OPINION: Australia Have An Ellyse Perry Problem

I never thought I’d say this, but… Australia have an Ellyse Perry Problem.

Perry with the bat: superb, glorious, a run-machine. Batting at number 4 for Australia she averages 83.83.

Perry with the ball: nothing special. She has 5 wickets so far in this World Cup, all of which came against West Indies and Sri Lanka. Against New Zealand, Pakistan and England her figures were 0-58, 0-24 and 0-31 respectively.

Four years ago, at the 2013 World Cup, Perry was Australia’s star bowler. Her 3 wickets for 19 runs in the final, as she limped in to give everything for her side, were crucial. As recently as the 2015 women’s Ashes series, she was their leading wicket taker.

She is no longer the same bowler.

This Ellyse Perry can only bowl in 3-over spells. This Ellyse Perry has to bat at 4, sometimes (like yesterday) even at 3, and she is tired. Too often since she was promoted up the order the weight has been entirely on her shoulders: opening the bowling, and then coming in when the openers have both been dismissed cheaply, and doing the hard graft.

Meg Lanning – the consummate professional in press conferences – denies there is a problem. “She can bowl long spells definitely,” she says. “[Bowling her in short spells] is more about the game situation really… It’s just the way that it’s panned out so far.”

Wrong. There is a problem, and Lanning knows it.

Yesterday, bowling in the nets before the England match, Perry couldn’t even muster a run up – she just stepped in off two paces to deliver the ball.

Yesterday, Perry went for 31 runs. She only bowled 7 overs – the last one the 34th, when she was tonked for six by Tammy Beaumont.

Does it matter? It hadn’t before yesterday. Australia had 4 wins from 4 games at this World Cup. But it is starting to.

Australia’s weakness coming into this World Cup was always going to be their pace bowling. Lanning may deny it, but the retirement of Rene Farrell in April and the injury to 18-year-old Lauren Cheatle means they are not exactly overrun with pace options right now. Effectively, with Perry struggling, they are one pace bowler short – quite a burden for Megan Schutt, who wasn’t even selected against Pakistan.

Who are Australia left with? Elyse Villani, apparently, who in the match against England yesterday leaked 42 runs from her 5 overs. Out of options, Lanning even brought her on to bowl the 50th. It went for 13 runs (including 2 wides).

Elyse Villani is a part-time, couple-of-overs-in-the-middle if you want a bit of a change bowler. She is not, and never will be in a million years, a death bowler. Using her as one frankly suggests that all is not rosy in the Australian camp.

So what’s the answer?

Of course you don’t drop Ellyse Perry. If there was one rule of thumb in women’s cricket, it would be: you never drop Ellyse Perry. But why not play her as a batsman only? As Lanning herself acknowledges: “She’d hold her own in the side as a batter.”

It may mean bringing in Sarah Aley, who is probably good enough to enjoy a late-onset international career. It may mean bringing in Belinda Vakarewa. Maybe it means focusing on spin, at the expense of pace. It does mean that you stop tasking Perry with something which she isn’t doing very well anymore. Something which just seems to be making her tired.

The loss to England should tell Australia something important: if they’re going to go on and win this World Cup, they need to sort out their Ellyse Perry problem.

And they need to do it soon.

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6 thoughts on “OPINION: Australia Have An Ellyse Perry Problem

  1. Schutt was rested for the Pakistan game, for a start. She wasn’t dropped. And have you seen the physical athlete Perry is? Say what you want about her bowling currently, but she ain’t ‘tired’.
    And if you pay attention to the way Lanning uses all her bowlers, she generally switches all the seamers up after a few overs. The spinners may bowl longer spells if they’re effectively tying down batters, but Perry is treated no diffeeently to the other quicks.

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  2. Not sure this is the angle I would have gone with Raf. I agree that Perry didn’t have a great day with the ball, but to me she still offers a threat. She looked pretty quick and can bowl a mean short ball. I think she just lost her radar and sprayed it around a bit. Even as an England fan I really appreciate Perry’s ability and style – she’s a truly great player. I don’t think she looks tired. Maybe hiding an injury – now that’s more likely.

