Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Australia 337 for 9 dec (Lanning 93, Haynes 86, Brunt 5-60) and 216 for 7 dec (Mooney 63, Brunt 3-24) drew with England 297 (Knight 168, Perry 3-57) and 244 for 9 (Sciver 58, Sutherland 3-69)
If ever there was an advertisement for more women's Test matches, this was it.
Chasing 257 to win England made the highest fourth-innings score in women's Test history. Australia took nine wickets in a session. All four results were possible in the final over. Both teams deserved to win. Neither deserved to lose.
Credit must go to both sides. Australia could have easily batted England out of the game, banked two points for the draw and forced the visitors to win all three ODIs to win back the Ashes.
Instead, Meg Lanning's bold declaration opened the door for England and they nearly barged through with the finest chase in the history of women's Tests, that was fearless almost to the very end. Heather Knight produced one of the finest individual performances in women's Test history. Nat Sciver made a sensational half-century. Sophia Dunkley produced a staggering cameo. Annabel Sutherland swung the game with a back-breaking spell, Beth Mooney took two stunning outfield catches with a broken jaw, and Alana King nearly stole the game on debut with a dazzling display of legspin.
England might feel like they let the game slip. They needed 13 runs off 15 balls with three wickets in hand. But Anya Shrubsole was run out as they tried to steal a leg bye. She was slow out of the blocks at the striker's end, Charlie Dean called her through, Alyssa Healy raced out from behind the stumps to gather and throw to the bowler, King who was awkwardly placed in front of the stumps. King kept a cool head to gather cleanly and break the stumps to beat Shrubsole's dive. King and Healy combined again next ball to remove Dean. She top-edged a sweep straight up and Healy took a simple catch. King's heart skipped a beat though when the third umpire was called to check a back-foot no-ball. After what seemed like an age he deemed she had landed just inside the line by the barest of margins.
Australia had gone from outsiders to favourites in two deliveries. Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone elected to shut shop rather than chase 13 from the final 13 balls. Sutherland and King were unable to prize out the last scalp. King delivered a rank full toss off the last ball of the match which Cross blocked with ease, leaving players on both sides both empty and amazed at the result.
With 10 overs to go, England needed 45 with seven wickets in hand. Sciver was 52 off 50 having played flawlessly to help put England on the brink of victory. At the other end, Dunkley was on track to etch her name into history.
She had entered after Heather Knight fell for 48, pinned lbw by a searing inswinger from Darcie Brown. Knight's stunning Test match coming to end having made 216 runs for one dismissal, the fifth-highest tally by an individual batter in a women's Test match. She richly deserved another half-century at the Manuka Oval. It would have been her seventh consecutive 50-plus score in international cricket at the ground, having toyed with Australia again in the fourth innings and kept England on pace for a record chase. She prayed for DRS to save her but it was firmly clipping leg stump.
Dunkley entered and nearly followed her captain first ball. Brown thudded one into her back leg and she was given out. DRS did save Dunkley though, with the ball just going over.
What followed was stunning. She smashed 45 from 32 balls with five fours and two sixes. She launched Sutherland twice in consecutive balls and slapped Brown down the ground with contempt. The game looked to be on her and Sciver's bats.
But Sutherland and King dragged it back conceding just two runs in two overs with a change of line and some savvy fields.
It brought about a mistake from Sciver. She slapped a short ball straight to Lanning at a perfectly-placed square leg. Amy Jones then holed out to Mooney at deep midwicket off Sutherland. But Dunkley was still the threat until she lofted King to long-on and Mooney running in off the rope took a sparkling catch diving forward at full stretch with no fear for her fractured jaw.
Her catch bettered Rachael Haynes' sharp grab at cover earlier in the innings that cut off Tammy Beaumont after she had set the tone for the chase cruising to 36. She shared a 52-run opening stand in 14.1 overs with Lauren Winfield-Hill, who herself made 36, to help England believe the near-impossible was achievable and leave Australia rattled.
None of it would have happened without Lanning's declaration before tea; Australia's captain called her team in with 48 overs left in the game and 256 runs to defend after 63 from Mooney and important contributions from Ellyse Perry (41), Ashleigh Gardner (38) and Tahlia McGrath (34) put the home side in a position to declare having been perilously placed at 12 for 2 overnight.
Katherine Brunt had added Lanning to her collection of eight wickets for the match, taking 3 for 24 in the third innings, while Charlie Dean took her first two Test wickets to keep Australia in check. But England could have been chasing far fewer if not for three dropped catches and a missed stumping, with wicketkeeper Jones responsible for three of the errors.
However, all of it added to the drama and the theatre of a spectacular final day in Canberra. It was a Test match for the ages.
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