|Women’s Ashes, one-off Test, Manuka Oval (day four of four)|
|Australia 337-9 dec & 216-7 dec Mooney 63; Brunt 3-24|
|England 297 & 245-9 Sciver 58, Knight 48, Dunkley 45; Sutherland 3-69|
|Match draw (Australia lead series 6-4)|
England and Australia drew the one-off Women’s Ashes Test in Canberra in one of the most incredible finales cricket has seen.
Chasing a record 257, England were on course for a stunning win and required 45 runs from 60 balls with seven wickets left.
But as the tension grew to a crescendo, England lost six wickets for just 26 runs, Australia fighting back to close in on a win that would have seen them retain the Ashes.
When two wickets fell with three overs to go, England suddenly switched to survival mode in an attempt to keep the series alive.
Number 11 Kate Cross faced 12 balls at the end, blocking out the final over, as England fell 12 runs short of their target but at least ensured the four points on offer for the Test were shared.
The finish was only possible because Australia declared on 216-7 half an hour before tea, leaving England 48 overs to reach their target.
The result leaves Australia leading 6-4 in the multi-format points-based series. They will only have to win one of the three one-day internationals that follow to retain the Ashes.
The first ODI begins at 03:10 GMT on Thursday, also at Manuka Oval.
Canberra witnesses one of cricket’s greatest finishes
At the end, incredibly, both sets of players will probably have left the field feeling disappointed. Both could have won a game that beggared belief.
Had England been victorious it would have been the highest successful chase in women’s Tests – and they began by making a hugely difficult task look relatively straightforward.
But all-rounder Nat Sciver pulled to square leg for 58 and as the pressure swung – England now feeling the heat of being favourites – so did the momentum.
Australia had resorted to defensive bowling and field-placings but suddenly a world-class team sensed their moment.
Beth Mooney, playing with metal plates in her jaw after breaking the bone two weeks ago, pulled off a stunning diving catch at long-on to dismiss Sophia Dunkley, who had taken England to within 24 runs of their target by smashing 45 from 32 balls.
Debutant leg-spinner Alana King and seamer Annabel Sutherland, playing her second Test, capitalised as panic struck in the England camp, a desperate run-out of Anya Shrubsole adding to the incredible drama.
Until that point England had still been going for the win but with 14 balls remaining, Cross came out with only defence in mind and faced 12 of 13 balls in a last-wicket partnership with Sophie Ecclestone.
Surrounded by catchers, Cross somehow kept her cool to navigate the final over bowled by King to ensure the series goes on one more game at least, although England may well regret the failure to win.
Australia recently went on a 26-match winning run in 50-over matches and now Heather Knight’s side will probably have to beat them three times in a row to win the Ashes.
How the conclusion unfolded
- 38 overs: With 10 overs to go England are 212-3, requiring a further 45 for the win. Sophia Dunkley has come out and smashed back-to-back sixes while Nat Sciver has 52 not out.
- 40.3 overs: Sciver hits a pull straight to square leg off Annabel Sutherland – 39 runs are needed from 43 balls.
- 42.2 overs: Sutherland and Alana King squeeze the scoring before Amy Jones clubs to deep mid-wicket for four. England require 33 runs from 34 balls.
- 43.2 overs: England’s hopes suffer a big blow as 23-year-old Dunkley is brilliantly caught by Beth Mooney at long-on for a 32-ball 45. England need 24 from 28 balls while Australia only require four wickets to win.
- 44.1 overs: Katherine Brunt top-edges a pull off Sutherland – 21 from 24 balls is the still very gettable requirement for England, but they now have only three wickets left.
- 45.4 overs: England need 13 from 15 balls but Anya Shrubsole is run out inches short at the non-striker’s end trying to steal a single.
- 45.5 overs: The very next ball Charlie Dean top-edges a sweep and is caught for three bringing number 11 Kate Cross to the crease.
- 47 overs: Cross sees off seven consecutive deliveries to take the game to the final over. England require 12. Australia need one wicket.
- 48 overs: Cross defends the final ball, a full toss from King, and an incredible Test is drawn.
What else happened on final day?
Credit must go to Australia captain Meg Lanning for her declaration, which dangled the possibility of a win in front of England and ensured they took on the victory challenge.
England began their chase steadily, with openers Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield-Hill putting on 52 before falling for 36 and 33 respectively, Beaumont the aggressor in the partnership.
Knight and Sciver provided the meat of the chase, putting on 72 from 70 balls and keeping the required run-rate in check at all times.
A crucial moment was the loss of Knight who, having made 168 not out in the first innings, was out lbw to a ball from 18-year-old seamer Darcie Brown that nipped back. Even after her dismissal England continued to chase a win but her calm head was missed.
Australia began the day 12-2, leading by 52, and England had hopes of dismissing their hosts and giving themselves a smaller target.
They were held up by regular contributions from the Australia batting order, however – Mooney top-scoring with 63 – and were not helped by two drops and a missed stumping by wicketkeeper Jones, including Mooney when on 40.
Ultimately, though, what will be remembered is the gripping final hour. It resulted in a fifth consecutive drawn women’s Test, potentially strengthening calls for such matches to be played over five days not four.
None of those previous draws were as exciting as this, however.
‘Opportunity missed’ – reaction
Australia captain Meg Lanning: “All the emotions. We declared, we didn’t think it was enough to bowl them out but that was our aim. They batted extremely well and it was hard to stop them scoring.
“I did go through the thoughts that we were done. They were doing it easy and there didn’t look like any way through.
“To be able to fight back as a group and nearly flip it on its head was pretty amazing.”
England captain Heather Knight: “Opportunity missed is the overriding feeling. We were in such a great position. The way we went for the game made me really proud. I am just frustrated.
“It has been an amazing Test. We stood toe-to-toe with the Aussies throughout the game. What a win it would have been.”