    I don’t necessarily think that the over-use of a wayward Villani means there is discord in the team either. It may have just been a plan, or spur of the moment surprise, that went awry. It was a pretty questionable tactic though.

    I will accept that the Aussies have issues with the pace attack, with Farrell gone and Cheatle (and presumably Ferling?) injured. But they still have Vakarewa up their sleeve and they didn’t even select Aley against England (a mistake in my opinion – she’s a decent bowler who offers a few quick runs too) so there is some underused support there. The main solution to all this is just to play another specialist bowler so that they have another back-up in case someone starts getting hit around. Their batting line up is long enough to do this.

    My take on the England innings is that it was a bit messy for both sides. England made a lot of mistakes, and plenty of players got in then got out, but the important thing was they stuck at it and kept going until the end, managing to accelerate in the process. They didn’t let any dismissals affect their aggressive approach and it looked like they believed in themselves. They played Jonassen well. Sciver is now a top-class player. And Beaumont and Wyatt, barely stacking to ten feet between them, look more accomplished and confident than they ever have before. England could have capitulated for under 200 when 174-6 (and if they were playing in the same vein as the 2015 Ashes, they would have). But Brunt and Gunn, more than anyone else, were having none of that nonsense.

    Australia gave away far too many extras and a had a few little fumbles in the field, but didn’t actually drop any catches (except the Healy/Gunn thing). Their bowling wasn’t bad except it fell away a bit at the end. I thought 259 was a little short, given England’s recent efforts in the field but thankfully they managed to produce their best display yet.

    Australia’s batting line up is classy, long and strong, and they obviously know a thing or two about how to chase down a score. But I’m not sure the current approach is the right one. They were playing a seemingly risk-free game through most of their innings, which meant that wickets didn’t fall as the overs progressed so some England bowlers got a little frustrated. Even the normally cool Danni Hazell nearly lost her nerve, I’m sure of it. But the trade-off was that the target wasn’t approaching as fast as it should have been, and they ended up needing a few more than they’d have liked from the final overs. Even with wickets in hand, if you can’t get a set batsman to start putting enough pressure on the bowling, it can mean you eventually fall short, which is exactly what happened. Pushing on a bit nearer the start, may have avoided that final hurdle.

    Alex Hartley was a revelation, yet again. She was proving so difficult to get away and also providing a real wicket threat at the same time. She is the bowler England have been looking for. The more I see of her the more convinced of that I become.

    England’s fielding managed to step up to the mark as the end of the Australian innings approached, and even though a catch or two went down, relatively few unnecessary runs were granted, and quite a few were saved thanks to the quick reactions and strong arms of Knight and co. Evan so, as it came to the sharp end, a lesser team may have crumbled under the pressure Australia were exerting. But again England’s experienced duo Brunt and Gunn were having none of that nonsense, no sirree.

    What a day it was and what a match. The atmosphere and sheer level of support there was like nothing I’ve previously seen at a women’s game, and more akin to a very good men’s game. I actually felt for Perry a bit when she got out and I never thought I’d say that. It was great innings from her. The decision reviews really help give the women’s game the extra feeling of vital importance, with everyone watching the big screens with baited breath. I loved the little touches to the ambience such as the timely playing on the PA system of the line “How am I gonna be an optimist about this?” from Bastille’s Pompeii when Sciver dropped that chance near the end, and the “Mission Impossible” theme music before the final over when 16 were required.

    I watched the Australia players’ reactions after the end of the game and they looked both disconsolate and stunned – now there was a supremely confident team who actually didn’t believe they could be defeated. But the unflappable Aussies finally flapped in the chase – unfortunately for them, it’s a little-known fact that kangaroos don’t have wings 😉 ! Even if England achieve nothing else at this WWC, this was truly a day to remember for all of their fans.

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  3. I think that we have forgotten the notion of the ‘true’ All Rounder – bat, bowl and field. Look at the great male all rounders, Sobers, Kapil Dev, Botham, Kallis….they all had off days, even months where one thing didn’t go right. But you still put their name down first on the team sheet…Same with Perry. The mark of a great player, which differentiates them from a (very) good one is the ability to deliver on the day, when it counts, either with bat, ball or both. Perry will do that….
    England need to find one and quickly……..

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