Cricket

Knight delivers one of the great Ashes solos

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Manuka’s one off Ashes Test could be yet derailed by capricious weather, but the game will remain imbedded in cricket history for one of the finest solos of all, says Ken Piesse:

Ashes lore is dominated by the heroic feats of champions from Bradman to Boland. Add another to the list… HC Knight, OBE, England’s thirty one year captain who batted on Friday from eleven o’clock to five thirty in one of the great Ashes solos.

She may not yet save the game, but she restored England’s faltering cricket reputation with a magnificent century against the odds.

The  early blackening skies and ominous rumble of thunder was as threatening as Australia’s rapid new ball assault headed by Darcie Brown and Elysse Perry.

Manuka’s lights were shining brightly well before 11 o’clock when Knight entered after an early wicket. Like her Australian counterpart Meg Lanning on Thursday she was uncertain early before blossoming and playing faultlessly for most of the afternoon.

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Wickets tumbled around her but she still remain imperturbable, in total control, until her nineties when she offered a half chance back to Jess Jonassen which ballooned safely to mid on.

Until the final hour, it seemed Australia could enforce the follow on, but Knight and Sophie Ecclestone feasted on a tiring attack, and registered England’s highest stand of the day… sixty six.

Not even the late finish and the taking of the second new ball could upset the pair. Knight had been cool and controlled all day, playing faultlessly straight.  Only twice did she veer outside the traditional MCC textbooks. To Ash Gardner’s second ball she lifted  a six over cow corner and then played a delicious reverse sweep to the unguarded third man boundary.

The English girls hugged both Knight and Ecclestone as they reached the boundary line, having taken England’s score from 8-169 to 8-238 at the close.

It was a remarkable  effort by Knight who is diminutive of stature and huge in heart.

Her effort overshadowed even the career best bowling of young Aussie Annette Sutherland, who revelled in her senior pace role, having been preferred to the more experienced Megan Schutt.

Sutherland produced a searing off cutter, the best ball of the day, to dismiss in form Nat Sciver and she was also part of the dismissal the day when the athletic Brown threw her self back with the flight of the ball to take an outfield catch Mark Waugh would have been proud of.

Knight was just 13 at lunch before accelerating on a placid Manuka wicket.

Sutherland was the best of Australia’s bowlers, alongside Its champion Perry and the debuting leg spinner Alana King from the Victorian bush who delivered 23 economical overs of her sliding, quickish wrist spinners.

With a lead of 102 Australia maintain the high ground, but weekend rain delays seem certain, making Lanning’s decision to bat on for half an hour on the second morning particularly mystifying.

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Author: Ken Piesse

KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. He has written, edited and published more than 70 sports books. His latest book, Favourite Cricket Yarns, is available from www.cricketbooks.com.au

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