Meg Lanning and Australia have dangled a carrot in front of England and set them a target of 257 from 48 overs to win the Ashes Test.
With the match threatening to spiral into a dull draw, Ashleigh Gardner thumped a run-a-ball-38 after lunch on the final day to allow Australia to declare at 7-216.
Tahlia McGrath hit 34 and Jess Jonassen 14no from six balls, as the hosts made a clear point to set up a shot at a result in Canberra after rain on Saturday threatened to ruin the four-day Test.
If England were to pull off the chase it would be the biggest fourth-innings effort in the history of women’s Tests, with the previous best being 198.
But given the situation of the series, it’s likely that England will at least be interested in the asking rate of 5.35 per over.
A win for England means they need to win two of the three upcoming ODIs to regain the Ashes, while a drawn Test would mean they have to win all three.
Courage at the crease
However, if Australia were to roll through the tourists on the final afternoon and win the Test, they would immediately retain the Ashes.
Gardner and McGrath’s 48-run partnership came after Beth Mooney (63) and Ellyse Perry (41) laid the foundation from them to launch after Australia started the day at 2-12.
Mooney’s half-century came just 12 days after jaw surgery and while still only able to eat soup, ice creams, shakes and scrambled eggs.
Both Mooney and Perry, who had put on a brilliant display of driving both down the ground and through the covers, fell lbw just before lunch on Sunday.
Meg Lanning (12) was caught off the bowling of Katherine Brunt (3-24), before Gardner made the call to take the game on and go after England’s bowlers.
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