Women's Ashes Test - day three (close)

Australia 420-8 dec lead England 199-6 by 221 runs

ENGLAND’S hopes of regaining the Women’s Ashes are all but over as Australia continued to dominate the Test in Taunton.

The hosts began positively with the bat in response to Australia’s 420-8 but, after the quickfire departures of Amy Jones and Sarah Taylor, battened down the hatches and adopted a strangely conservative approach as run scoring fell low on their list of priorities.

It means England will resume on the final morning on 199-6, still 221 runs behind, having added just 67 in the final 35.3 overs of the day.

In the morning, England had stuck to their task and taken three further wickets.

Jess Jonassen fell to a sharp catch by Nat Sciver at backward point, Sophie Molineux was clean bowled by Sophie Ecclestone and Beth Mooney top edged Sciver and was superbly taken by a backtracking Amy Jones.

Mooney had not long earlier become the fifth player in the top six to pass her half century – the first time that has happened in a Women’s Ashes Test – and her departure brought about a declaration at 420-8.

It set up a tricky period for England before lunch, made even more precarious following a gruelling 154.4 overs in the field – and so it proved.

Ellyse Perry, fresh from her sparkling century, showcased exactly why she is the leading all-rounder in the world as she took the new ball and produced a beauty of an away swinger which clipped the top of Tammy Beaumont’s off stump before the opener had scored.

Jones and Knight rebuilt steadily after lunch, adding 79 in 22 overs until the skipper missed a sweep and was struck plumb in front to provide left-arm spinner Molineux with her first Test wicket.

Georgia Elwiss was next to go, paying the price for a rather lacklustre run as Nicole Bolton pulled off an excellent direct hit from cover. England had earlier shied and missed on several occasions in the field; Bolton’s successful intervention summed up the fortunes of both sides in this series so far.

Shortly after tea came the decisive blow as Jones, on 64, chipped Molineux straight to Rachael Haynes at mid-off. The same bowler then trapped Sarah Taylor (5) lbw and England were staring down the barrel at 132-5.

It was then that England chose to consolidate, with Nat Sciver reaching a maiden Test half century and the often big-hitting Katherine Brunt playing an uncharacteristically restrained supporting role.

Brunt fell with nine overs to go in the day, bowled between bat and pad, to bring her 75-ball vigil to an end on 15.

Shortly beforehand, a run of 33 successive dot balls was further evidence of England’s shifting priorities. Any lingering hopes of forcing a miracle victory were switched to a mindset of simply avoiding defeat, thereby trying to dodge the ignominy of a potential series whitewash.

It made for an attritional final session in front of a relatively sparse Taunton crowd, which is unlikely to be too much bigger tomorrow given the match situation.

Home favourite Anya Shrubsole will be at the crease tomorrow morning, resuming on one (from 36 balls) alongside Sciver (62*) – if there is to be a positive result, it will be Australia who force it. With England still 72 short of avoiding the follow-on, it is a possibility which cannot yet be ruled out.