Sophie Ecclestone: England still believe they can win Ashes Test
England took to the field on the penultimate day at Trent Bridge with a telling-off from head coach Jon Lewis still ringing in their ears after Australia had racked up 82 in 19 overs late on Saturday.
But Ecclestone showed why she is widely regarded as the world’s best women’s spinner with another five-wicket haul to finish with 10 for the match as Australia collapsed from 149 for one to 257 all out.
England’s openers put on 55 in their pursuit of 268 to draw first blood in this multi-format series but Ashleigh Gardner snared Tammy Beaumont, Nat Sciver-Brunt and Heather Knight as the hosts wobbled.
They closed on 116 for five and need another 152 but their fightback with the ball has convinced Ecclestone the Test remains in the balance.
“We’ll always believe in that dressing room,” she said. “We’re definitely going into it ready to win that Test match. I’m absolutely backing our team to do that.
“We’d have bitten your hand off for this situation (on Saturday) after our disappointment. We had a bit of a rocket so we had to go at them early, put a lot of pressure on them, put it all back on them.
“We definitely showed that. I’m really proud of this team. We’re just going to go away and we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to win the Test match.”
Ecclestone was selected as England’s lone frontline spinner and has been one of the Test’s standout performers with remarkable figures of 77.1-16-192-10 on a pitch that is becoming increasingly tired.
The odd delivery has kept low while Gardner extracted prodigious turn to trap Knight on the crease late on in Sunday’s evening session. Gardner is one of three Australia spinners although Alana King did not bowl in England’s second innings after sustaining a painful blow to her elbow when batting.
While Ecclestone conceded she did not anticipate bowling as many overs as she has, she is appreciative of doing so after becoming just the fourth English woman to take a 10-wicket match haul.
“I’m absolutely buzzing,” she said. “There’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of overs put in up until this point. I really wanted a five-for and to get two I’m absolutely made up.
“I knew I was going to bowl a lot of overs, I didn’t think it would be this many but I’m grateful that I was bowling a lot as I’ve come out with 10 wickets and I’m made up with that.”
As for how she prepared for the enormous workload she took on, Ecclestone said: “Not much, just made sure I played as much golf as I could to get out and about and take my mind off cricket.
“I think you can’t really prepare for that, you’ve just got to go with it and be tough in the mind.”
Ecclestone was similarly phlegmatic when asked to explain England losing four wickets in 29 deliveries before Test debutant Danni Wyatt and nightwatcher Kate Cross got them to stumps.
“It just shows that Test cricket changes so fast,” she added. “Dan and Crossy played really well to get us through to the end of the day. We’ll have to come back and put them back under pressure.”
Half-centuries from Beth Mooney, out for 85, and captain Alyssa Healy, who ended a run of three Test ducks in a row with a crucial 50 after demoting herself to number eight, buttressed Australia’s total.
That they are in pole position to claim a first Ashes Test win since 2015 – there have been three successive draws – owes much to extending this contest from the customary four days into a fifth.
The notion was proposed by the England and Wales Cricket Board and accepted by Cricket Australia last year, and there is a prospect of a thrilling finish – with four points available for a win.
“This is a sign of why it’s important,” Mooney said. “At a really critical point it would be a real shame if it just petered out (into a draw), so credit to the ECB.”