World Twenty20: Semi-Final Preview (New Zealand v West Indies)

James Piechowski previews the second WWT20 semi-final, taking place later today between New Zealand and West Indies.

Venue: Mumbai

Coverage: Sky TV, BBC Radio TMS

Prediction: New Zealand

West Indies have batted first in every game so far, and have become experts at defending their total. New Zealand should therefore look to bat first, or otherwise take early wickets then aim to get off to a flyer in response. They have the players to be able to take the game away from WI, and quickly. The start of each innings will be crucial for both teams, as WI will need to get ahead of the game early on to take NZ out of their comfort zone. Getting 3 wickets as early as possible will expose NZ’s so far untested lower middle order.

Many may expect this match to be straightforward for NZ, but I’m not so sure it will be. WI are better prepared for the cauldron of pressure that tends to build in the latter stages of knock-out tournaments; their batting has a solid foundation, and their death bowling is tight. I think NZ will win, but it will be close. NZ can be beaten, though, and if anyone can do it, it’s one of the three remaining semi-finalists.

Pitch/scores: This will be the first women’s fixture played at Mumbai in the tournament. But based on the men’s games played there, it is an absolute belter – which will suit New Zealand’s big hitting ability nicely. Expect a score of 150 plus from them if batting first or unless WI perform very well. But if Bates, Devine & Co. really get going, who knows what may be possible. The sky is the limit, as they say. The amazing form NZ have been in enables them to drive progress in the women’s game, and set new records, and new standards for the rest to match. Let’s hope they challenge themselves to this new level and give us another memorable contest.

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WWT20: England “Do An England”

So it turns out that tonking Pakistan, as they embarked upon a heroically reckless Charge of the Light Brigade into The Valley of Net Run Rate, possibly wasn’t an indication that England had turned overnight into world-beaters.

Or even Australia-beaters.

In fact, there is a term for what England did today: it’s called “Doing an England!”

They didn’t bowl particularly well, but they weren’t awful either – Australia got off to a solid start, but it wasn’t a flyer. Down the innings, England took wickets – brilliantly in the case of the run-outs of Lanning and Blackwell – and pegged-back a total which at one stage looked set for something closer to 160.

Then they started batting.

Charlotte Edwards was taking some stick on Twitter for not running the twos; but in fact Tammy Beaumont was the one who wasn’t playing her role up-top – a Strike Rate of 80 just isn’t good enough when you need to chase at well over 100, and she faced far too many dot balls.

And although it is true that England were actually ahead of Australia at the half-way stage, you can live with that if  your middle order is Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry and Alex Blackwell.

England’s isn’t!

This left Katherine Brunt with a mountain to climb at the end, and though she did her damndest and actually gave the final margin of defeat a bit of respectability, it wasn’t to be. England had “Done an England”… as only England can!

 

World Twenty20: Semi-Final Preview (England v Australia)

James Piechowski previews the first WWT20 semi-final, taking place later today between England and Australia.

Venue: Delhi

Coverage: Sky TV, BBC Radio TMS

Prediction: Australia

The most famous rivalry in international cricket resumes, this time at the semi final stage of the WWT20. Both sides have recorded recent victories over each other, and appear to be about equally matched. Australia will have the psychological edge, holding the Ashes trophy and having beaten England in the 2014 and 2012 WWT20 finals. On the other hand, England will be keen for some payback. Both sides know each other so well, and it may come down to who can hold their nerve best under pressure.

England will be looking to continue their positive batting approach in the powerplay, but avoid the regular loss of wickets afterwards that can reduce their final total. Anything could happen in this game, but needless to say the wickets of Edwards and Lanning will be vital to either side’s chances. England do have the resources, on paper, to progress ito the final. With Edwards, Taylor, Knight, and a resurgent Tammy Beaumont, they have plenty to offer with the bat; and Brunt and Shrubsole are probably the world’s premier opening bowling pairing when on song.

