Australia 274 for 9 dec (Jonassen 99, Shrubsole 4-63) and 156 for 6 dec (Jonassen 54) beat England 168 (Schutt 4-26, Perry 3-38) and 101 (Perry 6-32) by 161 runs
'England almost finished third'
Australia completed a comprehensive victory in the sole Test match to take an 8-2 lead in the women's Ashes series. With three T20s to play, each worth two points, avoiding defeat in at least one will see them regain the Ashes. For England, they will have to beat the World T20 champions in all three to retain them. Judging by where both teams are at the moment, it seems very unlikely that England will pull off such a heist.
In this encounter, in which at times Australia battled the elements as well as England, the winning margin of 161 runs, with 29.5 overs to spare, was impressive. England came close to finishing third.
Something special was needed to win this Test and, naturally, it came from someone special in Ellyse Perry. While she flunked with the bat, with scores of 5 and 13, she seized the game with the ball, taking her second five-wicket haul in the format to end with figures of 6 for 32 and 9 for 70 in the match. One of many bowlers yearning for the Nackington Road End, she used it best with the sort of fast bowling that the Test format needs to survive.
Her 13 overs saw a trio of repeats. For the second time in the match, she not only took a wicket with her first ball after lunch, but also found herself on a hat-trick. Both times, the hat-trick was not forthcoming. She ransacked the engine room, then the tail but her success might have counted for little were she not backed up exceptionally by a support act of six other bowlers. The performance of each meant Meg Lanning could rotate at will and execute a pre-match plan concocted with coach Matthew Mott of not letting the game settle, particularly when England were batting.
Sarah Coyte's lbw strikes to get rid of opener Heather Knight and No. 10 Anya Shrubsole bookended the innings, while Megan Schutt, with some extravagant inswing, had Lauren Winfield beaten all ends up and Nat Sciver edging through to Alyssa Healy. Sciver cut a forlorn figure when she was urged to stay put just before the boundary edge in a bid to force the umpires to revisit the decision. After a few moments, frustrated, she slunk off on her own accord.
Fittingly, in a match where batting proved testing for players (and, at times, spectators) it was Jess Jonassen, becoming the seventh Southern Star to score half-centuries in both innings of a Test, who was deemed Player of the Match. At stumps, she was asked to identify the pitch she was operating on: the contrast between the turgid grittiness of others and her sparkling serenity was stark.
Resuming on 29 not out, her first 23 balls took her to 50, before she danced down to Laura Marsh and offered Lydia Greenway a low catch at cover. A more proactive Alex Blackwell and one blow for four from Healy and Lanning had declared, with England needing a record target of 263 in 89 overs. After five wickets fell in 20.1, it became purely a question of survival.
Greenway and Georgia Elwiss dug deep to take the game into the evening session. Of Greenway's 137 deliveries, 128 were dots, while Elwiss was at her diligent best to top score with 46 from 118 balls. The manner in which they both fell spoke of minds frazzled by the harsh labour involved. In looking to duck anything short, Greenway ducked under an attempted bouncer from Perry that clipped the top of leg stump. Elwiss, upon receiving a full toss on leg stump from the same bowler, bunted tamely to mid-on as she attempted to abandon the shot, mid-swing.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of England's failure with the bat was the techniques on show. Given the amount of time spent honing solid form in Loughborough and other institutes, it was strange to see accomplished performers like Knight and Winfield play around their front pads, while Sarah Taylor, who finished her match with a pair by playing on, and Charlotte Edwards, who chased a wide ball straight after lunch, know better than to drive so limply. While the ball from Perry that undid Marsh for a first-ball duck was as good an outswinger as any bowled in the match, the position Marsh finished up in - feet pointing back down the wicket - was ungainly.
"We've all played a decent amount of Test cricket," Edwards said. "Some of our shot selections today weren't good enough."
Questions will be asked about how a side who performed so admirably in 2013-14 to win in Australia now sit on the cusp of a humbling. On BBC radio, Middlesex captain Izzy Westbury revealed that her county - one of the most professional on the women's circuit - have two-hour training sessions on a Monday and then a three-hour session on grass every fortnight. The players can then arrange additional sessions amongst themselves, but have to dip into their own pockets to do so. It is no surprise, then, that the gap between international and domestic cricket in England is so vast.
Edwards, while conceding that the Australian domestic set-up is stronger than the English one, refused to lay blame with the system. However, she hopes the introduction of the Women's Super League in 2016 will lead to better things. "That's not why we've lost today - we've been outplayed. Again."
She was visibly pained by the result. There will be a chat with the management with regards to any changes to personnel. She has urged the batting to shape up. England are unbeaten in matches at Chelmsford, something which she cited as a chance to build on and power through the T20 series, which they won 3-0 during the 2013 Ashes.
Should they achieve that, Edwards said it would be her finest achievement as England captain. That in itself shows just how big a task is at hand for her side.
AUS Women vs ENG Women
Australia Women tour of England and Ireland