Australia capitalise on England go-slow
England 168 (Schutt 4-26, Perry 3-38) trail Australia 274 for 9 dec (Jonassen 99, Shrubsole 4-63) by 106 runs
At 5.52pm, the announcement came that England, at 125 for 5, had avoided the follow on. That they began their first innings at 12.56pm paints as bleak a picture as any of a possibly series-losing day in this Ashes series for an England side battling with some familiar issues.
It was on this score that England then lost both Nat Sciver and Georgia Elwiss, who had combined for 32, the joint second-highest partnership in the innings. At the fall of Sciver's wicket, the run rate dropped below two an over. The statistic that really jars though is that in an innings of 508 legitimate balls, 436 were dots.
The question should be asked: did England bring it on themselves? Megan Schutt, who impressed with 4 for 26, reckoned so. With their lead of 106, Australia will look to move the game along on a pitch that Schutt reckons is still very good for batting. She would go so far as to call England's cricket negative but admitted that Australia were aware they would call on this style, one that saw them secure a draw when the two sides met at Wormsley in 2013. England will need to summon something greater to avoid defeat here.
There was little to the English batting that inconvenienced Australia's impressive seam attack. At times, the hosts shut-up shop completely, with Heather Knight, Lydia Greenway, Sciver and even Charlotte Edwards seemingly unwilling - certainly not unable - to manufacture singles and rotate the strike. Despite the character and skill throughout the batting card, England have a habit of being too safe for their own good. In battening down the hatches, they only ensured that their escape was nigh on impossible.
Following a delayed start, Australia declared on 274 for 9, with Jess Jonassen falling one short of what would have been a deserved century and No. 11 Holly Ferling coming out to bat for just one ball.
After lunch, the Australia bowlers sensed England's tepidness and attacked accordingly. In the third over, Ellyse Perry showed her worth by forcing Lauren Winfield to edge behind with a fantastic delivery that got big on the opener. The very next ball, she trapped Sarah Taylor in front of leg stump. The hat-trick ball, to Charlotte Edwards, was negotiated well.
Taylor's duck sees her Test average drop to 20.46. It's hard not to be frustrated by Taylor on days like these, especially in a format where, in 14 innings, she has a high of only 40. It is a frustration brought about partly by a selfish desire to see her in full flow: feet moving, wrists snapping, bat bus-wheeling. The flip side is today, where she attempted to work her first ball into the leg side and ended up falling over herself.
Edwards responded with a gloriously typical cover drive for four. She would go on to hit four more in her 30, taking her past Janette Brittin - her opening partner on her Test debut - to 1,025 career runs against Australia, the most by any English woman. It was perhaps the only bright spot.
Schutt then produced a challenger for ball of the match, as she flicked the edge of off bail, squaring up Edwards in the process.
However, even in England's turgid approach, Greenway (22) and Sciver (35) were starting to show signs of pushing on, only for both to fall to umpiring calls that would seem more at home in the amateur game than an Ashes Test.
Both were lbw decisions, the worse of the two when Greenway was given out by Alex Wharf despite the ball pitching well outside leg stump. Neil Mallender was at fault for the second, as Sciver swiped across the line, with the ball clearly heading down the leg side - as shown by the keeper, Alyssa Healy, who ended up joining the appeal seemingly closer to square leg than behind the stumps. It looked like she was given out for the shot rather than the impact.
It was left to Katherine Brunt to show her side the folly of their method. She was clearing her front leg to hit short balls square of the wicket and committing to drives in typical, full-blooded fashion. And, in attacking so brutally, she forced changes in the field and errors in a ring that had been airtight for most of the day. In being proactive, she took a portion out of Australia's lead. That Anya Shrubsole was the last to be dismissed for a 47-ball duck - the third longest in women's Tests - was a fitting end.
To the credit of the England squad, they emerged from a disappointing day to take part in a mass autograph signing. These particular players are the sport's finest ambassadors, allowing the game to grow with their skill, approachability and willingness to grant every selfie and sign every bit of paraphernalia.
But for women's Test cricket to really prosper, England need to find it within themselves to be as forthcoming on the field as they are off it.