|Women’s Ashes Test, The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton (day four of four):|
|Australia 420-8 dec (Perry 116, Haynes 87) & 230-7 (Perry 76*)|
|England 275-9 dec: Sciver 88, Jones 64; Molineux 4-95|
|Match drawn (both sides 2pts; Australia lead series 8-2)|
Australia will retain the Women’s Ashes as the Test petered out into a draw.
England avoided the follow-on and declared on 275-9, but they could not tear through the Australian batting line-up, which finished on 230-7.
Ellyse Perry (76 not out) again batted well as the tourists opted not to set England a fourth-innings target.
England trail 8-2 in the multi-format series, but could still draw it if they win all three Twenty20 games, beginning in Chelmsford on Friday.
Australia won all three one-day internationals to open up a 6-0 lead and the two points available for a draw in this four-day Test would guarantee their retention of the Ashes.
That knowledge was always at the back of their minds as they batted out the game before shaking hands with an hour of scheduled play remaining.
Marsh digs England out of first-innings trouble
At the start of the day’s play, all four results were still theoretically possible with England on 199-6 behind Australia’s 420-8 declared, but as it turned out, the most crucial passage was first up in the best period of the entire Test.
England needed 72 to avoid the follow-on and there was more intent to their batting than they had shown on the third evening when their dead-bat tactics were heavily criticised.
They did lose Shrubsole for 11 and Nat Sciver 12 short of a century, with England still 19 shy of the 271 target.
But Laura Marsh and Sophie Ecclestone combined stoically for the ninth wicket partnership to get them over the line.
Marsh, who made a brave 28, survived a testing and hostile examination from young quick Tayla Vlaeminck before a cut for four off the left-arm spinner Sophie Molineux ensured Australia would have to bat again.
Perry thwarts England – again
Marsh took that positive impact with the bat into her bowling and in the space of five balls in the first over after lunch she removed openers Alyssa Healy for 13 and Rachael Haynes for one.
With Ecclestone causing problems at the other end with her left-arm spin, there were a few tricky moments for Australia.
Meg Lanning and Perry eased any worries with a 50 partnership until the Australia captain somehow dispatched a filthy full toss from Kirstie Gordon straight to Georgia Elwiss at cover.
England captain Heather Knight brought herself on for a rare bowl and claimed the wicket of Jess Jonassen (37) but Perry continued on her own serene way.
She eventually finished unbeaten on 76, and 192 runs for the match, after her first-innings century as she showed why she is a cut above the rest in women’s cricket.
Australia pass on chance to tee up drama
Australia were under no obligation to set any kind of target for England to chase in the fourth innings, but there was a slight disappointment about their cautious attitude.
A run rate of 3.46 from 35 overs in the afternoon session when they had the chance to put their foot on their accelerator did not suggest a team in a desperate hurry to win the game.
When they returned to bat after tea, their intentions were clear and the game drifted to its conclusion, in what was the first women’s Trst since these two sides met at North Sydney Oval in November 2017.
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