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Meg Lanning declared at the dinner break to see if India will want to set a target

Dinner Australia 241 for 9 dec (Perry 68*, Gardner 51, Vastrakar 3-49) trail India 377 for 9 dec by 136 runs

Ellyse Perry’s charmed life continued on the opening session of the final day of the day-night Test in Carrara as she became the first Australian woman to score four straight Test fifties. Following on her epochal 213* in her previous appearance in a pink-ball fixture, Perry struck an unbeaten 203-ball 68, helping the hosts weather a scintillating swing-bowling burst with the second new ball and escorted them past the follow-on score of 228. A collapse of 5 for 32, including the fall of the ninth wicket shortly before dinner break, saw Meg Lanning declare on 241 for 9, with Australia still 136 behind.

Dropped on 58 and 61 on day four, having survived on 2 and 8 during a nervy session under lights the previous night, Perry’s Test average, by the onset of the interval, had soared to 86.50, the best ever in women’s Tests for a player to have batted at least 10 innings thanks to her knocks of 213*, 116, 76* and 68* in her last four outings in whites. She built on her overnight score of 27 with an attacking approach from as early as the first ball of the session, even in the face of Jhulan Goswami’s mostly flawless charge in the corridor of uncertainty.

Facing an overnight deficit of 83 to avoid follow on, Perry found able support in Ashleigh Gardner, who was dropped on 20 by a diving Pooja Vastrakar at gully off Rajeshwari Gayakwad. The left-arm spinner had had three previous chances shelled in the series, and remained wicketless across three innings.

India had a few other early chances, too, but none that would deter Perry or Gardner from punishing anything short and wide that came their way. In a commanding display of back-foot strokeplay, bejewelled with an assortment of cuts, the duo steered Australia from their overnight 143 for 4 to 208, before Gardner fell.

Such was the pair’s prowess that to intercept the cut, India inserted Punam Raut in the close-in position between gully and silly point in the 18th over of the day. Gardner, in response, whipped Gayakwad past short midwicket for two runs that brought her a maiden Test fifty. She would, however, last just another six balls. Driving a loopy offbreak uppishly to mid-off, Gardner perished off Deepti Sharma, Mithali Raj taking a good low catch to break the 173-ball fifth-wicket 89 stand.

India took the new ball after the 80-over mark, and their three-pronged pace attack found their day-two mojo back soon, moving the ball both ways off the seam. The scoreboard could have read 219 for 8 had Deepti not shelled a sharp chance off Meghna Singh at gully when Perry was on 58. The debutant, having taken her maiden Test wicket with a peach of an outswinger to Annabel Sutherland, wouldn’t long be away from a second wicket, though. She nipped back the next ball into the left-hander Sophie Molineux and had her trapped in front.

Vatsrakar then took out Georgia Wareham before No. 9 Darcie Brown’s first scoring shot in Tests, a four through extra cover, took Australia to 228 and past the follow-on mark. An arm-ball from Deepti in a tempting bouquet of variations, however, caught Brown lbw four balls before dinner, with signs of a potential declaration scarcely on view at the time from the Australian dugout. That changed, though, after Stella Campbell faced her first delivery in Test cricket, Perry having taken a run earlier in that Vastrakar over to leave Australia’s No. 11 exposed.

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha

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