It’s debatable whether England would have rather faced New Zealand instead – although they have less psychological baggage to deal with in that case, NZ are in better form.  Australia will be keen to avoid too many early losses, as the NZ game showed they can struggle to post a defendable total with 3 or 4 cheap wickets down. The game is bound to be incredibly tight, and it’s hard to pick a winner. England appear to be in better form with a string of wins under their belt, and they also were challenged during qualification. History has a funny way of repeating itself, though. They will have to dig deep, but it would not surprise me at all if Australia are able to find the resources to pull off a memorable win.

Pitch/scores: The pitch has played quite well so far in the competition and looks set for scores of 130 plus. This is good news for both sides, as well as for observers, and should result in a higher scoring and more exciting game than some of the low 100s pitches we have seen.

NEWS: Sussex Sign England’s Wyatt

Sussex have announced the signing of England’s Danni Wyatt from Nottinghamshire, following the Outlaws’ relegation to Division 2 of the Women’s County Championship.

The 24-year-old Wyatt began her career at Staffordshire, making her senior debut in 2005 alongside Georgia Elwiss, scoring 4 centuries and taking 65 wickets for the county prior to her move to Notts in 2013.

At Notts between 2013 and 2015 she added another 5 centuries to her tally and also took 37 wickets, despite being forced by injury to remodel her bowling action during that period. In 2014 she helped Notts to victory in the T20 Cup, smashing a crucial 41 off 19 balls against Middlesex, as Notts edged-out their finals-day rivals on Net Run Rate.

However, the following season ended somewhat less happily, with Notts perhaps somewhat unluckily relegated from Division 1 of the County Championship on bonus points, despite winning 3 from 8, as 4 sides finished with the same number of wins.

An exodus of their England stars was therefore to be expected, with the players looking to ensure competitive cricket in the light of the vast gulf between Divisions 1 and 2 of the County Championship.

The signing is a major boost for Sussex, who have essentially opted to largely sit-out of Super League and focus their efforts on the county game, bringing the women’s performance squad directly into the men’s county “club” structure for the first time this season. (Most women’s county teams sit under their amateur county “boards” rather than the professional “clubs” which participate in the elite men’s competitions.)

World Twenty20 Super 10s Review: Group B

James Piechowski takes a look at the group stages of the WWT20, and assesses how each of the top 8 ranked nations fared…

Group B: England find their A-game at last;  Keen defence is key to West Indies progression

Final Qualifying Table

Position Team Won Lost Net Run Rate Points
1 England (Q) 4 0 +1.417 8
2 West Indies (Q) 3 1 +0.688 6
3 Pakistan 2 2 -0.673 4
4 India 1 3 +0.790 2
5 Bangladesh 0 4 -2.306 0

Q = Qualified for semi-final stage

England failed to display a complete performance until their final game. In fact, their opening trio of fixtures were characterised by a solid first half to the match, followed by a somewhat sloppy and disappointing second half. In the first game, after posting 153 they allowed Bangladesh to achieve their highest T20I score of 117, probably 20 too many. And then the chases of relatively low scores against India (91) and West Indies (109) were marred by worrying middle order collapses, which in each case saw England barely scrape home, almost snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

England will need to be more consistent throughout a match if they are to progress further. They will also need to bat appropriately to the situation. Chasing a small target does not mean every batter needs to take the same risks. Instead, the focus should be on fulfilling the player’s clearly defined roles, and building partnerships. England should concentrate on early wickets when bowling as this helps limit the opposition score. Worth mentioning as well is the form, and approach, of Tammy Beaumont – scoring 106 runs at a strike rate of 130, including 16 fours and 3 sixes. Her attitude opening the batting with Edwards is so refreshing that some England fans have already begun to dub the powerplay “Tammy Time”. She has won many fans in this WWT20, journalists and England supporters alike.

It was only in their last match against Pakistan that England produced a complete performance. Knight missed the game due to illness, and England will be desperate for her to return for the semi final. Her solidity with the bat and useful spin bowling could be vital. England drafted in Georgia Elwiss and Laura Marsh to replace Grundy, and both performed well with the ball – they took 5 wickets between them. A superb unbeaten 77* by Edwards was enough to see off a late Pakistani challenge. Marsh is a useful T20 bowler, who had an extraordinary strike rate in the WBBL, taking 9 wickets in only 19 completed overs for Sydney Sixers. England should seriously consider selecting her for the semi-final if the conditions look suitable, which they could well do in Delhi.

