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Heather Knight's innings is among 'top three' performances, says Katherine Brunt

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Knight's century against Australia one of the best I've seen - Brunt (0:57)

Katherine Brunt praises Heather Knight after the England captain finishes day two with an unbeaten 127. (0:57)

Heather Knight's battling century in the Ashes Test in Canberra ranks among the "top three" performances in women's cricket, according to her longest-serving team-mate Katherine Brunt, whose own five-wicket haul helped to keep England in contention after two days of a keenly fought contest.

By the close of the second day, Knight's unbeaten 127 had rescued England from the prospect of the follow-on, after they had at one stage slumped to 169 for 8 in reply to Australia's 337 for 9 declared. But with Sophie Ecclestone providing stout support with an unbeaten 27, England reduced the arrears to 102 with the prospect of further runs when play resumes on Saturday.

It was Knight's second Test century, after a matchsaving 157, also against Australia at Wormsley in 2013, but Brunt - who has been critical of the quality of pitches used for women's Tests - had no doubts that this was the superior knock, after withstanding a varied Australia attack on a surface offering turn for the spinners and carry for the quicks.

"It was massive, beyond a shadow of a doubt," Brunt said, of an innings that spanned 249 balls, and was 100 runs more than England's next highest scorer. "She's resilient as ever, showing fighting spirit, and she's 100% a leader. You want to lead by example, and that's how you do it. I don't know how she does it personally, but if she could teach me how, that'd be lovely.

"There was a bit more in this [pitch]," Brunt added, compared to the Wormsley match in which 23 wickets fell across the four days. "Both were equally brilliant, both really tough situations. But that's what she's made for. And none of us thought that she would go out there and not do it. We all believe that she can do it - she does, Australia do. She's at that level [now], but unfortunately no-one could back her up which is the sad thing about it.

"I've been around a long time now, and seen some brilliant hundreds in World Cup cricket and a hundred here by Danni Wyatt in in a T20 [in the 2017-18 Ashes], but that [was in the] top three. Not one person has scored a significant score so she has taken the whole world on her shoulders and dug extremely deep to put a score on the board."

Earlier, Brunt did her utmost to keep England afloat, claiming her third Test five-for, and her first since 2009. She picked off both of the Australia wickets to fall on the second morning, prior to Meg Lanning's declaration, including an outstanding delivery to pick off the top of Annabel Sutherland's off stump.

"It's been a while," Brunt said. "I think someone said maybe 16 years [sic], which is absolutely ridiculous, but we don't often get to play on wickets that have a little bit of something in it for the bowlers. So I'm just really happy that the conditions suit.

"No-one wants to play on a pitch where you don't get a result," Brunt added. "No-results are just sad, you always want it to go one way or the other. A result means an exciting game of Test cricket and, with it being viewed on air, we want to be able to showcase our skills bat and ball, not just the bat. It's a breath of fresh air to have something to get excited about and be happy to run in on."

England's position could have been stronger but for a mixed display in the field. Knight dropped Lanning on 14 before lunch on the first day, while Nat Sciver reprieved Rachael Haynes off Brunt's bowling, allowing Haynes to recover and post a key innings of 86.

"I can't scream at my fiancée, can I?" Brunt said of Sciver's spill. "Screaming and shouting gets you nowhere, I've found that over the years. It only makes people feel worse, then they are stressing about the next one coming. It's heart-wrenching, but everyone's trying their best. I'm really fiery and passionate and want the best, but stuff like that happens, so you can't let it destroy you."

Addressing the match situation, Brunt insisted that England "can win from anywhere" - and they need to as well, with Australia leading the series 4-2 on points after a win and two washouts in the T20Is.

"Had we taken our opportunities, they might be 100 less on the board and we'd be sitting in a really good position. But we've been clawing that back since, and the fight that we're showing should be an example of what it means to us, and what we're trying to achieve in this Test."