Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes 1st ODI

A Close Game?

The scoreboard will tell you this was a close match, won with just 5 balls to spare; but on the pitch Australia’s margin of victory felt a lot more convincing than that – more like 5 overs than 5 balls! This is partly down to the completely unflappable nature of Alex Blackwell – most players would have pressed the panic button watching Tahlia McGrath make 7 off 26 balls at the other end; but Blackwell just kept playing like it was never in doubt… and in the end she was right – it wasn’t!

A Low Scoring Game?

On what all the experts reckoned was a good pitch, England’s 228 – a run rate of 4.6 – felt a little short; and indeed it was well short of the 5.7 an over England averaged at the World Cup. But Australia also fell well short of the 5.4 per over they averaged at WWC17, chasing England’s total at 4.7 an over, so by recent standards it was a fairly low-scoring game. Was this to do with all the rain they’ve had in Brisbane? Perhaps – both teams had their warm-up preparations severely disrupted; but the field of play itself looked okay – remarkably, given the pictures we saw of the rain falling and the super-soppers at work yesterday – so was there something else at work?

Two Balls Better?

This was the first time these teams have played an ODI under the new playing conditions, with two balls – one at either end – and you can tell the players aren’t used to it: more than once the bowler went to return the ball to the captain at the end of the over, only to be reminded by the umpire that he (as it was in both cases here) holds on to it now!

The men have been playing with two balls for a while now – since 2011 – and there is still debate about the effect, made all the more hazy by the pull-through of T20-style power-hitting into the 50-over game. But the change was designed to benefit the bowlers, and in the immediate short term, it does seem to have caused run-rates to fall a bit – from 5.23 an over in the year before the change, to 5.18 in the year after*.

Is that what we are seeing here? Certainly when you talk to the bowlers, the ball getting old quickly has been a constant complaint, so you’d guess they feel like it should benefit them; but obviously this is just one game, so who knows? But it is definitely something to add to the list of things to investigate in a year or so’s time!

Call The Plod!

From an England fan’s perspective, if you want to Take the Positives™ then they didn’t collapse – the top 6 all got starts, and all looked reasonably comfortable; but the problem was than none of them pushed on and they all plodded… with big, ploddy boots on!

Ideally you want players to score big runs, and if they can’t do that then you want them to score quick runs; but nobody quite did either – nobody got past 50, and the highest strike rate (of the batsmen) was Fran Wilson’s 84. Contrast Heather Knight’s innings with Alyssa Healy’s: they made similar runs (15 vs 18) but Healy made her 18 in 15 balls at a strike rate of 120; Knight made her 15 in 33 balls at a strike rate of 45 – that is a big, big difference at this (or I guess any other) level of cricket; and that’s where England really must do better.

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* Top 8 teams in men’s ODIs, the years before & after October 2011.

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11 thoughts on “Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes 1st ODI

  1. I thought it turned out close, but shouldn’t have been really. For me the main difference between the sides was that some of the Australian players looked like they’d hit a ball in the past month, and most of the England batsmen didn’t!

    It was a strange innings from England. I don’t think England collapsed so much as simply slowed down. Too many wickets were lost at the end – you expect a few to go down but any attempts at hitting out led to wickets being lost. The hitting was a bit off key. No-one excelled with the bat. Plenty of steady batting and some nice composure from England at times, but whenever we tried to accelerate the ball just flew straight to fielders, both along the ground and latterly in the air. There were a lot of reasonable innings played but no great ones. The players all clearly looked out of touch, to differing degrees, due to the lack of cricket in the build-up to the series. Knight and Beaumont were particularly affected, but no-one hit as cleanly as they can. I think the batsmen actually played OK given the lack of match practice they’d had.

    Australia were in the slightly better position in this regard with their players having started their domestic season. So overall with a score somewhere around 20 or 30 below par, it was always going to have to be an exceptional bowling effort to get England on the board. They would probably need a start where they both kept the runs down and took early wickets. At the halfway point, I was expecting Australia to win reasonably comfortably but not easily, say with about 4 overs and 5 wickets left. Personally I’m not one that subscribes to the idea “Oh the Aussies don’t have Lanning therefore Perry will be under immense pressure to score lots of quick runs”. Other players like Healy, Bolton, Haynes, Blackwell etc are well capable on their own.

    So it proved. I thought England made an exceptional effort in the field though, they took a couple of early wickets and stayed in the game for almost all of the Australian chase. But they were not able to slow the scoring enough to force the required run rate up much. Alex Blackwell looks like Australia’s best player to me, she is more fluent than Perry. Was the strange 50-celebration a subliminal protest at not getting the captaincy? It’s seen the bat held like that before but not too often.

