#WT20 – England v West Indies

This was the tournament thriller we’d all been waiting for – West Indies eventually winning with a mere 3 balls to spare. From England’s perspective, though, it should never have got that close.

Was this England’s worst batting performance of the Mark Robinson era? Of England’s top 6, only Tammy Beaumont made it into double figures, and it could have been even worse than that: Beaumont herself was dropped on 12, to a skier that the Windies keeper couldn’t quite cling onto.

At one stage it even looked like England could be dismissed for their record lowest score in T20Is – 87 v Australia at Hove in 2015 (a performance which this was reminiscent of at times).

Enter Sophia Dunkley for her first forage into international batting. She wouldn’t have been human if she hadn’t been nervous – and there were certainly some anxious swipes early on – but this is a player who, as I’ve written before, isn’t cowed easily. To finish as England’s top-scorer on debut, to stand firm as all around you lose their heads (Ed: do you mean wickets?), and to hit England’s first six of the tournament in the process – that takes a certain kind of temperament.

Captain Heather Knight summed it up afterwards:

“She has had to wait 3 games to get out there and get the bat in hand, and she has been itching at the bit to do that. The way she played, under that amount of pressure in front of 10,000 people – I’m really pleased for her.”

Dunkley was of course ably backed up by Anya Shrubsole, who after batting for 8 overs then came straight out to open the bowling. Her inswingers delivered two quick wickets in her first over, leaving West Indies 3-2 and England suddenly in with an unexpected shot at winning this match.

Had she taken a third, all might well have been different. Deandra Dottin could easily have been dismissed when still on 0* – Shrubsole inducing a miscue that fell only just safe of Sophie Ecclestone at mid-off. As it was, her 46 off 52 balls was crucial as West Indies wended their way towards the target.

“We held our nerve,” Dottin said afterwards, when asked about the difference between the two sides today. “We had a never die attitude.”

England, meanwhile, appeared to completely lose their heads in the field. It was as if, after Dottin began doing her thing, panic set in: there were all manner of fumbles, poor throws which could otherwise have been real run out opportunities, and just plain dropped catches. It was odd, too, that Knight chose to persist with Dani Hazell – who had gone at 9 an over in her first outing – when she could have turned to the leg-spin of Dunkley, or even bowled herself.

“It was very difficult conditions – the ball went very high, and fielding under the lights with the dark skies is something we haven’t done in this competition yet,” Knight said afterwards. “A little bit more skill and composure would have got us over the line.”

Skill and composure will be exactly what is required on Thursday, where they are now destined to meet India (not Australia as many expected) in their semi-final.

Advertisements

#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.

#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