England left in a spin by Australia despite 10-wicket haul for Sophie Ecclestone

England left in a spin by Australia despite 10-wicket haul for Sophie Ecclestone

England were left in a spin by Ashleigh Gardner as their hopes of victory in the lone Women’s Ashes Test drastically receded despite the indefatigable Sophie Ecclestone’s 10-wicket match haul.

The slow left-armer claimed back-to-back five-wicket hauls to finish with astonishing figures of 77.1-16-192-10 this week and restrict Australia to 257, which left England requiring 268 for victory.

Despite Emma Lamb and Tammy Beaumont putting on an opening stand of 55, Gardner’s introduction to the attack was the catalyst for a top-order collapse as England ended day four on 116 for five.

Australia’s Ashleigh Gardner celebrates
Australia’s Ashleigh Gardner celebrates after taking the wicket of England’s Heather Knight (Tim Goode/PA)

Gardner’s wily off-spin bagged first-innings double centurion Beaumont, star all-rounder Nat Sciver-Brunt and captain Heather Knight, leaving England needing an improbable 152 to win on the final day on a Trent Bridge pitch that has shown several signs of keeping low and had appreciable turn.

Australia require five wickets to collect a first Ashes Test triumph since 2015 and seal a sizeable four points that would go a long way to helping them retain the urn in this multi-format series.

They had been under the cosh as Lamb (28) and Beaumont (22) started the chase well. But Gardner had bowled Beaumont with her last ball in England’s first innings and struck immediately in the second to remove the same batter, whose attempt to dig out a fuller, flighted delivery ended up at first slip.

Australia got the benefit of the umpire’s raised finger after Tahlia McGrath thudded into Lamb’s front pad as a review showed the ball would have trimmed leg stump.

Knight got off nought with a heave for six but, in attempting something similar later in the over, Sciver-Brunt, who had earlier fallen in a heap at the end of an over while bowling amid concerns about her right knee, got a top-edge off Gardner which looped to short leg.

If that was something of a gift, Gardner found prodigious turn to trap Knight on the crease. While there was some suspicion she might have been outside the line, the impact went with the umpire.

Knight’s downfall meant England had lost four wickets in 29 balls to lurch to 73 for four and they lost another before the close as Kim Garth found the outside edge of Sophia Dunkley.

Test debutant Danni Wyatt made it to stumps unbeaten on 20 with nightwatcher Kate Cross (5no) seeing out 12 deliveries to ensure there were no further alarms.

Earlier, Cross required strapping after injuring her left thumb when shelling a waist-high chance to reprieve Phoebe Litchfield on 42 as Australia resumed on 82 without loss and a lead of 92.

But Cross atoned for a mistake that yielded just four runs with a delivery that jagged back and took out out off-stump as Litchfield was out again offering no shot.

Sciver-Brunt got both hands to a return chance after Beth Mooney had passed 50 but could not cling on before Lauren Filer took the fielders out of the equation as Ellyse Perry chopped on for 25 to fall for the second time to the England debutant, who then beat McGrath for pace by uprooting leg-stump.

The strikes in consecutive wicket maidens gave England a fillip ahead of lunch before the metronomic Ecclestone got into the act upon the resumption as Jess Jonassen had her bails disturbed after missing a full-blooded slog-sweep to a delivery that turned and snaked under her bat.

Annabel Sutherland was promoted two spots to six and the first-innings centurion had a life on nought when Wyatt spilled a difficult chance at square-leg, but Mooney was on her way for 85 after an attempted cut off Ecclestone took the under-edge before dislodging the stumps.

Gardner lasted just three balls as a low edge off Cross was held by a juggling Knight while Sutherland’s streaky innings concluded on 14 after she tamely lobbed to Wyatt.

Australia had stretched their lead to above 200 but they almost lost their fourth wicket in 13 deliveries as Alyssa Healy, who had demoted herself to eight after three successive Test ducks, got a thin edge to her first ball which brushed the glove of Amy Jones before rolling away.

The Australia captain rebuilt alongside Alana King in what may yet be a crucial 59-run stand either side of tea.

Healy was the aggressor but King’s departure after being squared up and edging to slip in Lauren Bell’s first over of the day marked the beginning of the end as Australia lost their final three wickets in seven balls.

Ecclestone grinned sheepishly and had her head in her hands after Healy bunted a rank full toss to Lamb, who took a catch above her head, before whirling away in celebration as Darcie Brown was lbw when she missed a forward prod to finish with second-innings figures of 30.5-7-63-5.