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