Spinner Buoyed by Beaumont’s Double-Century and Hopes for Day-Five Turn
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Amidst an arduous day on the turf at Trent Bridge, courtesy of Tammy Beaumont’s extraordinary career-high of 208, Ashleigh Gardner expresses Australia’s quiet confidence in their pursuit of victory in the one-off Test against England. By clinching six valuable points, they aim to retain the Women’s Ashes.
Australia’s most impressive figures of the innings belonged to Gardner, whose aggressive offspin claimed 4 wickets for 99 runs in 25.2 overs. With two days remaining in the Test and an overnight lead of 92, thanks to the composed opening partnership of 82 runs between Phoebe Litchfield and Beth Mooney, Gardner is optimistic about playing a more significant role in the final innings.
What fuels Gardner’s optimism is not only the perseverance of England’s star spinner Sophie Ecclestone, who bowled an uninterrupted spell of 28 overs in the first innings, leading to her maiden Test five-for, but also the signs of the Trent Bridge pitch showing cracks. Gardner believes this deterioration will favor Australia‘s spin-heavy attack on the fifth day.
“As we have a plethora of bowling options, including three spinners,” Gardner shared during the close, “I intend to capitalize on my opportunities. Since we’ve never played a five-day Test match, we anticipate the wicket’s deterioration at some point, which will significantly enhance the role of spin in the remainder of the game. I strongly believe a definitive outcome is on the horizon, and that’s precisely what we’ll strive for.”
Both teams are venturing into the unknown, given that previous women’s Tests have been limited to four days, rendering this match situation a guaranteed draw in the past—similar to England’s five previous Tests since 2015.
Instead, the stage is set for a test of endurance as much as skill, a point acknowledged by Beaumont during the close. She sensed that even Australia’s multifaceted attack had momentarily run out of ideas during significant portions of her innings, especially when she and Danni Wyatt accelerated the scoring rate with a lively partnership of 72 runs spanning 18 overs.
“Throughout the day, the contest ebbed and flowed, but most of the time, I felt they lacked energy,” Beaumont commented to Sky Sports. “Yet, such is the nature of Test cricket. It’s challenging when it’s a hot day, you’re batting well, and the pitch offers little assistance. So, credit to them, really.”
Beaumont further added, “I don’t think they expected us to play the way we did, taking the game to them and coming so close. The turning point was the partnership between myself and Danni Wyatt. I believe that was the phase where
we could have truly exerted dominance and shifted the game in our favor.”
Contrary to Beaumont’s observations, Gardner finds solace in her team’s struggle for breakthroughs, anticipating a favorable second innings for Australia. England, however, will face the daunting task of batting last.
“Tammy played exceptionally well, dispatching any loose delivery that missed the stumps to the boundary,” Gardner acknowledged. “From a batting standpoint, it signifies that whenever the bowlers stray, there’s an opportunity to score freely. Conversely, when we regain the ball, we must focus on hitting the stumps and display relentless accuracy.”
“We’re not looking for a draw in this Test match. We find ourselves in a favorable position to press forward, but we must adopt a step-by-step approach and avoid fixating on the endgame,” she added. “We need to break the game into smaller periods and establish a solid position from which we can hopefully secure a victory.”
The pace at which Litchfield and Mooney advanced in Australia’s second innings reaffirmed their grasp of the lessons learned from England’s innings. They maintained a brisk scoring rate of 4.31 runs per over until the close. However, the prospect of low-bouncing deliveries, particularly to Litchfield, owing to Lauren Filer’s extra pace, could present a double-edged sword on the fifth day.
“We must remain patient, keep the bat in play, and if the swing diminishes, perhaps employ the cross-seam technique,” Beaumont suggested. “The morning session is crucial. If we can pick up a few wickets, we can build momentum, considering that wickets tend to fall in clusters. It’s a challenging surface to start on, so maintaining a positive mindset is essential.”
“Nobody came here to settle for a draw. If Australia sets us a target, I have a feeling we’ll give it our all,” she continued. “We’ll have to wait and see what the Australians decide. Ideally, they would want to push for a result and set up an intriguing finale, but you can never be certain. It’s still early days in the Ashes, and every day has been like a test of endurance for both teams.”
Gardner, on her part, admits that she doesn’t yet have a concrete idea of the appropriate target for the fourth innings. However, she emphasizes that her team will focus on “ten-over blocks” to take advantage of any subpar bowling from the England side.
“When you’re heading into the fifth day of a Test match, which we’re not accustomed to, that approach becomes extremely important,” she explained. “There’s still an abundance of time left in the game, with 180 overs remaining. We’re not accustomed to such circumstances, but it presents an exciting opportunity.”