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Knight and Marsh make history
Heather Knight and Laura Marsh wrote their names into the record books as England made Australia toil in the field on day three of the Women’s Ashes Test.
Knight cracked 157 and Marsh faced 304 balls for 55 as the hosts, 113 for six at one point yesterday, battled their way to 314 all out at Wormsley.
Australia augmented a first-innings lead of 17 by reaching 64 for one either side of an evening delay for bad light and rain.
A draw now appears the most likely outcome on a slow pitch, providing there is not a flurry of wickets or a bold declaration tomorrow.
Having joined forces with their side 218 behind, Knight and Marsh extended their valuable partnership to 156 in 73.1 overs.
That comfortably surpassed England’s previous best stand when six down, of 110, and left the pair just one short of the world-record seventh-wicket alliance between India’s Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami.
Knight now possesses the seventh-highest score for her country in Tests, and only Rachael Heyhoe-Flint and Janette Brittin have made more for England against Australia.
After reaching three figures this morning and surviving a scare on 105 when wicketkeeper Jodie Fields spilled a tough chance down the leg side, Knight exhibited greater fluency and was particularly strong off her pads.
Heather Knight progresses towards 157 for England at Wormsley, an innings that helped limit Australia's first-innings lead to 17
While she was responsible for half of England’s runs, the contribution of Marsh should not be underestimated.
Exhibiting stunning powers of concentration and an admirable technique, the number eight defied Australia for more than five and a half hours.
The first of Marsh’s three fours came from the 225th ball she faced and her 330-minute half-century was the slowest for England Women in Tests.
More importantly, Marsh was at the crease for almost 100 overs, during which time 190 valuable runs were added to the England total. As a result, Australia were unable to risk seeking quick runs at the start of their second dig.
Knight had 85 to her name overnight and moved to three figures with a quick single during an attritional opening hour.
The opener was far more attacking thereafter and found the leg-side fence with frequency as Australia delayed their acceptance of the new ball.
The first of two successive fours, through extra-cover and backward point, took Knight past 150 early in the afternoon.
However, a breakthrough eventually arrived for the tourists when Knight set off for a single to cover that was never there and failed to make her ground after being sent back by Marsh.
Sarah Coyte had Katherine Brunt lbw for four with one that kept low, but more than 22 overs - and a tea break brought forward by a brief shower - passed before another wicket fell.
Ironically, Marsh moved past 50 with a crunching square-cut for four off Megan Schutt, who duly gained revenge by bowling England’s dogged all-rounder.
Anya Shrubsole collected eye-catching fours on either side of the wicket before being caught behind to become Erin Osborne’s fourth victim.
That brought England’s first innings to an end and there was further slow scoring to come as Rachael Haynes and Meg Lanning battled away against Brunt and Shrubsole, the latter once again bowling superbly without due reward.
Haynes picked up the pace after the evening interruption, which prevented play for just over an hour.
The left-hander pulled and drove powerfully but gave her wicket away when spooning a catch to cover off Jenny Gunn.
Lanning finished unbeaten on 29 and had first-innings centurion Sarah Elliott for company at stumps.