The Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes Series remains alive after the historic day-night Test ended in a draw on Sunday night.
The two top teams in the world could not be split over four intense, gruelling days at North Sydney Oval, with match called off an hour out from the scheduled finish time of 9.30pm when the two captains came together and agreed a result was not possible.
England skipper Heather Knight (79no from 220 balls) and No.4 Georgia Elwiss (41no from 190) ensured the tourists’ quest of regaining the Women’s Ashes continues by combining for a stoic, unbroken third-wicket stand of 117 from almost 63 overs that thwarted wave after wave of Australia offence and delivered the stalemate.
The combatants and will now battle it out in three T20 internationals, starting on Friday, to determine which side will lift the trophy in Canberra on November 21.
The series scoreline sits at six points to four and given Australia are the Ashes holders, just one victory to them in the T20s will secure them the series.
"We had a real tough day at the office yesterday and the way they batted put us out of the game," Knight told reporters after play.
"It was important we came back today and really dug in and fought hard and showed a bit of character, myself and Georgia did that really well.
"For us to put on that partnership was really pleasing and obviously make the game safe.
"We hung in there last night, they could've really taken the game away from us.
"The girls really fought hard and it was a tough day, you don't play a lot of multi-format cricket and they're tough on the body and mentally as well.
"To come back today and only lose to wickets was really pleasing for mine."
Entering the final day, Australia held a lead of 128 runs and the hope of capturing the 10 English wickets to earn the four points they needed to retain the urn.
The hosts struck twice in the afternoon session, starting with leg-spinner Amanda-Jade Wellington’s magic delivery to remove opener Tammy Beaumont for 37.
As the first hour of the day closed in, Wellington left the crowd and her teammates aghast with the ball of the match, a beautiful leg-break that drifted in, pitched on leg stump, turned and bounced sharply, beat the bat of the right-hander and clipped the top of off.
The stunning moment brought back memories of Shane Warne’s famous delivery that bamboozled and bowled England batsman Mike Gatting with his first ball in Ashes cricket in 1993.
Wellington, 20, has captured just two wickets in the match – Beaumont twice – but they were both beauties. In the first innings, the South Australian drew the opener forward with a teasing, looping leg-break before taking the edge through to Alex Blackwell at first slip.
Tahlia McGrath, the tall seam-bowling allrounder who made 47 with the bat on Saturday, swung a ball into the boot of Beaumont’s opening partner to trap Lauren Winfield for an obdurate 34 from 145 balls.
That was the last moment of joy for the Australians as Knight and Elwiss chained themselves the crease and threw away the key.
For the next four-and-a-half hours, the pair didn’t give Australia a sniff. Save for a close run out with 15 minutes to go in the day’s play, there was not a chance offered to the hosts by Knight and Elwiss.
While the benign pitch offered absolutely no aid to the bowlers, the match-saving stand was an impressive case study in concentration, application and dedication.
Ellyse Perry was, of course, named player-of-the-match for her record-breaking 213no, the highest Test score by an Australian woman.
England will now face the Governor-General’s XI in a T20 contest at Drummoyne Oval on Wednesday before the Ashes adversaries lock horns in the first T20I at North Sydney Oval on Friday.
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
Australia lead England 6-4
Australia squad (ODI and Test): Rachael Haynes (C), Alex Blackwell (VC), Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa (Test only), Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.
First ODI Australia won by two wickets
Second ODI Australia won by 75 runs (DLS method)
Third ODI England won by 20 runs (DLS method)
Day-Night Test Match drawn
First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17
North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation
Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19
Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21
Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT