dry up Australia's scoring.
England were unable to sweep through the tail until the new ball aided matters, with Shrubsole following on from her efforts on the first evening by taking two wickets: Osborne, lbw for 40 to an inswinger that looked to be hitting leg stump, and Sarah Coyte to another slower inswinger which hit middle and off, leaving Shrubsole with figures of 4 for 51. Sciver finished the job, finally claiming her first Test wicket, as Farrell was caught by Shrubsole at fine leg off an attempted hook shot, as Australia were all out for 207, a lead of six runs.
Such a total looked unlikely when Australia slipped to 5 for 37 in the tenth over of the day. Cross was rewarded with the wicket of danger-woman Jess Cameron from only her fourth delivery in Test cricket, bowling her with a good-length ball. Cross followed this up in her next over with a full, straight yorker to Alex Blackwell, who was dismissed for a four-ball duck.
An exceptionally hostile spell of bowling from Brunt then paid off as she claimed the wicket of Wormsley centurion Sarah Elliott, who edged behind on 13. Suddenly Australia were five down, and staring the follow-on target of 51 in the face. But that seems a long time ago.
Raf Nicholson is a PhD student, an England supporter, a feminist, and fanatical about women's cricket. She tweets here