#WT20 – England v South Africa

I’ll admit to experiencing a fair few nerves ahead of today’s match. As a must-win game for England, I was worried.

That seems a long time ago now.

England absolutely trampled all over South Africa with the ball. Linsey Smith carried on from where she left off the other day, introduced in only the third over of the powerplay and claiming the wicket of Laura Wolvaardt with her fourth delivery. England did get somewhat overexcited early on – chucking away their DRS review on an Anya Shrubsole ball that was missing Lizelle Lee’s leg stump by a fair old whack – but with Lee the big South Africa wicket, perhaps that was understandable.

“It ended up being a terrible review really,” Shrubsole told CRICKETher afterwards. “I thought it was bit closer than it was, and then you watch a replay. It was one of those things – DRS is new to everyone and we are getting used to it.”

By the halfway stage England had already broken the backbone of the South African innings, reducing them from 27-1 to 30-4. Kirstie Gordon again bowled well, but it was Nat Sciver – with remarkable figures of 4-1-4-3 – who starred.

While it seemed incongruous for Mark Robinson to stick with an unchanged side, not bringing in Tash Farrant on this seamer’s wicket, the performance of Sciver today showed that she is quite capable of stepping up in Katherine Brunt’s stead, Farrant or no. After her good showing with the ball in this season’s KSL – 10 wickets at 28 – Sciver can now, I think, be considered a frontline T20 bowler, rather than a batter-who-bowls. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what has changed for her over the past few months, but something certainly has.

“She has worked really hard leading up to this – made a little bit of a technical change to her action, and the ball is coming out beautifully,” said Shrubsole of her new-ball partner. “We’ve always known that she is capable of this and she is a world class allrounder – she has shown it with the bat in the past, and she is showing it with the ball now in this tournament.”

Shrubsole then wrapped things up with a 20th over hat-trick. Easy pickings in one sense; but this was the clinical performance that we didn’t see against Bangladesh – England determined not to take their foot off the pedal until their opponents were ground into the dust.

By the time South Africa took the field, they were already thoroughly demoralised, as evidenced by some terrible pieces of fielding – new keeper Faye Tunnicliffe letting through 4 byes and Masabata Klaas failing to collect a straightforward pick-up at third man. It didn’t help that DRS was unavailable for much of the England innings due to a power outage. (Power cuts appear to be common here in St Lucia – we had one in our villa a few days back!)

Meanwhile the England openers, after such a disastrous start against Bangladesh on Monday, seem to have recovered their joie de vivre, presumably due to being able to train properly over the past 3 days thanks to some Caribbean sunshine. It was a shame they couldn’t finish the job, but to reach 55 without losing a wicket set the platform for the middle-order that was so non-existent on Monday.

So South Africa are out of it; while England are assured of a place in the semi-finals, after West Indies beat Sri Lanka.

From the South African perspective, after such a good showing in last year’s 50-over World Cup this tournament has been a huge disappointment. Their key problem is clearly their batting. Wednesday’s collapse against West Indies was pretty bad, but this was in some ways even worse: none of their top 4 could muster up a strike rate of more than 60. Their biggest asset with the bat, Lizelle Lee, seems to be stifling her natural game, holding back when she should be firing. While this might be assumed to be on the advice of her coaches, Hilton Moreeng categorically denied this in the post-match press conference.

England, meanwhile, face defending champions West Indies in their final group match on Sunday. Despite already being through to the next stage, England will want to win this to ensure they top the group and avoid a likely semi-final clash with Australia (dependent on the Aussies beating India tomorrow). It should be a cracker.

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#WT20 – England Face De-Facto Must-Win Day In Group A

Group A Played Won Lost N/R Points NRR
1. West Indies 2 2 0 0 4 2.275
2. England 2 1 0 1 3 2.799
3. Sri Lanka 3 1 1 1 3 0.381
4. South Africa 2 1 1 0 2 -0.527
5. Bangladesh 3 0 3 0 0 -2.162

It’s a big day in Group A in St Lucia, as England face South Africa and West Indies play Sri Lanka, with Bangladesh having a rest. All 4 teams playing today could still qualify for the semi-finals in Antigua.

South Africa and Sri Lanka are both in the last chance saloon – they will be eliminated if they lose; but if they win, they could still go on to Antigua.

The West Indies will qualify if they beat Sri Lanka – joining India and Australia in the semis.

England will qualify if they beat South Africa and West Indies beat Sri Lanka.

