Adam Collins sees the best all-rounder in the world Ellyse Perry finally deliver her defining moment.
Ellyse Perry: 213* (374b, 27x4s, 1×6), Only Test v England, North Sydney Oval, 9-12 November
A long time coming, but wholly inevitable. Ellyse Perry had been building to this – an unbeaten Test double hundred – for four years. Back then, she was the attack leader who could be trusted with the bat but still came in where bowlers do. Now, she’s indisputably the best all-rounder in the world.
The transition, capped with this magnificent Ashes double, was as profound as any of her vast athletic achievements. After the 2013 World Cup – where she won the final on a broken ankle – Perry moved into the top six, settling at No.4. Since then she scored 27 international half- centuries but could never quite crack three figures, routinely not out just shy of the landmark.
But what made this innings so meaningful, beyond the individual achievement, were the circumstances. In multi- format Women’s Ashes contests, Tests count for double points. When England picked up both of Australia’s openers to get Perry to the crease earlier than ideal, then grabbed a further two wickets shortly thereafter, the home side were in strife.
Three-hundred and seventy- four meticulously played deliveries later, Australia led by 168 and Perry had guaranteed the tourists would be getting nowhere near the precious four points. In the final wash-up of the 8-8 series result, Perry’s hand had essentially retained the Ashes.
The innings was as good as faultless, CricViz calculating that Perry played only three false strokes. Consider that another way: three false strokes in 472 minutes in the accumulation of 213 unbeaten runs. Perfection rarely comes in cricket, but this was as close as it gets.
Perry has all the one-day shots but tucked them safely away in favour of relentless crisp cuts and checked cover-drives. Her footwork and placement had lovers of long-form cricket purring.
The only time the long-handle was called for came when Perry was 193 at the fall of the ninth wicket. Given how few Tests women play, she wasn’t missing out on a double century. Appropriately, though, she reached the historic mark with a grand straight drive.
England’s magnanimous coach Mark Robinson put it best, describing Perry’s innings as a “landmark day” for women’s cricket akin to the sold-out World Cup final in July. “Watching her relentlessly go on in her quest for excellence was something special,” he said. “It reminded me of that day at Lord’s.”
The postscript of Perry’s excellence was a spirited debate about the future of women’s Tests. Some, including Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland, would like to see them reserved as Ashes standalone fixtures only. But that is now far from the consensus. Perry has been changing the women’s game for years. It was only a matter of time before she shifted the conversation around it as well.