    Hartley was very good again, her only weakness now appears to be her fielding off her own bowling! This was a a very brave performance from England, I think, given the circumstances, they never gave up and were so close to snatching it at the end! We tried to give another world cup final performance but unfortunately for England, it wasn’t quite enough…

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  2. My correspondent on the ground has sent me some notes. He said lofted shots often plugged and indeed seemed to back-spin at times. He also felt that it was not fair to single out Hartley’s dropped catch as some of the media have done as a number of England fielders dropped catches you would have expected them to take. He describes England as ‘undercooked’. He had nothing but praise for the groundsmen and said the expression ‘worked all night’ is exactly what they did! He also felt that Australians ‘got themselves out’ as often as England players did.
    It was a new experience for me to watch two international matches at the same time from the comfort of my ‘den’. Thank heaven for good broadband speed!

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  3. I agree England looked very much like a team that hadn’t had enough game time recently, but Australia look so much better now they’re actually picking enough specialist bowlers.

    That said, their batting order remains a head scratcher. Blackwell should be batting in the top 5 IMO and how McGrath merits coming in ahead of Gardner is anyone’s guess.
    I suppose England can take a sliver of comfort from the fact that the game should never have ended up as close as it did.

    Regarding whether it was a high score or not, the average 1st innings total at ABF in the 2012-2017 WNCL seasons was 232.09 and the average match run rate was 4.99. The Ashes ODI had a RR of 4.62 RPO.
    A bit below the WNCL average then, but not to a massive degree. It seemed like many commentators were putting a bit too much store in Healy’s assessment that 280 was par. There’s only been one 280+ total at ABF in the last 10 years of WNCL. The highest women’s ODI score at the ground is 252.

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  4. England batted like a team unsure of what a par score was and even in the field still didn’t know. I just think our ‘standard mode’ is more conservative, that needs to change to win an Aussie series.

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  5. Shouldn’t be too hard on England given the lack of warm-up matches. The game did however turn on a few moments, such as the absurd run out of Winfield, and Hartley’s dropped catch. Also very little acceleration from England in the closing overs – their ‘worm’ was almost a straight diagonal line. Didn’t stay up all night for the live coverage, only saw the highlights. As a matter of interest, besides Mel Jones, Lisa Sthalekar and Charlotte Edwards, who were the TV commentators?

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  6. I only saw the highlights on BT Sport, but think there was enough in there to comment! Par Score was 250 – the pitch played pretty true, took some spin and the outfield was quick. More generally, women teams are going to have to hit 250 minimum on any sort of wicket to get a good score – 5 an over is pretty achievable. Have a look at how India Men do it, it’s about pacing the innings and they never worry about the middle period. They smash it at the end.
    England women do not have a ‘Finisher’ – where in the women’s game is the equivalent of MS Dhoni? this is a critical position and England need to trust someone and let them loose – maybe bat Taylor lower down, or free up someone else (Gunn, Sciver?). You have to get at least 80 from the last 10 overs…
    England bowling is OK but it is not going to put batting teams under pressure….need to mix it up a bit more, Healy was quick out of the blocks, so maybe get a spinner on early to buy a cheap wicket….
    Australia look average to me. Bowling was haphazrd and should have been dominated. Batting was pretty average, make no mistake they miss Lanning. Peery at 3 is great for England…
    let’s keep our fingers crossed for Thursday and England were just rusty….

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    • Agree 250 was a minimum total England should have been going for but I don’t think there’s any evidence that wasn’t their assessment too.

      England averaged 7.35 RPO in the final 10 overs at the World Cup, twice scoring 100+ runs during that period (100 v PAK and 102 in their 1st game v SA). They haven’t suddenly lost that ability. They just looked rusty yesterday.

      Surfaces in Australia make sub-250 targets very chaseable but that’s not the case everywhere.
      e.g. in the last 5 years in the West Indies, teams scoring 180-225 in the 1st innings have won 8/10 matches.

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    • “Australia look average to me”.

      No they’re not, they’re one of the top two sides in the world. I will concede that all is not at it’s best right now with the fast bowling (but spin tends to work better anyway) and with Lanning out. But if you think there’d be any other teams around who could go out there and “dominate” them as you say, you’re very much mistaken. England have undoubtedly improved over the past couple of years but still it’s incredibly tough for an England team to go out there and just recreate the World Cup performances and these 370+ scores we’ve been seeing over here in recent years. No one plays well all the time and indeed it shows how good Australia are if they can not play well and still win.

      The finishers have been players like Wilson, Brunt and Gunn in recent times but on this occasion they got out before the end, meaning we could only limp along to play out the overs.

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