Pakistan surpassed the expectations of many, with 2 strong and consistent performances. Their tight bowling was backed up with intelligent batting which was effective enough to see them through. And this was despite the early loss of a key player, Javeria Khan, due to injury. In her stead, Bismah Maroof stepped up. An elegant left hander with a strong bottom hand and extraordinary wide grip in her stance, she stands out in the Pakistan ranks. With the ball, the accurate spin of Anam Amin confounded opposition batters. The side could not sustain their run however, and fell away in the final game against England, which they needed to win to ensure qualification.

West Indies‘ reputation for big hitting with the likes of Deandra Dottin and Stafanie Taylor preceded them. But in the group matches they seemed strangely subdued and unable to hit the ball as cleanly as they can. WI batted first in every group match. However, they both stuck it out in the middle and made important runs, to give defendable totals. Their bowling relied heavily on batters Matthews, Taylor and Dottin, the latter making up for what she lacked in batting form with wicket-taking ability. She has a fast action, hits the pitch hard and can generate pace up to the mid 70s mph. WI also seem to have an uncanny ability to defend a low total. Their bowling has been tight, field placements ideal and they have managed to take wickets at important moments in each game. WI have qualified the hard way, and that often stands a side in good stead going forward.

India – With the ball, all-rounder Harmanpreet Kaur’s unpredictable brand of spin has plenty of variations, and although she can leak runs, batters find it hard to pick her. Consequently, she took wickets, and best of all these were at a high strike rate of 7 wickets in just 11 overs. Anuja Patil and Ekta Bisht provided more economical spin support.

India’s batting was spearheaded by Veda Krishnamurthy, who showed impressive form. She has strong hitting ability, can manoeuvre the field, and was better able to set a decent clip early on than the rest of their top order. The other batters struggled to get going for much of the time, with too few cameo contributions, which ultimately cost India a semi-final berth. The focus seemed to be too much on big hitting and not enough on working the ball into gaps for the batters to get themselves in. Were they too focused on crowd-pleasing, when simply going for the win in the most efficient fashion would have sufficed? Only they will know.

How India dealt with the pressure of playing in front of an expectant home crowd would be key to their chances. This handling of pressure represents the next step up for all the rapidly improving sides like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. When the scales finally fall from the eyes of the viewing public in their home countries, and they realise that they have (and have had, all along!) a women’s team really worth supporting, along will come the next challenge – pressure to perform.

The advantage the more established nations have is that their players are more accustomed to facing the media spotlight. How India froze against Pakistan, and West Indies, under the scrutiny and weight of expectation of a nation, was palpable. Out went the free-flowing run-scoring antics of the Bangladesh game, and instead we saw a nervous, timid India who were clearly overwhelmed by the occasion.

World Twenty20 Super 10s Review: Group A

In the first of a series of regular columns,  James Piechowski takes a look at the group stages of the WWT20, and assesses how each of the top 8 ranked nations fared…

Group A: New Zealand power through on cruise control; Australia steady the ship through choppy waters

Final Qualifying Table

Position Team Won Lost Net Run Rate Points
1 New Zealand (Q) 4 0 +2.430 8
2 Australia (Q) 3 1 +0.613 6
3 Sri Lanka 2 2 – 0.240 4
4 South Africa 1 3 + 0.173 2
5 Ireland 0 4 -2.817 0

Q = Qualified for semi-final stage

New Zealand cruised through to the semi-finals with relatively little trouble. Many eyebrows were raised when they defeated champions Australia comprehensively at Nagpur by six wickets with almost 4 overs to spare. But it’s easy to see why they have been so successful. Their top order is packed with 5 world-class players, all in form and all at the top of their game. Their captain, Suzie Bates, is a shrewd operator who is arguably their best batsman, able to see a game through from start to finish, and offer a few overs of medium pace as well. Rachel Priest’s ability to repeatedly bludgeon the ball to the boundary is perhaps only surpassed in the side by Sophie Devine, another quality big hitter who is also very useful with the ball. She performed superbly in the final game against South Africa, taking 3-17 and scoring 27 from just 17 balls. The experience of Sara McGlashan and flexible inventiveness of Amy Sattherthwaite round out a fine top line batting order. With the ball, they have the in-form off-spinner Leigh Kasperek who, with 9 scalps, currently sits top of the wicket-taking list. This interesting article describes her Scottish roots.

