Sophie Ecclestone and Lauren Filer lead England fightback in Women’s Ashes
Sophie Ecclestone and the debuting Lauren Filer took top billing as England mounted a fightback after Ellyse Perry’s excellent 99 at the outset of the Women’s Ashes.
Perry reversed an lbw verdict on 10 off Filer’s first ball at international level and amassed her fifth 50-plus score in 10 Tests against England, who rallied after tea and a near two-hour rain delay.
Ecclestone snared Jess Jonassen and Australia captain Alyssa Healy in the same over while Filer had the prize scalp of Perry as a century went begging, with the tourists then ending the day on 328 for seven.
Skilful slow left-armer Ecclestone also castled Tahlia McGrath, who struck 61 in a 119-run stand with Perry, to finish with figures of 31-6-71-3 on the opening day of the one-off Test at Trent Bridge.
The tall and speedy Filer vindicated her selection over Issy Wong with two for 65 but all of England’s seamers went at more than four an over, with Ecclestone the only bowler to hem in Australia’s batters.
Heather Knight, who promised to “entertain and inspire” on the eve of only the second five-day Women’s Test in history, was attacking throughout with her field settings after they were asked to bowl – something the England captain said she would have done anyway after Healy called correctly at the toss.
Trying to regain the urn for the first time since 2015, England made a false start on a day where an attendance of 5,545 marked the largest attendance on a single day for a women’s Test in this country.
Kate Cross, fully recovered from an intestinal parasite that plagued her build-up, was entrusted with the first delivery but served up an anti-climactic no-ball in a first over that yielded nine.
The Dukes ball moved laterally early on a green-tinged pitch but Phoebe Litchfield justified her inclusion and showed few signs of nerves on Test debut with some elegant strokeplay.
Beth Mooney was spared on nine after Cross dropped a tough one-handed return grab, but later in the over Litchfield erred when padding up to a delivery that shaped back in before compounding the mistake by walking off for 23 when DRS showed the ball would have missed off-stump.
Out walked the indomitable Perry, who greeted Ecclestone’s introduction by driving a short and wide delivery for four, while Test debutant Danni Wyatt shelling a diving catch after Cross had drawn Mooney’s edge seemed costly when the Australia opener clattered two boundaries off Nat Sciver-Brunt.
Held back until the 18th over, Filer made her presence immediately felt by beating the defences of Perry, whose immediate review was vindicated when replays detected a thick inside edge on to the pads.
Perry was beaten by the second ball and edged the third, hurried by the extra pace of Filer, who had due success in her third over as Mooney’s back-foot punch on 33 took the edge and carried to Cross.
Sciver-Brunt and Filer tested Perry with bouncers but she pulled handsomely on both occasions, finding some rhythm alongside McGrath, who got stuck into Lauren Bell with three fours in an over after lunch.
There was a flat feeling in the field for much of the second session as Perry went to a stylish half-century with a late dab off Cross for her ninth four while McGrath also moved to a fluent 50.
But Ecclestone prised the partnership apart with a delivery that angled in then turned fractionally to beat the forward prod of McGrath and clip the top of off-stump.
A lengthy break ensued after the heavens opened but the drainage at the Nottingham venue meant play was not curtailed for the day – and England may have been grateful as Ecclestone landed a double blow.
Jonassen missed a sweep but the ball brushed her glove before looping to Tammy Beaumont as the not out decision was overturned, while Healy lasted just two balls after shuffling down the order for Litchfield, playing down the wrong line and bowled when Ecclestone came wider on the crease.
England had the big fish when Perry flashed at Filer and the ball flew to Sciver-Brunt at gully, one ball after a similar shot had flown away for four, as England claimed three wickets in 24 balls.
Ashleigh Gardner and Annabel Sutherland threatened to take some of the sheen away from England in a 77-run union, with the hosts having to bowl 33.3 overs in an elongated final session, finishing at 7.25pm.
While Sutherland (39 not out) was unbeaten at stumps, Gardner tickled Bell’s first delivery with the second new ball to depart for 40.
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