England will not mathematically go out if they lose; but…

If England lose and West Indies win, then England are actually in a lot of trouble – they would then need Bangladesh to beat South Africa on Sunday, which given South Africa’s bowling and Bangladesh’s batting looks unlikely! So in fact, this is de-faco a must-win day for England too!

#WT20 NEWS: Linsey Smith Awarded Rookie Contract

Linsey Smith has been awarded a “Rookie” contract to enable her to continue to train full-time over the winter with the England squad.

The left-arm spinner, who made her international debut on Monday against Bangladesh and who had previously worked as a coach for Leicestershire, said that the decision had come as a relief.

“I came out of the KSL this year thinking, ‘right, I need to find a job away from cricket,’” she told ESPN Cricinfo in an interview published today. “For them to say, ‘you can focus on what you want to do, focus on being a cricketer for England’, it’s such a relief. I feel very lucky and privileged.”

Smith joins other “Rookies” Freya Davies, Alice Davidson-Richards and Katie George, with the 4 of them training alongside the 19 players with full contracts.

#WT20 On The Move?

The ICC are rumoured to be considering the drastic step of moving England’s Women’s World T20 group to a different country, after the world champions’ opening match in St Lucia was washed out by heavy rain yesterday.

66% of the average rainfall for the month of November fell in 24 hours yesterday, turning the outfield at the Darren Sammy Ground into a soggy marsh, with the plastic sheeting used to cover the square and bowlers’ run-ups proving little defence against the deluge.

With further heavy rain forecast through the rest of the week and beyond, the tournament organisers were beginning to contemplate moving all of England’s Group A to Antigua, where the semi-finals and final are due to be staged later in the month.

Antigua obviously has the infrastructure to host the matches themselves, but moving 75 players plus officials and support staff alone would be a huge undertaking, not to mention the media and television crews. St Lucia has just one scheduled flight per day to Antigua, so moving the group would mean chartering planes for a military-style airlift, which may be beyond the resources of even the cash-rich ICC.

It would also prove bitterly disappointing for the spectators who have spent thousands of pounds to travel to St Lucia to follow England’s progress.

The good news, such as it is for England, is that if the entire remainder of the group were to be washed out, they would actually qualify for the semi-finals. The West Indies, whose opening game win against Bangladesh was played in Providence Guyana – the only Group A match scheduled to be played outside St Lucia – would top the group; with Bangladesh bottom and everyone else joint-second.

With two teams qualifying, the table would then fall back to seedings, which would see England qualify for a possible semi-final date with Australia.

#WT20 – Knight Hoping Tough Warm-Ups Will Pay Off For England

England captain Heather Knight is hoping that England’s tough warm-up schedule, which included defeats to the West Indies and India, will help them overcome their opening-game “hoodoo” which saw them lose their first match at both the last 50-over World Cups.

“In the ideal world we’d want to be winning those [warm-up] games,” Knight told CRICKETher on the eve of England’s WT20 opener against Sri Lanka. “But it is better for our preparation actually – not playing easy games that we win without being challenged or being tested.”

“The last 50 over World Cup we had really easy warm-up games – we breezed them and then and then we came under a little bit of pressure in the first game and weren’t quite ready for it, so I think we fact that we’ve been tested means we’ve had a taste of the conditions – we know exactly how we need to sharpen up and what areas we need to be better in.”

With Katherine Brunt out of the tournament, which Knight described as a “big loss”, she pretty much confirmed that Linsey Smith will open the bowling for England.

“The role she [Smith] played in the warm-ups and the KSL is why we picked her – bowling those difficult of overs at the top of the powerplay and towards the back end – something she has done very well in the warm-up games and in the KSL.”

#WT20 Brunt Out For England; Wilson Flying In

England have confirmed that fast bowler Katherine Brunt will miss the World T20 after she failed to recover from a flare-up of the back injury that has been plaguing her all year.

Brunt was originally injured playing for the Perth Scorchers in the WBBL, and there is a degree of feeling within the England camp that the Scorchers were not as careful as they might have been with their prize asset.

England nursed Brunt through the summer, and she played a full (and important) part for England in both formats against South Africa and New Zealand; but she began to creak during the KSL which followed the internationals, missing the Diamonds’ final match, and she hasn’t trained fully since, and bowled just 5 balls for England during the WT20 warm-ups before being unable to continue.