She is ably supported by economical spinners Erin Bermingham and Morna Nielsen. In fact New Zealand’s only weaknesses would appear to be their batting below number 5-6, and the fact that the side have yet to be really tested in this competiton. They have been known to crumble under pressure in the not too distant past, so the other sides still do have a chance against them.

Australia made the semis comfortably enough in the end, but not without a couple of little scares along the way. A shaky start against South Africa was brought under control by the calm and experienced Alex Blackwell and Meg Lanning. But their top order was blown away by New Zealand, and even a fine recovery effort by the world’s premier all-rounder, Ellyse Perry, could not build a total high enough to defend. The performances have stabilised since, and Megan Schutt has emerged as a bowler to watch out for. In Meg Lanning, Australia have arguably the single most impressive player in the women’s game – a batter of superb technical ability, strong mentality and a captain who is always on the ball and rarely misses a trick in the field. The way in which she handles Australia’s bowling options, with regular changes of personnel to prevent the opposition batters becoming set, will be key if they are to progress to the final.

South Africa will be disappointed with their showing at this WWT20. They did not manage to live up to their performance in 2014, in which they reached the semi-finals, despite the visible improvements which have been made within the squad since then. In the final group game, the side gave a very sluggish and nervous chase in response to a modest target from Sri Lanka. They failed to use their feet and leave the crease and instead insisted on playing back and across the line. Their lack of a proactive approach was telling, as they fell 11 runs short in chasing just 114.

Notably, key players Mignon Du Preez, Lizelle Lee, Shabnim Ismail and Dane van Niekerk largely failed to fire together in concert, providing only bitty performances – which is surprising considering how effective they were in the recent series against England. I think SA will have to look at how they structure their team. Against the top sides, they appeared to be a batter short. Considering Kapp and Van Niekerk can bowl their full allocation of 4 overs, yet bat in the top 4, it seems unnecessary to field a further 4 bowlers and an all-rounder as well. Replacing one bowler with either an established batter, or the promising Laura Wolvaardt who was not included in the squad, may have served better. Instead, quality bowlers were left with spare overs, and the batting was caught short.

Jayangani (Chamari Atapattu) stood out as Sri Lanka’s best player. A smooth, fluid batter, she was strong sweeping through the leg side and harsh against width outside off. Unfortunately the rest of the team were too often short in their contributions, which hampered efforts to set challenging targets. And their bowling attack perhaps lacked the consistent threat to take early wickets in response, although was generally economical, with Kumari and Prabhodani looking promising. Weerakkody also has talent, and is a flexible player who can bat and keep wicket well. The improvements made in recent times are quite apparent – the side are now much more competitive all round, and the win against South Africa in their final game showed that.

A review of Group B will follow tomorrow.

 

NEWS: “Logistics” Blamed For TMS Blackout

The confirmation that there will be no radio coverage of England’s final WWT20 group game today in Chennai, was greeted with disappointment by fans, who have been relying on TMS to follow the tournament in a situation where the host TV broadcaster has declined to offer full coverage.

TMS commentator Charles Dagnall tweeted: “logistics mean we can’t get there” – the TMS “B Team” of which Dagnall is part are 300 miles away in Mohali for the Australia v India men’s game, and will also be covering the West Indies v India women’s match there earlier in the day.

Meanwhile the “A Team” (Aggers & Co.) are well over 1,000 miles away in Delhi, after covering England men’s game v Sri Lanka last night.

As is so often the case, there are no easy answers to these conundrums – calling up a “C Team” for just this one match would have been prohibitively expensive – so it is Twitter and a live scorecard for us today… and the hope that one day there will be a WWT20 where fans all over the world can actually enjoy all the games.

