Ellyse Perry in action against England ©Getty Images
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Fifties from Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry and Rachael Haynes took Australia to a commanding position  of 265 for 3 at stumps on day one of the one-off Ashes test against England at the County Ground in Taunton on Thursday (July 18). Despite the mountain of runs they scored, Australia had to grind it out with the bat, going through periods of play when runs were hard to come by and England’s spinners kept things quiet. However, the hosts often let themselves down with sloppy work in the field and a real lack of control with the ball.

Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone and Kirstie Gordon were the wicket-takers for the hosts. Brunt was the most impressive bowler on display, while the spinners Ecclestone, Laura Marsh and Gordon kept the batters on a tight leash but could not break the vital fourth wicket  partnership between Perry and Haynes.

Earlier in the day, Meg Lanning won the toss and opted to bat first— an aggressive move in what appeared to be slightly overcast conditions. Alyssa Healy and Nicole Bolton opened the innings and the former took advantage of England’s wayward bowling at the start. She took full toll on anything that was too full, throwing her hands through the ball and watching it sail to the boundary.

While Shrubsole struggled to find her rhythm with the new ball, Brunt was superb as usual— hitting a hard length and forcing the batters to play at the ball. Bolton’s poor form in the series continued as she was dismissed by a straight delivery from Brunt. The left-hander played down the wrong line, exposing her stumps for the the ball to crash in to.

Healy continued her impressive run with the bat as she brought her maiden fifty in her fourth Test and in only her first innings at the top of the order. She also became the first Australian opener to score a fifty since Alex Blackwell in 2009.

Lanning was cautious to start with. She weathered the early storm and attacked Natalie Sciver and Gordon as she settled down. She shared an important partnership with Healy worth 66 runs. However, with a century in her sights, the right-hander played around a straight delivery from Kirstie Gordon, to give the left-arm spinner her maiden Test wicket. Healy was dismissed for an 81-ball 58— a knock that included 12 boundaries.

The dismissal of Healy brought Perry to the crease. The allrounder immediately got stuck into her innings, using her feet to the spinners— coming down the track and going deep into the crease to maneuver the ball. She ground out a 69-run partnership with Lanning, who was dropped by Heather Knight on 26. 

The Australian skipper made full use of the opportunity, bringing up her maiden Test fifty to mark a successful return to Test cricket. She too was dismissed soon after bringing up the milestone, for 57. Ecclestone, who injured her right shoulder in the first session, picked up the important wicket with a quicker, flatter arm ball that hurried on to Lanning and crashed in to off-stump as the right-hander made room to cut. It was just reward for the left-arm spinner who was in the middle of an impressive spell, wrapping Lanning on the pad several times before she finally hit her stumps.

That was the last success England would experience through the day as Haynes and Perry began to bat the hosts out of the match.

Haynes got off to a rollicking start, crunching boundaries every time England dropped short or bowled too full. She used the sweep shot against the spinners and cut and pulled powerfully as well. She batted at a tempo that allowed Perry to simply maneuver the singles around her.

As has become habit, the allrounder showed an unflappable temperament, batting through the day as if it were an everyday routine. She picked up the pace towards the end of the day when Haynes began to drop anchor. The pair shared an unbeaten century partnership to lay the foundation for a possible Australian onslaught on Friday.

At the close of play Perry was unbeaten on 84, while Haynes was on 54.