Ellyse Perry makes defining contribution of Women's Ashes opening day

She's done it again. Sure enough, Ellyse Perry has made the defining contribution of the opening day of the Women's Ashes Test Match, unbeaten on 84 from 205 balls as Australia made their way to 3/265 by the close at Taunton.

Progressing gradually through the final session with veteran Rachael Haynes, who will resume tomorrow on 54, the pair have so far put on a flawless 105-run partnership.

With Meg Lanning's side only requiring a draw to retain the trophy they won four years ago in this corresponding series, they are in an all-but-impregnable position with the four-day fixture likely to be affected by rain on Friday.

Ellyse Perry made the defining contribution of the Women's Ashes opening day. Picture: PA

Ellyse Perry made the defining contribution of the Women's Ashes opening day. Picture: PA

Batting first on a pitch that offered considerable turn to England's pair of left-arm spinners - but not a lot of luck - the long-time state teammates built on half-centuries already added by Alyssa Healy (58) and Lanning (57).

For Healy, her elevation to the top of the list worked a treat, striking 12 boundaries in 81 balls at the crease to immediately put the home side under pressure.

Backing the touch that has revolutionised her game at the top level over the last 18 months, Healy attacked anything remotely off target from the earliest exchanges of the standalone Test Match even after Nicole Bolton (6) was castled by Katherine Brunt.

It was against the flow of play when she fell, misjudging a straight-break from debutant southpaw Kirstie Gordon, who bowled her leg stump around her front pad. But she had done plenty of damage with her aggression, ensuring that Australia's engine room would walk out from a sound base.

For Lanning's part, she found rhythm harder to come by with the newcomer also slipping several deliveries past both edges of her bat before lunch. There was also a chance, Heather Knight, England's captain, shelling her opposing number at cover on 26.

Then after the long break, Sophie Ecclestone - the more experienced of the southpaws - kept her at bay with a long and accurate spell, sneaking through the gate not long after the day's halfway mark.

But, from the moment Haynes and Perry came together for the fourth wicket, any pressure the home side had built through the second and third hours of the day quickly dissipated. Reminiscent of the last time the unflappable Perry played a Test, when she tallied a series-defining 213 not out against Knight's side in 2017, her defence was unconquerable.

Haynes, meanwhile - who captained in Lanning's absence in the last Women's Ashes - played in such a controlled fashion it was scarcely believable that she spent 2013 to 2017 in the international wilderness.

The long-term teammates were at ease immediately after tea. By the time the second new ball arrived, they were satisfied advancing the visitors to stumps. Perry reached her 50 in 117 deliveries, Haynes joining her half an hour from the close from her 145th ball at the crease. Brunt (1/30) was excellent early on but lacked potency as the day wore on, her opener partner Anya Shrubsole (0/39) improved later in the day but was well down on her best form earlier on.

Ecclestone (1/64) who, at 20 years of age, is already one of the best spinners in the world, enhanced her reputation in her post-spell lunch having earlier left the field in tears after injuring her shoulder while diving unsuccessfully to stop a Healy clip.

Alyssa Healy elevation to the top of the list worked a treat. Picture: PA

Alyssa Healy elevation to the top of the list worked a treat. Picture: PA

She never let the favourable spinning conditions get the better of her, creating chances with her height and flight rather than overdoing it with sidespin. Not helped either by the lack of DRS - she had Lanning lbw, but not given, on 42 - the enthusiastic Lancastrian will bowl far worse for better returns.

Gordon (1/53) bowled just as many dangerous deliveries in the first two sessions but mixed that up with far too many full tosses, routinely feasted on by Perry who was the most adept Australian at using her feet to break up the newcomer's length.

Laura Marsh (0/50), the offspinner at the other end of her international journey, never looked likely, nor did medium pacers Nat Sciver (0/18) and Georgia Elwiss (0/5) in their brief stints at the bowling crease.

Capping England's poor day, opener Tammy Beaumont, their most important batter, was struck on

the thumb while fielding at short leg and has been sent for scans. By contrast, Perry goes to bed with a live Test batting average of 74 - the second highest in the history of the game for women who have batted in ten Test innings.

As for Haynes, her Test high of 98, made on debut ten years ago, is well within striking distance if Lanning decides to continue Australia's innings rather than declaring it closed overnight due to the weather.

Having crushed England in the ODI component of the multi-format Women's Ashes series earlier this month, Australia took a six-nil points lead into this Test. With this fixture worth four points for the win or two if drawn, ahead of three T20 internationals where two points are also on the line in each, a split result here is sufficient for them to retain their title. But a draw will be the last thing on their mind after this dominant day.

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This story Ellyse Perry makes defining contribution of Women's Ashes opening day first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.