|Australia 473 & 82-0 (19 overs): Litchfield 41*|
|England 463 (121.2 overs): Beaumont 208; Gardner 4-99|
|Australia lead by 92 runs|
Australia took control on day three of the one-off Ashes Test with a lead of 92, despite Tammy Beaumont’s record-breaking 208 for England.
The hosts were bowled out for 463 in their first innings at Trent Bridge, trailing Australia by just 10, but openers Beth Mooney and Phoebe Litchfield steered the visitors to 82-0 at the close.
Beaumont’s innings, the first double-century in England women’s cricket, put England into a decent position but some loose bowling at the start of the innings eased all pressure on Australia.
She beat an 88-year-old record set by Betty Snowball, who scored 189 against New Zealand at Christchurch in 1935, in making England women’s highest score.
England started the day 255 runs behind Australia’s first-innings 473 and dominated the morning session as Beaumont and all-rounder Nat Sciver-Brunt added a third-wicket partnership of 137.
Sciver-Brunt overturned an lbw decision from the first ball of the day and went on to score 78, before Test debutant Danni Wyatt struck an aggressive 44 from 49 balls to edge England closer to parity.
But Beaumont eventually ran out of batting partners as England lost their last four wickets for 15 runs, with spinner Ash Gardner finishing with 4-99 and Tahlia McGrath taking 3-24.
England then produced a sloppy spell of bowling with the new ball, the seamers going at 5.15 runs an over as Litchfield and Mooney finished unbeaten on 41 and 33 respectively.
Saturday’s crowd at Trent Bridge was 6,951, taking the aggregate attendance for the game to 17,149, a record for a women’s Test in England.
Beaumont’s brilliance defies Australia
Beaumont’s journey in an England shirt has not always been smooth, with the batter struggling to nail down a place in the side and batting as low as number eight until 2016.
More recently, she has found herself out of England’s T20 set-up, but in front of an appreciative crowd at Trent Bridge she provided a Test batting masterclass and a reminder of her value to England at the top of the order.
Beaumont’s intent had the usually unflappable Australia a little rattled.
Edges burst through the slip cordon, rare fumbles crept in from the fielders and loose wide balls were accepted gratefully by Beaumont to thrash through the covers.
It was an innings of remarkable concentration and endurance as well as brutal strokeplay, her 200 coming from 317 balls – the second-fastest of all time after Australia legend Karen Rolton’s 306-ball effort in 2001.
She was given a reprieve on 152, overturning an lbw as the review showed the ball to be marginally pitching outside the line of leg stump, but it was an otherwise chanceless innings against the best bowling attack in the world.
Sciver-Brunt and Wyatt’s aggression took the pressure off Beaumont, allowing her to bat in her own style against their counter-attack.
Australia may be in the ascendancy, but Beaumont has etched her name into cricket history with a performance that will live long in the memory of those lucky enough to witness it.
England compete but Australia’s class prevails
Despite Beaumont’s heroics, England were served a harsh reminder of the class of their opposition as Australia’s openers cashed in on a flat pitch.
With just 10 runs separating the sides after one innings, the game was almost perfectly balanced, and a couple of early wickets – or at least a conservative run-rate – could have seen England going into day four with the opportunity to set up victory.
England have committed to playing their attacking brand of cricket so far, but with the new ball the seamers gifted Mooney and Test debutant Litchfield plenty of width to capitalise on and it felt like the game had slipped from their grasp.
Against such formidable opposition England cannot afford to keep gifting so many scoring opportunities.
Once again Heather Knight was forced to turn to her trump card Sophie Ecclestone early, after her 46-over spell in Australia’s first innings, to offer any element of control.
Australia’s bowlers struggled during the day, but faced with England’s tail they pounced – whereas their own lower order added a remarkable 158 from their final four wickets.
And Australia’s batting prowess was exemplified by all-rounder Annabel Sutherland scoring a flawless century from number eight on day two, so England’s task – which was at one point on a relatively flat trajectory – is now firmly uphill.
Australia hold ‘upper hand a little bit’ – what they said
England opener Tammy Beaumont on Test Match Special: “I’m still confident. There’s two days to go and plenty of runs and wickets to be taken. The morning session is key and we will try our best to chase the total.
“We want to get the ball swinging and we just have to club together.”
Australia all-rounder Ash Gardner speaking to TMS: “I’d say we have the upper hand just a little bit. I think in the second innings for the English girls it’s going to be pretty hard to bat on.
“It’s going to be interesting. There is so much time left in the game. We’re thinking small at the moment and not thinking about the result just yet.”
Former England spinner Alex Hartley on TMS: “England have given the momentum to Australia and I’m frustrated for them. They will have to come back better on Sunday.”