A miraculous return catch from star allrounder Ellyse Perry and a late-night collapse has handed Australia the ascendency at the close of day one in the historic Women’s Ashes Test at North Sydney Oval.
At stumps, England were a 7-235 having won the toss and elected to bat, with tailenders Fran Wilson (11 off 38) and Anya Shrubsole (0 off 15) unbeaten at the crease.
England looked in control with Sarah Taylor and Georgia Elwiss well set at 4-214 in the final session before Perry removed both batters in the space of nine balls.
After removing Elwiss for a determined 27 from 95 balls, Perry dismissed the dangerous Taylor with an incredible reflex catch. Despite being early on the shot, Taylor firmly struck ball back at the bowler, which bounced from outstretched hand to opposite shoulder before being reeled in.
The shock of the catch put Perry in stitches, the 26-year-old unable to stop laughing for the remainder of the over and the next 15 minutes.
The Perry double-strike was followed by the dismissal of Katherine Brunt to Tahlia McGrath, one of three debutantes for Australia, to give the hosts the upper hand after day one in the first-ever day-night Commonwealth Bank Women’s Ashes Test.
When asked what it was like to be playing Test cricket again, Perry said after play: "Amazing, for so many reasons.
"Obviously, Test matches are incredibly special for us and we love playing for them.
"But to come out on a North Sydney Oval that looked like it did today and to see the people that rolled in and the atmosphere it created, I think it’s a monumental step forward for women’s cricket.
"And I think a huge amount of kudos goes to Cricket Australia for creating what they have today.
"Hopefully the next three days are more of the same but I thought it was huge highlight of my career."
Five players were handed debuts an hour before play on the opening afternoon. Beth Mooney, Amanda Wellington and McGrath were given the nod for Australia, while for England Sophie Ecclestone and Fran Wilson received maiden caps.
The first hour of an Ashes series is often dubbed 'crucial' and in Sydney the opening 60 minutes was dominated by Australia’s frugal new-ball attack and England’s dour batting.
The pink-ball hooped in for Megan Schutt and swung away for Ellyse Perry but neither bowler could conjure a wicket as England openers Lauren Winfield and Beaumont bunkered down to be 0-10 after 10 overs before reaching drinks at 0-23.
The session needed a spark and Nicole Bolton provided it at short cover.
Winfield, stagnant on four from 55 deliveries, slapped a wide half-volley from McGrath to Bolton, who at full stretch reeled in the catch centimetres off the hard wicket square.
McGrath’s breakthrough brought skipper Heather Knight to the crease and an increase in intensity and urgency in England’s batting.
Beaumont, who had been defending first and attacking second, began lap-sweeping Australia's spin twins Wellington and Jonassen, while Knight took the attack to the leg-spinner.
Wellington’s first over went for 10 runs, three runs more than Schutt’s opening eight-over spell conceded.
In contrast to how they approached the opening stanza of the first session, England’s batters were aggressive after tea by rotating the strike and picking off boundaries.
Knight and Beaumont looked at ease against Australia’s five specialist bowlers before Wellington produced the delivery of the day to remove the opener.
The South Australian produced a perfect leg-break that would have made the legendary Shane Warne proud; after scrambling to keep Beaumont (70) on strike, Wellington drew the right-hander forward and found an outside edge through to the safe hands of veteran Alex Blackwell at first slip.
Seven overs later Australia struck again when left-arm orthodox spinner Jess Jonassen trapped Knight lbw for 62. Knight threw her head back when saw the dreaded index finger from the umpire, but former England skipper Charlotte Edwards said on Cricket Network's live stream she was confident the delivery would have clipped leg stump.
The double breakthrough saved the session for the hosts after Knight and Beaumont had put on 104 for the second wicket.
Jonassen struck a telling blow three overs before the second new ball was available when she had Nat Sciver lbw for 18, with Edwards this time noting Sciver "might be unlucky there" after replays indicated the ball might have been sliding down leg.
The second new ball was immediately taken by Haynes but instead of bringing wickets boundaries flowed.
Taylor hit four boundaries in her 50-ball stay before Perry’s reflex grab brought her undoing as England lost 3-13 in a telling final session collapse.
"It’s been a good contest of a day," Beaumont said after play.
"Dinner time we were in a really good position, and Australia fought back well in that last session.
"But I think it’s quite evenly poised. Winning the toss and batting was a good decision on that wicket, it’s getting slower and lower already, so as it goes on hopefully looking into the fourth innings that’ll be good for us.
"It’s evenly poised, we’ve got three wickets left, and a couple of good girls at the crease at the minute.
"Hopefully we can get a few more runs in the (afternoon) tomorrow and start well with the ball."
Australia XI: Beth Mooney, Nicole Bolton, Alex Blackwell, Ellyse Perry, Elyse Villani, Rachael Haynes (c), Alyssa Healy (wk), Tahlia McGrath, Jess Jonassen, Amanda-Jade Wellington, Megan Schutt
England XI: Lauren Winfield, Tammy Beaumont, Heather Knight (c), Georgia Elwiss, Nat Sciver, Sarah Taylor (wk), Katherine Brunt, Anya Shrubsole, Laura Marsh, Sophie Ecclestone, Fran Wilson
Commonwealth Bank Women's Ashes
Australia lead England 4-2
Australia squad (ODI and Test): Rachael Haynes (C), Alex Blackwell (VC), Kristen Beams, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa (Test only), Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.
England squad: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.
First ODI Australia won by two wickets
Second ODI Australia won by 75 runs (DLS method)
Third ODI England won by 20 runs (DLS method)
Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, November 9-12
First T20 North Sydney Oval, November 17
North Sydney Charity Partner: McGrath Foundation
Second T20 Manuka Oval, November 19
Third T20 Manuka Oval, November 21
Canberra Charity Partner: Lord's Taverners ACT