Perry tons up before rain ruins day two of Women’s Ashes Test, all but ensuring a draw
Through the first session of the second day of the Taunton Test, it was hard to discern a plan to Australia’s approach.
Resuming in a commanding position with three wickets down, two top-order players past half-centuries and 265 on the board, Ellyse Perry and Rachael Haynes were more interested in stout defence than moving the score along.
The first 10 overs brought 10 scoring shots, mostly singles. And as the morning moved toward lunchtime and the inevitability of a rain delay, the pattern stayed the same.
Perry’s imminent century was a point of interest, but with Haynes absorbing vast amounts of strike, it approached with the gradual majesty of a cruise ship coming in to dock.
Several Australian players had talked in upbeat fashion before the Test about playing aggressively and looking for a win. But a draw would hand Australia the Women’s Ashes trophy, and in the thick of the contest that became the priority.
But there was another influence that won’t be evident on scorecards. For Perry or Haynes, and for those coming after them, this will probably be their solitary Test innings for another two and a half years.
Ellyse Perry pushed the tempo after she passed 100, but to her downfall. (Reuters: Peter Cziborra)
England bowled tightly — not with any obvious menace, but on a slow surface it was hard to time attacking strokes from anything on a decent length. There was the obvious risk that attack could end an innings.
So it proved when Perry put the foot down after her century, clouting a couple of boundaries before clipping a catch to short midwicket for 116. Ditto Haynes, who missed an aggressive sweep on 87 to be leg-before.
In a normal context, losing wickets would be a fair trade for piling up declaration runs late in a successful innings. But when teams play a format so rarely, it’s a different game.
It will be late 2021 before Australia hosts England in the next women’s Test match between any international teams. Players in this XI are no guarantee to be in the next one. They might be injured or retired or have fallen from favour.
Expecting those players to value their wickets lightly, in a match where their team is unlikely to bat a second time, is unrealistic.
It was the same situation for Beth Mooney, coming in at the fall of Perry’s wicket. An opener in the Big Bash whose style is always to go hard at the ball, Mooney has played one Test innings for a score of 27.
In her second chance, with the lunch break half an hour away and the rainclouds looming, there was nothing for her to gain by going after the bowling.
Had she reached the break on 20 not out rather than 7 not out, it would have made little difference to her team or her record. But had she struck a couple of boundaries and been out for 16, it would have gone on her sheet as a failure.
The occasional nature of these Test matches can also drag down a whole team tactically. Australia has three players on debut, with Ash Gardner and Sophie Molineux both very accomplished with the bat.
Perry’s century was the highlight of a rain-shortened second day. (Reuters: Peter Cziborra/ Action Images)
In this strong XI they’re coming in down the order, but in a match that Australia could happily draw, it would be a tough decision for Meg Lanning to declare the innings and deny them the chance to bat on debut.
In this situation in a men’s Test you would say it was stiff luck but that a winning team would likely be unchanged for the next match. In a women’s Test, there’s a much higher chance of it being a player’s only appearance.
If you switched on with no context on day two, you could easily criticise. What was the point of going slowly from such a position of strength? If the Australians bat on through day three, you could say the same.
But what it reveals is the way that the structure of the sport inherently limits its players.
It limits their chance to show off their best. They play a format twice in four years without getting to refine their skills, and when each chance does come around, it has to carry so much more.
Riding on it is the weight of the wait, should they miss out this time, or the substantial chance that they may never get a chance again.
Perry’s hundred is another display of her work ethic. Haynes’ patience and skill deserves applause. But as long as administrators keep compromising on the way in which women are allowed to play, the matches can’t avoid being compromised themselves.