Australia Women 274 for 9 dec. and 90 for 4 (Jonassen 29*) lead England Women 168 by 196 runs
Barring an unlikely procession of wickets, England will have to dig deep to make history. No one in women's Test cricket has chased more than the 198 that Australia managed against England at Sydney in 2011. At Canterbury on day three, Australia closed on 90 for 4 and with a lead of 196. For all one could lament England's lack of intent in their first innings, the same could not be said of their efforts with the ball today.
Prior to taking the field, Charlotte Edwards gathered the team around in the dressing room for one of her patented team-talks: sternly outlining the aims of the day, while hammering her fist into her palm and tossing in the odd bit of profanity for good measure. The effect it had on her players was noticeable: they entered the field with great purpose and created a hostile environment through attacking field placings and a good deal of chat.
The pre-match rollocking clearly poured gasoline on the fire that already rages within Katherine Brunt. "I'm not one to be cool, calm and collected," she admitted at stumps.
In the 30-minute mini-session that started the day, she bowled an impressive spell of 4-1-9-2, sending down the fastest ball of the match so far - clocking in at 75.5mph - in the process. "Some of the best bowling I've faced in my career," was Australian opener Nicola Bolton's take on it.
Seemingly in a trance as the rest of her teammates chatted amongst themselves prior to their boundary-side huddle, Brunt took the ball from the Nackington Road End for the first time in the match. That end had previously belonged to Anya Shrubsole, who offered her new-ball partner the chance to come down the hill, with the wind behind her. The opportunity was taken with relish, as Brunt began with a wicket maiden.
Elyse Vilani was on the receiving end of Brunt's fury, surviving a few play and misses and an lbw shout before being powerless to stop a ball that decked into her stumps. The very next over, she trapped Meg Lanning lbw for a three-ball duck.
While those were the only wickets she took in a day that also featured a three-hour and 15 minute delay for an electrical storm and then an early finish, she also showcased some finesse with an array of cross-seam deliveries and cutters she had picked up from ECB lead fast bowling coach Kevin Shine during their sessions at Lougborough. The work has focused on giving the England quicks new techniques for moving the ball sideways. "I prefer to bowl offcutters to the right-handers and then try and swing it in to the left-handers," explained Brunt, who feels the work is paying off.
Upon returning from the sizeable break, Shrubsole coaxed a moment of negligence from the dangerous, free-scoring Elyse Perry. The first ball back was a wide ball that was cut easily for four. Two balls later, Shrubsole delivered one on a similar line and length that Perry this time snatched at almost as an after-thought, with no footwork, to edge through to Sarah Taylor standing up.
At that point, Bolton and Alex Blackwell paid tribute to England's batting effort yesterday with a tough vigil of their own: a dogged fourth wicket partnership that lasted 109 balls but reaped just 32 runs. While Bolton eventually chipped to Brunt at cover off Kate Cross, who also used the kinder conditions from the Nackington Road End to good effect, Blackwell defended on, eventually seeing the day out with just 15 off 81 balls.
When she had just 9 off 59, she inadvertently became a part of history when a video review was used for the first time in a women's Test match, giving her a reprieve when she thought she had edged to Heather Knight at first slip off Shrubsole. But having made it most of the way off the field, she was urged to stand her ground by the Australian support staff, who had come to the balcony to inform her that the catch was not clean. Upon the consultation of the footage, the umpires agreed that Knight had used the ground, inadvertently, to maintain control of the catch.
While Brunt was dismayed by the decision - "I'm English, so I'll say it was a catch" - the wider context of what occurred, she admitted was not lost on her. "That's a really positive step forward. It brings fairness into the game." She went on to advocate the use of DRS in women's matches. "It'll cost you quite heavily sometimes, but it'll be a really positive thing to bring into our game. I'd love to see it."
The first real sign of aggression from Australia came from first innings top-scorer Jess Jonassen, who got off the mark with a sweet push down the ground for two off Cross. She went on to show her class with some timed off and square drives. Off Laura Marsh, she then hit the first six of the match: using her feet to get down the track and striking, while alongside the ball, over the top and straight.
It was easy to see a bit of Jonassen's golfing prowess in the shot, specifically the way she snapped her wrists at the point of impact. As a youngster, she reportedly played off a handicap of 10.
Like a lot of batters that come into the Australian side, there is an "apprenticeship" period that needs to be seen through down the order before more lucrative opportunities to score runs up the order are offered. In keeping with this, Jonassen once went through a period of batting just once in 16 consecutive T20 matches. Tomorrow will be her chance to stake her claim for more responsibility, as Australia look for those "record chase" runs. A game dogged by some tepid moments and unfavourable weather is about to come alive.