Rain ruins England’s best efforts to all but wash away hopes of a result

“Really frustrating. We put ourselves in a really nice position and the way we came out just before lunch was exactly what I asked of the girls,” said Knight, when play was finally called off for the day. 

“Anya [Shrubsole] and Katherine [Brunt] were brilliant. Brunt is having a brilliant Test match and the way she bowled, the aggression, the skill and just hunting Australian wickets. To pick up those two wickets felt like we could really break the game open and try and get them out and set up a chase.”

Enough of the sombre mood, however, because just as sure as night follows day, and rain disrupts play, Knight should dispel any lingering dismay. That ninth wicket-stand, in which England’s number three was ably supported by Sophie Ecclestone to her Test best of 34 from 117, not only drew England beyond the follow-on target but brought them to within 68 runs of Australia’s 337. A few silky blows from Kate Cross at number eleven and the idea that we had even been discussing an England follow-on just the afternoon before seemed preposterous by the time England’s innings ended, just 40 runs in arrears.

No woman bar Knight has scored more runs in a Test innings where no other batter has exceeded 35. But even then, it wasn’t a survival job; Knight was here to win and she showed it, her 18 boundaries propelled her mammoth innings to a strike rate which ultimately equalled the percentage of her team’s runs that England’s captain scored: fifty-eight.

This was Knight’s best century in an England shirt. If her 157 back in 2013 announced Knight onto the scene, her unbeaten 168 on Saturday cemented her status as one of the greats. Across the 215 overs bowled in this match so far, Knight has been off the field for just 13 balls, having entered the crease at the loss of England’s first wicket by their third over. That she is not exhausted, as batter, captain and post-match press conference provider, is a feat in itself. Declarations, run rates, bowling options and ultimately Ashes outcomes will all have been swirling around in Knight’s head as she batted. And still she motored on. A run machine, who claimed post-match that she was rusty at the start of her innings but proved by the end that those levers, and cogs, are working better than they’ve ever been.

Who knows what will come tomorrow, and whether the ICC might finally be persuaded that women’s Tests should last five days, this is another tempting, terrific women’s Test. More, please.

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