Stubborn Knight scores superb ton as England claw back ground in Ashes Test

England captain Heather Knight dragged her team back from the brink with a fighting century at Manuka Oval. Picture: Getty
England captain Heather Knight dragged her team back from the brink with a fighting century at Manuka Oval. Picture: Getty

Defiant England captain Heather Knight notched a combative century on Friday at Manuka Oval, dragging her side past the dreaded follow to keep the visitors clinging grimly to Ashes survival.

Knight pushed one through cover in the final session to bring up her second Test ton, and bore a steely look as she punched the air with her bat in celebration before it was straight back to business with Sophie Ecclestone (27 not out).

The pair strode from the field at stumps with England at 8-235, harbouring an unbroken ninth-wicket partnership of 66 with Knight on 127 not out - the highest Test score in Australia by an Englishwoman.

Canberra has long held a special place in Knight's lion heart. She's batted here 10 times, after playing nine T20 internationals at the picturesque venue, and now scored two hundreds to go with four half centuries.

Her last six innings at the ground read 51, 78, 108 not out, 62 and now 127 not out.

And this was by far her most crucial. The 31-year-old was the only English pillar of resistance for most of the day, until she was joined by Ecclestone late on to blunt Australia's stranglehold on the match.

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Vetern Katherine Brunt said it was one of the finest innings she'd ever witnessed.

"She is resilient as ever, she's got a lot of fighting spirit, she's 100 per cent a leader, if you want to lead by example that's how you do it," Brunt said.

"I've been around a long time now and seen many great hundreds, and that does fare top three I would say. Not one person has scored a significant score so she's taken the whole world on her shoulders and dug extremely deep to put a score on the board.

"In terms of importance, top three too."

Australia had declared early in the day at 9-337, and Knight came to the crease with the score at just 1-6, after Darcie Brown celebrated her naming as the Betty Wilson young cricketer of the year with her maiden Test wicket of Lauren Winfield-Hill.

Katherine Brunt took five wickets for England before Australia declared at 9-337. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Katherine Brunt took five wickets for England before Australia declared at 9-337. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

A steady procession of English batters came and went with Ellyse Perry and Annabel Sutherland both taking two wickets apiece, but Knight was unmoved at the other end.

"She's led exceptionally well from the front and that was a really classy, really gritty innings from the English captain and you'd probably expect no less from Heather," Perry said.

"It would've been lovely to get her out but a lot of kudos to Heather, the way she played today was very important for her team."

It was almost a chanceless knock, barring a sharp caught-and-bowled opportunity afforded to Jess Jonassen when the captain was on 93. Were the left-arm tweaker six inches taller, she might have reeled in a brilliant catch.

Knight's unwavering persistence paid off in the 77th over, when she peeled off two more runs which meant England avoided the follow on.

In a match England can't afford to lose as they attempt to pry these Ashes back from Australia, it was a potentially monumental moment.

Take Knight out of the equation and Australia completely dominated day two, save for the last hour of play.

Wickets were spread and their industry in the field paid dividends.

Brown took a marvelous catch running backwards off the bowling of Sutherland to dismiss wicketkeeper Amy Jones, who finished with six catches herself during the Australian innings.

Beth Mooney then epitomised the Australian effort, sprinting after a ball and diving to the ground to save a boundary with no thought to the jaw surgery she underwent last week.

Debutant Alana King is mobbed by teammates after claiming her first Test wicket. Picture: Getty

Debutant Alana King is mobbed by teammates after claiming her first Test wicket. Picture: Getty

But the highlight for Australian selectors was debutant Alana King and her probing leg spin which netted a maiden Test wicket.

Brunt was struck on the back pad, and given out LBW. She called upon DRS, which only confirmed her exit for just one run to go with the superb 5-60 she took in Australia's first innings.

This story Stubborn Knight scores superb ton as England claw back ground in Ashes Test first appeared on The Canberra Times.