What do the ICC and the Weather Gods have in common? They all hate women’s Tests! It’s been 9 years since a women’s Test in England saw a full 4 days play – the Women’s Ashes Test at Wormsley in 2013. Since then we’ve had rain at Wormsley (India 2014) Canterbury (Australia 2015), Taunton (Australia 2019), Bristol (India 2021) and now Taunton again!
Having lost more than 50 overs today, and with more rain around tomorrow, England’s hopes of forcing a result in this game looked to be circling the drain until the intervention of Issy Wong in the short final evening session. Wong took 2 wickets to leave the South Africans 55-3 going into the final day – a deficit of 78 runs with 7 wickets in hand.
Crucially, those wickets included the biggest prize in the South African lineup – Laura Wolvaardt – who had looked so solid in defence until confronted by Wong’s variations, which seemed to leave her in a mental muddle, resulting in a half-hearted drive taking a thick edge to Nat Sciver at gully. It was disappointing from South Africa’s premier batter, with the close of play in sight, and leaves South Africa realistically hoping that the weather has a big say in things tomorrow – if we get anything like 2 sessions in, England will expect to bowl them out, possibly even winning by an innings, which really didn’t look likely 48 hours ago after South Africa had posted 284 on the first day.
There will be plenty written about Issy Wong this evening – and rightly so – but one other star, also on Test debut, has been umpire Anna Harris, who has not put a finger wrong in this match. Reviewing her decisions is proving a futile game – when she says it’s out, it stays out! She detected a faint edge which saved Goodall from an LBW in the 4th over; and I’d be willing to bet she also knew that Goodall had got an edge again a few overs later off the bowling of Lauren Bell, but neither Bell nor Amy Jones appealed for the catch behind, and the chance went begging. Harris is still only 23, but already we’re wondering if she is the best umpire in the world; and she is certainly a lesson for those who think you have to have played top level cricket in order to umpire it.
And talking of top-level cricket… we shouldn’t forget Nat Sciver’s renewed contribution this morning.
After a quiet start to see off Kapp, Sciver and Sophie Ecclestone significantly upped the run rate on the way to England’s declaration, going at very-nearly 6-an-over – a good one-day run rate – in the final 10 overs of the innings before Heather Knight called them in. Those extra 20 runs could prove absolutely crucial tomorrow as England chase the game, but the Weather Gods will also be in hot pursuit! Will they be able to save South Africa? I think they’ll have to work hard to thwart England now.