Meg Lanning and Rachael Haynes launch Australia fightback as England rue missed chances
Katherine Brunt and Nat Sciver took three wickets apiece, but it could have been much better for England
Australia 327 for 7 (Lanning 93, Haynes 86, Gardner 56, Sciver 3-41) vs England
The Ashes can be retained by Australia with a victory in this match which brings four points in the multi-format series, and they already have a total which will make it a tough road for England - who had opted to bowl - to push for the win, although they were buoyed when McGrath fell to the final ball of the day.
Gardner and McGrath then rebuilt ahead of the second new ball, which England strangely delayed by four overs, thus enabling Gardner to pick off boundaries against debutant offspinner Charlie Dean, before Brunt struck again when she trapped Gardner in front during a lively passage of play.
McGrath reached her maiden Test fifty in the final minutes of the day - thus continuing a spectacular season - when Sophie Dunkley missed a catch at point, a moment that appeared to sum things up for England. However, McGrath could not resist a big drive at what would have been the last delivery of the day's play from Sciver.
Knight had given her attack first use of a well-grassed surface, and the decision was initially rewarded. Brunt provided the opening breakthrough in the third over with a perfect set up of Alyssa Healy, who was drawn into driving at an outswinger which found the outside edge. Anya Shrubsole then did something similar to Beth Mooney, batting at No. 3 just ten days after having surgery on a broken jaw, when she was lured into pushing at a delivery which shaped away outside off stump.
Nat Sciver finished with three wickets on the opening day Getty Images
After being left out of the T20I side, Ellyse Perry quickly settled and rattled off a couple of crisp cut shots when Kate Cross offered too much width, while Haynes took two boundaries off a Brunt over as Australia found a foothold in the session. However, shortly after the drinks break, Sciver cramped Perry for room with a well-directed short ball, as the top-edged pull went toward backward square leg where Amy Jones made good ground to claim her third catch of the session.
Haynes was vital in getting Australia to lunch without further loss while Lanning battled through a tricky start to her innings where she was especially tested by Cross who found her edge before she had scored, but the tough, low chance couldn't be held by Shrubsole at second slip.
Life became somewhat easier after the break, and there was positive intent from both batters - particularly against the spinners - although Ecclestone found enough turn to suggest it could be a factor as the game develops. Haynes, back in the Test side having missed the India match earlier in the season due to injury, went to her fifty from 107 balls after getting her life.
Lanning's half-century arrived off 97 deliveries which was followed a short while later by three consecutive boundaries off Cross as Australia's scoring rate increased. And as ever, her strokeplay between cover and backward point was a highlight.
England also lost two reviews against Lanning. The first was a poor call against an lbw which struck well outside the line of off stump, but the second was much tighter when the ball was very close to taking the wrist band of the glove when Lanning swept at Dean. Although DRS is available in this multi-format series, there is no Hot Spot which would likely have confirmed for certain if any glove was involved.
Given the chances that had gone her way, a century for Lanning felt inevitable but Sciver's outswing brought the error and Knight partly made up for her earlier drop, although the damage had mounted up by then.
Gardner and McGrath prevented further immediate inroads and then took advantage of an older ball. Gardner, who has regained form since a poor WBBL, took on England's short-ball attack and hooked Sciver for a six. Her half-century came up in the first over of the second new ball with a crisp off drive, but chances were also being created by the England bowlers.
The DRS saved McGrath from an lbw when a delivery from Shrubsole was shown to be going over, but Gardner did not get away with hers when Brunt brought one back into the pads. McGrath skipped through the 40s with three boundaries in an over off the expensive Cross and looked set to be there to push Australia toward 400 before the loss in concentration.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo