POST-MATCH: New Zealand Recklessness Costs Them At Bristol

At the start of this match, as Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine walked out to open the batting, I thought it rather odd that they hadn’t chosen to mix up the batting order. With 2 openers on fire and the rest of the line-up distinctly under-cooked, why not give the middle order an outing ahead of Sunday’s final?

As it turned out, the batting order didn’t matter a jot.

There are two wrong ways to approach T20 cricket. The first is to do as Laura Wolvaardt and Dane van Niekerk did earlier today and form a partnership where, while you might manage to hang around, neither of you is able to bat at a strike rate of anything like 100. The second is to bosh it all over, but get yourselves out. New Zealand became masters of the second approach today.

On 64-2, halfway through their innings and with the lean, mean fighting machine that is Sophie Devine unbeaten at one end, what New Zealand really needed was for a measured, mature approach to batting at the other. What they got was a middle order that, after Amy Satterthwaite fell victim to Katie George’s full, straight slower ball, collapsed in a heap – their last 7 wickets falling for 38 runs.

England fielded like tigresses – the highlights another stumping to add to Sarah “Legside” Taylor’s showreel; and two absolutely outstanding catches in the deep by Amy Jones off the bowling of Anya Shrubsole, Jones diving forwards both times to snatch the ball out of the air.

But New Zealand displayed a recklessness that England were able to take advantage of: slogging when they needed to defend; sweeping when they needed to play straight. Instead of letting Devine field the strike, they tried and failed to do her job for her.

Meanwhile Devine, who had said at the halfway point that a par score on this pitch was 150, looked on from the other end in disbelief.

“We just didn’t have enough batters that played smart enough cricket there with Sophie at the end,” Suzie Bates told us after the match. “She knew she could put her foot down and accelerate the innings but partners didn’t stick with her. It made it difficult for Sophie to kick on – she was caught in 2 minds which is never easy.”

Were they tired after that first game v South Africa? “It wasn’t about being tired – it just wasn’t clinical cricket. We play 50 over cricket and we’ve trained hard for this. I just don’t think we were smart enough.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s final, Bates was upbeat:

“We can only get better after that second effort today! We’ve got to take what we did against South Africa and do it for longer.”

But the ease with which England chased down the required runs – a beautiful half-century from Sarah Taylor, plus unbeaten contributions from Nat Sciver and Heather Knight, as England’s middle-order did what New Zealand’s had failed to do and steadied the ship – surely suggests that a win for the home side at Chelmsford is the most likely result, come the weekend.

POST-MATCH: New Zealand v South Africa – Lessons to Learn For South Africa After Error-Strewn Loss To White Ferns

It was a match that promised much… and delivered somewhat less. With qualification for the Tri-Series final still very much alive, I was looking forward to “a cracker” whilst Martin Davies from Women’s Cricket Blog predicted “Runs, runs, runs…”

But in the end the first over – a wide from Lea Tahuhu first-up, followed by two more – rather set the pattern for what was to come – an error-strewn contest which players and spectators alike will want to soon forget.

“We were really disappointed with the way we started that game,” admitted New Zealand’s Sophie Devine afterwards. “We were flat, we bowled plenty of extras and we just weren’t there in the field.”

“We can’t afford to play like that against any side – Suzie had to give us a bit of a rarrrrk up!”

(No – we aren’t entirely sure what a “rarrrrk up” is either… but we are fairly sure we wouldn’t want to be on the end of one!!)

“We were probably lucky to be able to pull it back the way we did,” says Devine.

That they had an opportunity to do so was mainly because if anything South Africa looked even more off-colour.

Coach Hilton Moreeng told us:

“We were below par by our standards – it is very frustrating – the inconsistency. If you look at the wicket there was not a lot of daemons in it, so another 20 or 30 runs on the board could have made a game of it.”

Laura Wolvaardt in particular couldn’t get it off the square today and chewed-up a lot of dots on her way to 25 from 37 balls; but Moreeng maintains his faith in her:

“She is a youngster – she is learning, and at the end of the day we are building towards the [T20] World Cup. She is only 19 years old – you can’t box her and say ‘she can’ or ‘she can’t’ – there is a lot that she has got – she is a clean striker of a cricket ball – she has proven it – now she has to go back and see how she can get options here.”

It chimes in with what Wolvaardt herself told us last week – she is still learning as a Twenty20 player and she knows she isn’t the finished article yet; but there is confidence that if South Africa keep faith with her, then she can be.

Asked to chase 148, New Zealand knocked them off with almost 5 overs to spare, but it wasn’t the perfect batting display from them either:

“At times we played a few rash shots!” Devine acknowledged. “It’s important for us to make sure we put away the bad ball and don’t get too carried away with ourselves.”

What made it easier though is that, once again, South Africa did half the job for them, as Moreeng admited:

“When you look at fielding, we didn’t back up the bowling. On a wicket which took a bit of pace off, which actually assisted the bowlers, the fielding wasn’t up to par.”

“The fielding the whole series wasn’t ok – it is one area where we need to go home and have a look at it and see where we can improve.”

“Given the short format in the T20 you can’t afford to give the chances what we are giving, and the way we are fielding at the moment is not gonna help.”

But there are positives to take forward:

“This wasn’t a great series, but there is a lot we’ve learned – there have been some good lessons, so we’ll see what we can adapt in our plans to make sure we go forwards.”

“We’ve got 3 months before the World Cup. We’ve got West Indies in September, away – the ICC Series and a lot of T20s. Luckily for us, we will be in the Caribbean so we will be able to get used to the conditions.”

It wasn’t to be for South Africa in England this summer, despite winning the opening ODI of the tour, but they are still a good side and anyone who underestimates them in the West Indies does so at their peril.

A BIT OF FUN: Our “Never Played For England” XIs

A comment on Twitter prompted us to ask ourselves who we’d have in our “Never Played For England” XI?

From those who will almost certainly play for England one day, to those who perhaps deserved to but never will, these are ours!

(And don’t forget to let us know who we’ve missed out, or even tell us your XI, in “Have Your Say” below!)

Raf’s XI

  1. Kirstie White +
  2. Eve Jones *
  3. Emma Lamb
  4. Naomi Dattani
  5. Sophia Dunkley
  6. Amanda Potgeiter
  7. Freya Davies
  8. Kirstie Gordon
  9. Katie Levick
  10. Katie Thompson
  11. Lauren Bell

Syd’s XI

  1. Emma Lamb
  2. Eve Jones
  3. Kirstie White +
  4. Georgia Adams
  5. Sophie Luff *
  6. Maia Bouchier
  7. Freya Davies
  8. Megan Belt
  9. Kirstie Gordon
  10. Katie Levick
  11. Lauren Bell

And now the $64,000 question:

DEBRIEF: T20 Cup – Bryony Smith 100 Ends Middlesex Unbeaten Run

Div 1 Played Won Lost NRR Points
Middlesex 6 5 1 0.41 20
Sussex 6 4 2 1.09 16
Warwickshire 6 4 2 0.87 16
Kent 6 4 2 0.86 16
Lancashire 6 3 3 -0.13 12
Nottinghamshire 6 3 3 -0.23 12
Surrey 6 2 4 -0.98 8
Worcestershire 6 1 5 -0.94 4
Yorkshire 6 1 5 -0.99 4

A century from Bryony Smith brought Middlesex’s unbeaten run in the T20 Cup to an end at Banstead, but Middlesex stay top of Div 1 after thrashing Notts earlier in the day. Smith carried her bat for 109* supported by Aylish Cranstone (43) as Surrey posted 178-3; and Eva Gray then dismissed both Middlesex openers for ducks on the way to bowling Middlesex out for 89.

Three other teams remain in the hunt going into the final round next Sunday. Sussex picked up two wins at Edgbaston – Freya Davies (4-8) starring with the ball v Warwickshire, and Georgia Adams (61) with the bat v Lancashire. Warwickshire also kept themselves in the reckoning with a good win over Lancashire.

Meanwhile at Kidderminster Alice Davidson-Richards (37) top scored for Kent as they posted 135 v Worcestershire, who crawled to 88-8 in reply; and Kent then consigned Yorkshire to a 5th straight defeat as they restricted them to 103-6, which they chased in 18 overs.

Yorkshire did then pick up their first win of the season to beat Worcestershire, chasing Worcestershire’s 94-7 in 17.1 overs, with Abi Glen top-scoring with 30*.

The title will be decided next weekend, with Middlesex, Kent and Warwickshire all playing each other, while Sussex will be hoping to sneak up on the outside on Net Run Rate* as they face Worcestershire and Notts.

(* Assuming it doesn’t rain, I think Sussex can only win it on NRR – the maximum they can get is 24; which Middlesex will have if they win just one match, whilst if Middlesex lose both their matches, one of Kent or Warwickshire will have 24.)

[** Update – It is even more complicated than that – see comments!!]

In Div 2, Hampshire picked up two more wins, to stay top with 6-from-6; but Wales and Scotland remain close behind with 5 wins – two of those three will be promoted next weekend, when Hampshire play Wales and Northants while Scotland face Berkshire and Cheshire.

MATCH REPORT: Career Best For Davies As Sussex Show Their Edge At Edgbaston

Sussex put in two convincing performances in the third round of the T20 Cup at Edgbaston Foundation Ground, beating both Warwickshire and Lancashire as Freya Davies took 4-8, the best ever T20 bowling performance by a Sussex player.

Meanwhile Warwickshire kept themselves in contention for the trophy by beating Lancashire, Becky Grundy taking 4-14 and Ria Fackrell top-scoring with 37.

Warwickshire v Sussex

In the first match of the day, Sussex bowled Warwickshire out for 67 to win by 42 runs, despite being a bowler short.

Sussex had racked up 109 runs in their 20 overs, making the most of the powerplay as Georgia Adams (32) and Izzy Collis (19) hit 8 boundaries between them.

Both eventually fell victim to Becky Grundy (4-10) but Sussex continued to battle hard, with Linsey Smith struggling on through injury to reach 26, Paige Scholfield doing an excellent job as her runner – a situation as unfamiliar to the players at this level as it was to us watching on from the boundary.

The injury left Smith unable to bowl, however, putting pressure on opening bowlers Freya Davies and Chiara Green to strike early.

Davies rose to the challenge, not giving an inch as her first 2-over spell yielded 2 wickets for 7 runs, including inducing a feather edge from Millie Home to Abi Freeborn behind the stumps.

Green then chipped in with 2 wickets of her own, including that of the dangerous-looking Ria Fackrell, bowled for 26.

Meanwhile captain Georgia Adams (3-9) also contributed with the ball, decimating Warwickshire’s middle order despite having barely bowled a ball all season.

It was Davies, though, who wrapped things up in the 17th over with the final 2 wickets, finishing with incredible figures of 4-8.

Sussex v Lancashire

Lancashire’s opening partnership of Eve Jones and Emma Lamb has been crucial to them this season, but after putting Lancashire in to bat it was Sussex that got the early breakthrough in the second over, as Jones was bowled by Chiara Green for 4.

This brought Danielle Collins to the crease, but she didn’t last long either – edging a rising ball from Freya Davies to Abi Freeborn behind the stumps for 8.

Emma Lamb found the boundary twice with a couple of powerful strokes before giving up her wicket in rather tame fashion on 11, dinking Beth Harvey straight to Davies at square leg, to leave Lancashire 25-3.

With Nancy Harman accounting for Kate Cross, bowled for 5, Lancashire looked in danger of disintegrating, but Ellie Threlkeld and Natalie Brown (21) restored some credibility to the scorebook with a stand of 40 before Brown hit a big hoik down to cow corner where she was well caught by Tara Norris running round from long on.

Threlkeld finished 41* as Lancashire closed on 109-6.

After her remarkable debut last weekend, young left-arm seamer Millie Hodge opened the bowling for Lancashire, going for consecutive boundaries off her first 2 balls to Georgia Adams, before Adams survived a big appeal for a stumping off the third.

At the other end, Kate Cross ran in hard to clean bowl Paige Scholfield in her first over, but by her third over was starting to leak runs as Izzy Collis paddled successive leg-side deliveries for 4.

At the halfway mark Sussex were well-placed at 67-1, with Adams on 40* and Collis on 21* – both batsmen reaping the rewards of hitting up and over the ring. The pair cruised on, Adams passing 50 in the 13th over.

Lancashire brought Kate Cross back for her final over to try to break the partnership, but it proved to be a futile last throw of the dice.

Four leg-byes off Adams’ toe in the next over from Natalie Brown brought a cry of “Unbelievable!” from the bowler which could be heard on the boundary (and we suspect well beyond!), and which rather summed things up from a Lancashire perspective. This was not a match they should have lost by 9 wickets… and they didn’t, as Adams was caught for 61 with the scores level, the match ending when Brown sent the next ball wide, to gift Sussex an 8-wicket victory and 2-from-2 for the day.

Warwickshire v Lancashire

The Warwickshire top order fought back hard in the final game of the day with their top 3 all making scores – Gwenan Davies 34, Ria Fackrell 37 and Milly Home 25 – as they beat Lancashire by 26 runs.

Chasing 126, Lancashire lost in-form Eve Jones early, run out in the 3rd over trying for a quick single by a direct hit from Georgia Davis at mid on.

Emma Lamb initially looked as if she might make the required runs on her own, as she raced to 30* after 7 overs, with her side’s total at that point 38-3.

But once again Davis proved her worth in the field, taking an excellent catch at midwicket to dismiss Lamb. Congratulating her afterwards, one spectator described it as “the catch that won the match” – it’s hard to disagree.

It was left to Becky Grundy to dismantle the Lancashire middle order, finishing with figures of 4-14 across her 4 overs; and though Nalisha Patel and Millie Hodge put on an impressive 32-run partnership for the 9th wicket and were both unbeaten at the end, they ultimately fell way short of the total.

Having won the toss and chosen to bat, Davies and Fackrell had set the foundation for Warwickshire up top, putting on 58 for the first wicket in the first 10 overs as they pushed hard to rotate the strike.

After Davies was caught by Kate Cross at mid on off Laura Jackson’s first ball of the innings, Fackrell and Home then rode their luck – the Lancashire fielders putting down several catches – to take the score past 100.

Lancashire pegged them back in the final few overs, taking 3 quick wickets as Kate Cross – released from England duty – finished with 1-24 and a run out to her name; but 126 looked an imposing total, and so it proved.

POST-MATCH: Ecclestone Excellence Makes It Easy For England v New Zealand

After Wednesday, this was the match that we all wanted to see: the titans v the titans.

For the home crowd at Taunton, it didn’t disappoint. For the neutral, though, it ended up somewhat undercooked.

From an England perspective the biggest positive was the way in which they picked themselves up after defeat to South Africa earlier in the day. They could so easily have been down-and-out psychologically; but whatever Mark Robinson said to them after the first game clearly worked its magic. “The team showed a lot of character,” reflected Player of the Match Sophie Ecclestone after play.

None showed it more than Ecclestone, who was the standout star. Once again she was belted for runs by Lizelle Lee in the first match of the day; once again she came back stronger, ending with 2 wickets in her final over.

Then, against New Zealand she was steely-calm, starting off with a maiden that forced the wicket of the dangerous Suzie Bates in the following over; and coming back in her second over to break the Katey Martin-Maddie Green partnership; before finishing off the New Zealand tail to finish with 4-18.

But it was perhaps with the bat that she did the most important job.

Tammy Beaumont, speaking in the break between the games, had been clear what England needed to do on this pitch: “165 / 170 is par.” It might have slowed down a little since Wednesday; but not that much. Earlier in the day against South Africa, 160 had simply not been enough.

When England lost 3 wickets in the space of 6 balls in the 17th and 18th overs, leaving them 140-7, “par” looked a way off.

But by the end of the innings you ended up wondering what you’d been worrying about – across the last 3 overs, Anya Shrubsole and Ecclestone (plus a brief cameo from Dani Hazell) between them added 32 runs, England finishing on 172-8.

While it’s been a hallmark of this England side that they bat deep, “genuine number 12” Sophie Ecclestone (to coin a Don Miles phrase) was hardly the player you would have expected to punish Sophie Devine for four.

And the sight of Anya Shrubsole sending Leigh Kasperek over the top for the only maximum of the innings was equally unexpected.

“If we’d kept them under 160 the momentum would have been in our favour,” reflected Suzie Bates after the game. It wasn’t; and more to the point it put the pressure on the Kiwi top order, right from the outset. Bates summed it up: “When you are chasing over 10 an over it makes any bowler look better.”

Afterwards, Ecclestone reflected on her innings in a succinct but apt manner: “I love batting! To get out there and give it a whack is fun to do.”

Coach Mark Robinson, whose mantra as coach has been “go out and bat with freedom”, should be very, very proud of his young protege.

NEWS: England v South Africa v New Zealand Tri-Series Standings

Team Played Won Lost NRR
England 3 2 1 2.76
New Zealand 2 1 1 0.3
South Africa 3 1 2 -2.95

With 2 matches to go on Thursday at Bristol, England are currently in the driving seat to make next weekend’s final, despite losing to South Africa today, mainly because of their huge Net Run Rate advantage.

The remaining games are South Africa v New Zealand and England v New Zealand, and depending on the results, anything could happen in theory.

For example, if South Africa beat New Zealand and New Zealand then beat England, everyone will have played 4 and won 2, bringing it all down to Net Run Rate.

Obviously being on the wrong end of two huge totals on Day 1 makes NRR a bit of a long-shot for South Africa – but it is certainly mathematically possible!

POST-MATCH: Sune Plays Fast And Luus For South Africa

Sune Luus had not had a great tour of England up until today. Once a leg-spinner who could bat a bit, she hardly bowls any more and is now in the side primarily for her batting, but with the bat on this tour before today, she had 3 ducks and had a highest score of 3 not-out – when she came to the crease, the England bowlers must have been thinking “walking wicket”, and not without reason!

“It hasn’t been a great tour,” Luus admits. “But it is really important to always stay in a positive mindset – I think on a tour like this you can’t lose your head!”

With England perhaps 10-20 short of a “good” score – Anya Shrubsole reckoned 170-180 was par the other day, though it isn’t quite such a road today – the South Africans had definitely given themselves a shot by restricting England to 160.

The early loss of Wolvaardt for a duck in the first over brought Luus to the crease early; but actually even earlier than she had been anticipating coming into the match – Stacy Lackay was due to come in at 3, but when she was taken poorly Luus found herself unexpectedly promoted and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Luus and for South Africa.

“I was due to come in at 7 or 8 but Stacey was ill – I’ve always been on my best when I don’t know I’m batting 3, so I think we need to do that more often – just don’t tell me!!”

So what did she do differently?

“Nothing special,” she says, “just focusing more!”

Luus and Lizelle Lee took South Africa past the hundred mark, never letting the required rate get away from them. They rotated the strike almost perfectly, Luus facing just one ball less than Lee going into the 13th over, but it was Lee who was doing the bulk of the scoring – 68 off 36 balls, to Luus’ 40 off 35.

Did that mean the pressure was on when Lee was dismissed on Anya Shrubsole’s return to the attack?

“No,” she says. “It is really important to back the players who are coming in next or you are going to put all the pressure on yourself and get bogged down and won’t get runs.”

And mentally freeing herself from that pressure seems to have worked a wonder – her strike rate went from 114 before Lee was out to 135 after, and even though Sophie Ecclestone produced a bit of a wonder-over, taking 3-2 in the 18th, Luus brought it home to finish the job by hitting Katherine Brunt for 4-4-6 in the 20th.

“I just stayed positive throughout this tour,” Luus concludes. “And I’m lucky it came off today.”

And perhaps she did get a little lucky – she was dropped on 25 by Jenny Gunn, and there was a big LBW shout to Hazell which TV showed was going to hit the stumps.

But T20 cricket can be very much about riding your luck – you still have to make that luck count, and Sune Luus did that here at Taunton to keep South Africa in with a shout in this Tri-Series.