Having already had in mind that Brunt might not be able to play, England have come prepared with an alternative option to open the bowling – debutante left-arm spinner Linsey Smith might not be the most obvious like-for-like replacement, but she has opened the bowling regularly for the Southern Vipers/ Loughborough Lightning in the KSL and been pretty effective, with more powerplay wickets than any other England. bowler.

Brunt will therefore be replaced in the England squad by batsman (and gun fielder) Fran Wilson, meaning England have another option in the middle order if injury strikes or they feel they need it. Wilson will not however be available for England’s opening match on Saturday versus Sri Lanka, leaving a possible XI of:

  1. Wyatt
  2. Beaumont
  3. Jones +
  4. Sciver
  5. Knight
  6. Winfield
  7. Dunkley
  8. Hazell
  9. Shrubsole
  10. Ecclestone
  11. Smith

WWT20 Preview Part II – Group B: Australia’s Group

The Women’s World T20 is less than a week away now – we are flying out to the West Indies on Thursday, with England’s first match against Sri Lanka coming up on Saturday. The competition is initially divided into two groups of 5, with the winners and runners-up going through to the semi-finals and final. Here are Raf’s predictions for Australia’s group – Group B. (You can read Syd’s predictions for England’s group – Group A – here.)

Aus­tralia

It goes without saying that Australia are far and away the favourites for the trophy. That’s nothing new, but the gap between them and the rest seems to be growing, not narrowing, given the strides they’ve made with payment of state players recently.

The issues they faced in last year’s World Cup in England, including an underwhelming pace bowling attack, have not entirely gone away. Megan Schutt’s dad may think that no one is within a cooee of Australia, but their real problem is finding a quick bowler who is within a cooee of Schutt (currently the ICC’s number 1 ranked bowler in T20s). Is newbie 20-year-old Tayla Vlaeminck the answer? I’m not convinced.

Australia’s real strength, as ever, lies in their mouthwatering batting line-up, which just keeps coming at you, especially now they’ve opted to drop both Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry down the order, with Alyssa Healy and Ash Gardner doing the job of quick-hitting up top. With this likely to be a batsman’s tournament, it’s hard to see anyone standing in the way of Australia securing their fourth T20 title.

New Zealand

New Zealand’s performances in England this summer summed up their recent fortunes as a team: feast – breaking the world record with the bat on the first day of the tri-series – followed by famine, as they succumbed to England in both the T20 and ODI formats. Batting collapses are now their speciality, and they will need their middle-order to grow a backbone if they are to avoid the kind of disasters we saw in England, with youngsters Jess Watkin and Bernadine Bezuidenhout shouldering some responsibility. With Amy Satterthwaite facing her first World Cup at the helm, the hope is clearly that this will allow Suzie Bates (still the number 1 ranked T20 batsman in the world) to get back to her usual consistency with the bat. Ultimately, whatever their recent issues, there is just no discounting a team who possess (in Bates and Sophie Devine) the best opening partnership in world cricket, bar none.

In­dia

It’s been a difficult year for India since the excitement surrounding their appearance in the World Cup final at Lord’s, culminating in a revolt against their coach Tushar Arothe, who was recently replaced by Ramesh Powar. Unfortunately scapegoating your coach doesn’t tend to solve any underlying issues. For India the biggest of those is inconsistency, exemplified in the up-and-down showings of captain Harmanpreet Kaur, who suffered a poor KSL campaign though has recovered some recent form against Australia A. Much of their batting line-up, including Mithali Raj, are better suited to the longer formats; Smriti Mandhana, as Western Storm supporters will attest, is the key exception, and her performances will be crucial. Leg-spinner and number-2 ranked T20 bowler Poonav Yadav is also enjoying a good year. Overall, though, I can’t see them progressing beyond the group stages.

Pak­istan

Since taking home the “wooden spoon” at last year’s World Cup Pakistan have dusted themselves off and posted some historic results, including a maiden ODI win against New Zealand. They’ve undoubtedly got some good players and are fortunate to have Bismah Maroof, their best batsman, returning to the side after undergoing sinus surgery earlier in the year. Sana Mir, meanwhile, has recently been named as the number one ranked bowler in ODI cricket. Nonetheless their recent 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Australia shows just how far they have to go in the T20 format, and it seems unlikely that they’ll do well enough in a difficult group to reach the semi-finals.

