Women’s Ashes Test

England 275-9 dec drew with Australia 420-8 dec & 231-7

AUSTRALIA have retained the Women’s Ashes after the sole Test drifted to a tame and anti-climactic draw in Taunton.

England declared as soon as they could, having passed 271 and avoided the follow-on, but Australia were in no mood for a declaration of their own and simply batted out the remainder of the fourth and final day.

Ellyse Perry, who had struck 116 in the visitors’ first innings, led the way again with an unbeaten 76 as the four points available were shared, giving Australia an 8-2 series lead going into the three T20s.

Those matches are worth two points each but even an England victory in each of them would not be enough to regain the Ashes as Australia are the current holders.

Having come under fire for their defensive approach on the evening of day three, England came out with a point to prove on Sunday morning and, following the stumping of Anya Shrubsole (11), Laura Marsh struck five boundaries from number nine.

Nat Sciver added 26 to her overnight score before falling 12 short of a maiden Test century, a dismissal which came with England still 19 adrift of avoiding the follow-on.

Marsh and Sophie Ecclestone ensured the hosts were not forced to bat again and skipper Heather Knight soon waved them in.

England’s hopes of a miracle turnaround were briefly raised when Marsh’s off-spin removed both openers to reduce Australia to 15-2, but skipper Meg Lanning steadied the ship alongside Perry.

The pair took contrasting approaches – Perry was fluent, with Lanning prepared to dig in – as the Southern Stars quickly quashed any thoughts that they might attack to set England a tempting target.

England’s spinners continued to probe, with Kirstie Gordon accounting for Lanning (21) before Sophie Ecclestone had Beth Mooney brilliantly caught at short leg by Tammy Beaumont for 25.

Jess Jonassen fired some lusty blows in her 37 until she was bowled by England captain Heather Knight, by which point England would have required more than 10 an over in the event of a declaration that never looked like arriving.

As for Anya Shrubsole, a luckless six-over spell from the Somerset Pavilion End completed a wicketless Test for the home favourite from Bath.

Twice she beat Perry outside the off stump, catching the edge on one occasion only to see the ball elude wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor and run away for four; Shrusbole’s frustration was clear to see as the spell went on.

She wasn’t the only frustrated figure inside the ground. A loud shout of ‘declare’ came from one spectator when Jonassen was dismissed and Australia’s caution brought the game to a rather dull conclusion.

The ground was sparsely populated as the day went on and this must have owed a lot to the match situation – admittedly not helped by the rain on day two - and the attitude of the two teams.

The approach from both sides over the weekend has been one of caution rather than enterprise and a draw was the inevitable result.

It is not the fault of the players involved that they play so few Tests, therefore inadvertently making each one an ‘advert’ for the game. If this was a men’s Test, there would be another one to follow next week and this tame affair would be quickly moved on from.

International cricketers in the women’s game, however, will have to wait a long time until they next pull their whites on.

England have avoided a series whitewash and Australia have deservedly wrapped up the series but both teams may, with hindsight, reflect on whether it might have been worth the risk of losing this game in pursuit of victory.

England captain Heather Knight told Sky Sports: “I’m disappointed. Congratulations to them but now we’ve got a T20 series to show what we can do, because we haven’t played up to the standards we know we can do.

“We’ve got a lot of character and resilience in our team, unfortunately the game was gone and it was too much to ask for today but we have to look forward.”

Australia captain Meg Lanning said: "We thought about it [declaring] but the wicket didn't deteriorate as we thought it would and there wasn't enough time left in the game to bowl them out.

"Our best chance of winning the game was enforcing the follow-on after the time taken out the game on day two and we weren't able to do that.

"We are pleased to have the series wrapped up and now our target is to win the T20s."