Ellyse Perry in action against England ©Getty Images
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Ellyse Perry’s dominant display through the match, and an unbeaten 76 on the final day saw Australia draw the one-off Test in the County Ground at Taunton on Sunday (July 21) and thereby retain the Ashes. The visitors now lead the series 8-2, which means England are effectively out of the running to win the series.

Australia began day four on a positive note, dismissing Anya Shrubsole in the opening hour. Shrubsole, who had come out with an aggressive intent, was stumped by Healy off the bowling of Sophie Molineux who grabbed her fourth wicket. Natalie Sciver held the hosts’ innings together with a valiant half century. She batted with great authority, taking on the Australian bowlers and constantly looking for runs— it was in stark contrast to the approach she took during the final session on day three. The right-hander found great support in the form of Laura Marsh, as they shared a crucial 42-run stand. 

Just when Sciver looked set to bring up her maiden Test century, she chopped a delivery from Jonassen on to her stumps. As she trudged back to the pavilion on 88, England still needed 18 runs to save the follow-on. However, Marsh (28) and Ecclestone (9 not out) managed to get the hosts over that line with a crucial 23-run stand. When the former was dismissed by Jonassen, England declared on 275 for 9 in the hope that Australia would give them a target to chase.

Molineux was Australia’s best bowler with figures of 4 for 95 in 37 overs. Jonassen, Gardner and Perry were the other wicket-takers.

Australia started the second innings with an intent to get some quick runs. Rachael Haynes and Alyssa Healy started proceedings, looking to cash in against the hard new ball. However, both were dismissed within the space of four deliveries by Marsh.

On a surface that suddenly seemed to be offering a fair bit of help to the spinners, England began to attack with Marsh and Ecclestone. Both spinners got the ball to grip and turn, but Perry and Meg Lanning continued to find a way to score. They took full toll on anything short or too full, sending it to the boundary with ease.

It was that aggressive intent, however, that saw the end of Lanning (21) when she smashed a juicy full toss from Kirstie Gordon straight to Georgia Elwiss at extra-cover. The Australian captain could scarcely believe her luck, as England went cock-a-hoop 

Beth Mooney joined Perry and found her stride almost immediately. She struck four boundaries in her 33-ball 25 and was brilliantly caught by Tammy Beaumont at short leg. Mooney advanced down the track to Ecclestone and tried to work the ball through square leg. The ball shot off the middle of her bat, straight into Beaumont’s hands— it was pure reflex.

The longer Australia batted, the less likely the chances of an England comeback became. When Jonassen joined Perry, and Australia continued to bat after tea, the result was a foregone conclusion. Perry brought up her second half century of the match, and her third score of fifty or more in three innings.

Despite the disappointment of the home fans, Australia’s lower order provided them some entertainment with a few lusty blows. Molineux showed great intent with a 55-ball 41, while Gardner clobbered the only six of the match before she was caught on the deep-mid-wicket boundary for seven.

The fall of Gardner’s wicket marked the end for Australia as Lanning chose to declare. 

It was significant that when the decision to declare finally came, Perry was the only unbeaten Australian batter in the middle. She was the central figure in Australia’s series victory in England in 2015, and four years later, she has almost single handedly won Australia the trophy with 12 wickets and 264 runs in four matches. Fittingly, the allrounder was declared Player of the Match.