Ire­land

Ireland’s chances of winning this tournament are best encapsulated in the bookies’ odds accompanying their campaign: currently 500-1. While the inclusion of Gaby Lewis and Lucy O’Reilly in the ICC’s Global Development Squad bodes well for the future, it’s telling that their best players – including WBBL “Rookie” Kim Garth – still rely on external opportunities to develop their game. While Ireland played in the 2014 and 2016 tournaments, they’ve never won a WWT20 match, and though it would be fitting for stalwarts Clare Shillington and Ciara Metcalfe (who have both announced they will be retiring at the end of the WWT20) to go out on a high, sadly it seems unlikely that they will break their losing streak this time around.

Predictions

Group A: England (winners); South Africa (runners up)

Group B: Australia (winners); New Zealand (runners up)

Eventual Winners: Australia

Outside Bet: West Indies

WWT20 Preview Part I – Group A: England’s Group

The Women’s World T20 is less than a week away now – we are flying out to the West Indies on Thursday, with England’s first match against Sri Lanka coming up on Saturday. The competition is initially divided into two groups of 5, with the winners and runners-up going through to the semi-finals and final. First up, Syd previews England’s group – Group A – and makes some predictions; then check back here later for Raf’s preview of Group B and her predictions.

England

The 50-over world champions have high hopes of adding the other global title to their trophy cabinet, following on from a successful summer where they beat South Africa and New Zealand in both limited-overs formats, setting down a marker at Taunton where they posted a T20 world record 250-3 against South Africa. Coach Mark Robinson surprised everyone by naming 3 debutantes in his squad, and he may well need them as he sweats on the availability of Katherine Brunt, who is fighting to be fit for the start of the group stages. If Brunt is unfit, expect one of those debutantes – Linsey Smith – to be thrown straight into the deep end to open the bowling against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Even without Brunt, however, England will be expected to make the semi-finals, and they will be bitterly disappointed if they don’t go at least one step further too.

South Africa

It has been a mixed 12 months for the Women Proteas since they came within a cats-whisker of making the World Cup final in 2017. They ran-in last in the Tri-Series with England and New Zealand over the summer, and against the West Indies last month, having drawn the ODI series 1-1, they looked to be on-course for a T20 series defeat at 2-0 down with 2 to play. But they dragged themselves back against the Windies, with Lizelle Lee finding some form and Laura Wolvaardt hitting her maiden T20 half century, adding to the impression that, despite a slightly shallow batting lineup, they are a better side than their results over the English summer suggested; especially with Trisha Chetty (who missed the summer and autumn internationals) and Shabnim Ismail (who missed the West Indies tour) both returning to the fold. Will South Africa win the WWT20? Probably not – being thrashed by Pakistan in the warm-ups was not a good omen! But could they still win it if everything falls into place? Absolutely!

West Indies

Although they are the holders, their disastrous World Cup in England last year, including being bowled out for 48 by South Africa, has led many to write the West Indies off for this tournament, despite home advantage. However, they beat England in an unofficial warm-up last week, and their best players – Stafanie Taylor, Deandra Dottin and Anisa Mohammed – are still top, top performers. The star of the 2016 WWT20 final – Hayley Matthews – hasn’t quite lived up to her potential in the intervening 2 years, but she is only 20, so she has time-and-a-half on her side. Their group stage match against South Africa on Wednesday could well be their de facto quarter-final which determines whether they go on in the competition.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka have played 19 T20 internationals in the past 2 years, and have won just 4 of them, and it would be little surprise if they failed to add much to that statistic in the West Indies. They do have one weapon that the other “no hopers” don’t – a genuinely world class player in Chamari Atapattu, who has WBBL and KSL experience on her side – and if she fires they could pull off an upset (singular); but upsets (plural) would be a surprise.

Bangladesh

The highest-ranked of the non-ICC Women’s Championship sides, Bangladesh look like rank outsiders; but then they also looked that way in the Asia Cup earlier this year. In that tournament they shocked India with a 7-wicket win in the group stages, and then went on to repeat the feat in the final, restricting a pretty-much full-strength India to 112, and then making the runs with two off the final ball to celebrate the biggest day in their cricketing history. Since that day they have also won the qualifying tournament in the Netherlands to earn the right to be here, and the news that they are due to be added to the ICC Championship after 2021 will be a further fillip for the up-and-comers, for whom holding their own here will be a victory in and of itself.

Predictions

Group A: England (winners); South Africa (runners up)

Group B: Australia (winners); New Zealand (runners up)

Eventual Winners: Australia

Outside Bet: South Africa