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Australia’s Perry holds up England to leave Ashes Test finely poised

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England in a ‘really good position’ after day two – Winfield

Ellyse Perry starred with bat and ball for Australia on a closely fought second day of the day-night Women’s Ashes Test against England in Sydney.

Perry (3-59) took a wicket and a catch as England, who resumed on 235-7, were bowled out for 280 within an hour.

Australia started cautiously before teenage spinner Sophie Ecclestone (2-51 on debut) reduced them to 61-3.

However, Perry then took charge, finishing unbeaten on 70 as the Aussies reached 177-5, trailing by 103.

She lost a useful ally late in the day when captain Rachael Haynes (33) was trapped lbw by Katherine Brunt in the first over of the second new ball.

But with England trailing in the points-based multi-format series, and needing to win the Test to retain a realistic hope of regaining the trophy, Perry is the immovable object standing in their way.

BBC Test Match Special commentator Charles Dagnall said: “I think Ellyse Perry is the wicket which could decide the Ashes, one way or the other.”

Australia strangled by spin

Laura Marsh (centre) celebrates a wicket with Sophie Ecclestone (second right, in sunglasses)<!–

Spinners Marsh (centre) and Ecclestone (second right, in sunglasses) were the backbone of England’s attack in the middle session

Spinners had made the difference for Australia against England’s middle order on day one, with debutant Amanda-Jade Wellington dismissing top scorer Tammy Beaumont with a leg break which turned sharply, while Jess Jonassen had both Heather Knight and Natalie Sciver adjudged lbw at crucial times.

After Nicole Bolton and Beth Mooney had reached the tea interval unscathed against Brunt and Anya Shrubsole, England then switched to spin in the middle session, and it helped them get a stranglehold on the match.

Experienced off-spinner Laura Marsh was able to hold an end, sending down 23 overs in the day for only 28 runs, while Ecclestone – preferred to fellow slow left-armer Alex Hartley – belied her tender years, offering flight and turn.

Both openers were removed in virtually identical fashion – ironically with two of the few loose deliveries which England’s spin duo bowled all afternoon.

Having been tied down for a while, Bolton attacked a Marsh half-volley and was caught at mid-wicket, as was Mooney five overs later when Ecclestone dropped one in too short.

Ecclestone collected her second Test wicket when veteran Alex Blackwell was trapped in front, and was unlucky not to pick up a third later when Haynes, on 19, looked to be hit in front of middle stump but the umpire was unmoved.

England face tactical battle

Katherine Brunt and Tammy Beaumont<!–

Katherine Brunt struck with the new ball – straight after seeing a catch go down at second slip

England went into this match knowing that a home win would mean the Ashes remaining in Australian hands – while even a drawn Test would realistically leave them needing to win all three subsequent Twenty20 internationals to clinch the series.

With the pink ball and day-night format adding to the tactical intrigue, England had begun the day 65 runs short of the landmark score of 300 to which they had aspired.

So it was a surprise when Fran Wilson and Shrubsole, who had carefully negotiated the first few overs of the day, both holed out trying to take on pace bowler Megan Schutt (2-52), who had bowled accurately on day one, while the irrepressible Perry had Marsh caught behind.

Shrubsole’s strength lies in bowling the sort of devastating spells like the one which won the World Cup for England against India at Lord’s this summer, and after six overs with the new ball, the Somerset seamer was not called upon in the middle session, and only returned straight after dinner to bowl the 50th over of the innings.

But she showed her class with a spell of five overs for four runs, keeping Perry bottled up for a while and inducing a edge from Elyse Villani which was brilliantly caught by wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor standing up to the stumps.

Remembering from the first day how the ball moved around more in the final session under floodlights, England tried to keep it tight – with the two spinners, Knight, Sciver and Georgia Elwiss rotated while Brunt and Shrubsole were saved for the second new ball, available with five overs left in the day.

That did bring its reward almost immediately. Brunt was livid when she found the edge of Haynes’ bat, only for the ball to fly just out of the grasp of Lauren Winfield at second slip.

After furiously gesturing that Winfield should have been standing closer to Knight at first slip, Brunt had her revenge next ball as the Aussie skipper was trapped in front.

The tentative Alyssa Healy survived to the close alongside Perry, but the game – and thus the Ashes – may turn on whether England can twist the knife on Saturday morning. And if Perry looks to be batting them out of the game, how far would they be prepared to gamble to win?

TMS commentator Charles Dagnall: “They’re behind in the series, have they got it in them to go all-in?”

TMS summariser Isa Guha: “Both teams can still win, which makes this match so interesting.”

Spectators dressed as Richie Benaud<!–

Among the 3,612 spectators at North Sydney Oval were a group of more than 50 fans dressed as the late Richie Benaud

‘The game is in the balance’ – what they said

Australia opener Nicole Bolton on BBC Test Match Special: “The game is in the balance. We finished them off early and started conservatively and were losing wickets at key times, but Ellyse Perry got us back into the game.

“Brunt and Shrubsole are key bowlers for England and they thrive on early wickets. The spinners came on and dried things up but hopefully we can bat really long into day three, make their bowlers tired and see if we can punish them.”

England spinner Laura Marsh on TMS: “Both sides have been on top at various parts of the game. Ellyse Perry has played very well but our bowlers were brilliant.

“There wasn’t a huge amount of spin so it was vital we kept the ball straight and bowled at the wickets. We would have liked 300, but 280 is a good score.”

Ex-England seamer Isa Guha on TMS: “It’s still even stevens. England will just see how the first session goes tomorrow. The ball will be relatively new, Brunt and Shrubsole will be fresh, but Perry is the glue that will keep Australia together.”

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