WWT20: Ground Control To England – Don’t Underestimate Pakistan

By the time England play Pakistan later today, they could already have qualified for the semi-finals of WWT20. If West Indies fail to beat India, England are through, even if they lose to Pakistan by a million runs. (Though they might still prefer to top the group and avoid a New Zealand semi-final.)

But if West Indies do beat India, England have to be careful – as we showed earlier, if Pakistan win it will all come down to Net Run Rate; and a Pakistan victory by as little as 12 runs could be enough to send them through at England’s expense.

Pakistan have played six T20s against England, of which England have won five and Pakistan just one; but there is an important lesson in the one game Pakistan won, back in 2013.

The teams played a “double-header” at Loughborough and England won the morning match at a cruise by 70 runs, with Sarah Taylor hitting a half-century and Charlotte Edwards also in good form, smashing 46 off 37 balls.

England then made two fateful selection decisions for the afternoon encounter – resting Taylor and dropping Edwards right down the order to No. 9. Chasing just 116, they suffered a late-order collapse (sound familiar?) and were bowled out off the final ball, falling one run short of Pakistan’s total.

In short, England underestimated Pakistan and paid the price – it is a mistake they can not afford to make again today!

NEWS: Cricket Australia Comment on Flights Policy

As CRICKETher reported several weeks ago, the ICC’s current inequitable flights policy means that all women’s teams travelled to the World Twenty20 in Economy class, while their male counterparts flew in Business.

All teams, that is, bar Australia. Cricket Australia have confirmed to CRICKETher that the Southern Stars were upgraded to Business class, with CA footing the bill.

Why? A CA spokesman told CRICKETher: “We have been working on a number of ways to further professionalise the women’s game, including increasing pay for elite cricketers and providing greater on and off-field opportunities for our players through initiatives such as the Women’s Big Bash League. Addressing discrepancies between the class of air travel for male and female cricketers is another important issue that we have been committed to resolving.”

Interestingly, CRICKETher has also ascertained that an equitable flights policy does apply while teams are in India, with both men and women flying in Economy in order to travel between tournament fixtures.  This is the same policy used during the Australian domestic season, when both male and female state teams fly to away matches in Economy class.

As in most other areas, then, it appears that CA are leading the way in terms of parity for their female cricketers. The question is, will other cricket boards – and of course the ICC – now follow suit?

WWT20: Have England “All But” Qualified? (No… And Here’s Why!)

On yesterday’s radio broadcast, the TMS team repeatedly stated that England had “all-but” qualified for the semi-finals.

We considered otherwise, but started to wonder if we were wrong until TMS’s Dan Norcross backed us up:

England play Pakistan in their final group match on Sunday afternoon; but before that West Indies play India in the morning. (UK times.)

Currently, England have 6 points, West Indies 4 and Pakistan 4, all with one match to play; so if West Indies and Pakistan win their final games, both will have 6 points along with England (who in this scenario have lost their final match to Pakistan) and so Net Run Rate will be brought to bear.

The first thing to remember is that if  West Indies lose to India, it is all moot as far as England are concerned – they will have qualified regardless of what happens against Pakistan.

(Pakistan meanwhile would then need to beat England to qualify alongside them.)

But if West Indies do indeed beat India, then that is where it gets interesting from an England perspective.

Currently the NRRs stand as follows:

  1. West Indies: +0.87
  2. England: +0.75
  3. Pakistan: +0.33

West Indies having won their final match will have improved their NRR, so it is all down to England v Pakistan.

If England win, they are through; but it isn’t quite so simple for Pakistan. Because they trail England in NRR – they need to win by… how much?

Well, NRR can be a complicated beast to pin down, but here is one permutation:

If Pakistan bat first and make 120, England need to score 108 to qualify despite losing the match; but if they made just 107 their NRR would slip below Pakistan’s and they would go out.

Would we put money on this? No! Is it “plausible”? Absolutely! And anyone who therefore thinks England have already “all but” qualified needs to think again!