Sophie Ecclestone and debutant Lauren Filer combined to inspire an impressive England fightback on the first day of the one-off Women’s Ashes Test at Trent Bridge.
Australia were well in the ascendancy at 213-3 when rain ended the afternoon session early, but England took four wickets in the evening – including Ellyse Perry for 99 – to reduce the tourists to 328-7 by stumps.
Filer (2-65) claimed the key scalp of Perry, one short of a third Test century, soon after an Ecclestone (3-71) double, the left-arm spinner dismissing Jess Jonassen (11) and Australia captain Alyssa Healy (0) in the space of three deliveries as Australia lost three wickets for just 12 runs.
Filer was hugely impressive on debut, having also dismissed Beth Mooney (33) for her maiden Test wicket earlier in the day. And with her very first ball in international cricket, she nearly dismissed Perry for 10 – only for the lbw decision to be overturned on review due to a thin inside edge onto pad.
Despite England’s stirring efforts after tea, Australia again imposed themselves on their hosts with Ashleigh Gardner (40) and Annabel Sutherland (39no) sharing in a 77-run partnership to see the visitors up beyond 300 until a late Lauren Bell (1-65) strike as she removed Gardner with the second new ball.
This one-off Test match opens the 2023 multi-format Women’s Ashes series. Four points are awarded to the winner, with two for a draw. Three T20 internationals and three ODIs follow, where two points are on offer for each win and one for a tie or no result.
Live Women's Ashes
Friday 23rd June 10:15am
Healy opted to bat first after winning the toss, placing her trust in the blue skies overhead as opposed to the green-tinged pitch. And runs came quickly in the early exchanges, a lightning-fast outfield aiding the Australian openers’ advances.
The breakthrough arrived for England in the ninth over, Kate Cross (1-81) rewarded for a probing over as she picked up Australian debutant Phoebe Litchfield (23) lbw.
The 20-year-old opener can count herself unlucky, however, as, shouldering arms to a delivery pitching in line and seemingly straightening enough to knock over her stumps, replays showed she would have been saved with a review as the ball would have gone on to miss the top of off.
It was the sort of luck Cross was deserving of, having dropped a difficult caught-and-bowled chance off Mooney the ball before, while she also saw a leading edge from the left-hander loop fortuitously over gully to safety.
Cross’ drop was the first of two chances put down off Mooney in the morning session, initially on 10 and then again on 19, when Danni Wyatt put down a diving effort to her right at gully.
Filer’s introduction in the 18th over very nearly brought immediate reward, but she was ultimately made to wait a little longer for her maiden Test wicket – Mooney poking one to the safe hands of Cross at a wide fourth slip position.
Perry – who, incredibly, averages over 75 in Test cricket – looked in ominous touch, racing though to a 76-ball fifty shortly after lunch with back-to-back boundaries off Cross.
Tahlia McGrath joined her through to the mark soon after, the pair sharing in a 119-run partnership for the third wicket as the Australia batter registered a Test-best score of 61.
Ecclestone provided the breakthrough, bowling McGrath with a beauty that angled in to the right-hander and then turned sharply to beat the outside edge of her prodded-forward defence and rip off the bails.
Rain brought about an early tea and, after the 90-minute plus break, England wrestled back the momentum from the visitors courtesy of a superb Ecclestone over.
Jonassen was the first to depart, gloving an attempted sweep to Tammy Beaumont at short leg, despite England’s appeal and subsequent review appearing far from convincing.
There was no doubt about the Australia captain’s dismissal two balls later, though, Healy bowled by a quicker ball from Ecclestone to register a duck for the third-successive Test innings against England, following a pair at their Canberra meeting in January of last year.
Perry was still sitting pretty at the other end and moved to within one of a richly-deserved hundred when flashing a 15th boundary over gully, only to fire her next ball to Nat Sciver-Brunt at that precise position.
England plugged away in the pursuit of further wickets late into the evening session – Ecclestone getting through a mammoth 28-over spell unchanged – but Gardner and Sutherland stubbornly resisted to again swing proceedings slightly in Australia’s favour.
Gardner took down Sophia Dunkley for a sumptuous straight six shortly after the 300 came up, but the introduction of the second new ball brought about her downfall, nicking off to the first ball of Bell’s spell.
Guha ‘really excited’ for Filer’s future
Former England cricketer Isa Guha on Filer’s impressive England debut…
“No-one really knew what to expect. We knew she was raw, we knew she was pacey, but the way she has handled the occasion has been the most impressive thing.
“She came in and, with her very first ball, almost extracted one of the greatest there has ever been [in Ellyse Perry]. She is causing some concern there, pretty much every ball.
“We spoke to her at the lunch break and she is just loving being out there, loving the opportunity. I’m really excited about her future.”
Sky Sports Cricket’s Charles Dagnall on Filer:
“There’s lots to like. She has a very economical run up and gets the most out of it. The ferocity at which she bowls is one thing, but when you add that little whip of the wrist, that’s what gets it going down there quickly.
“Now and again, you’re going to get a loose delivery but what she has got is that ability to bowl the magic ball. That is something you can’t get enough of in the international game.”