They know their farming down in Somerset – agriculture still makes up a significant proportion of the local economy, and “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester, and I’ll give you the key” by The Wurzels is the official team song of the Western Storm, the KSL side based here in Taunton.
So they’ll likely be familiar too with the expression to “bet the farm” on something; but if not… well, it’s pretty-much what England did today – they bet the farm on spin, selecting not just the more attacking left-arm spin options of Sophie Ecclestone and Kirstie Gordon, but the also the containing off-spin of Laura Marsh, while leaving the seam of Kate Cross gathering dust in the shed.
That was their first mistake. Cross might not have taken the most wickets of England’s bowlers this summer, but she has often looked their most likely to take a wicket – there’s been that feeling when she’s been bowling that “something” might happen… and boy did England need “something” as play drifted towards a close today.
England’s second mistake was arguably more forgivable – they lost the toss! This put all the cards in Australia’s hands – their long batting lineup is their real strength, and opting to bat first gave them the chance to dictate the pace of the game, which they did with increasingly mechanical efficiency, losing just 1 wicket as they ground-out 150 runs in the two sessions after lunch.
England had no answer.
Their spinners toiled for 64 overs, taking 2-167; while their seamers got through 36 overs, finishing with 1-92. Neither particularly great returns, though for what it’s worth (which isn’t much) the seamers were the more economical, by half a run an over.
Truth be told, they actually weren’t that bad, some careless fielding aside; but Australia were just clinically good, with only the out-of-sorts Nicole Bolton failing to pass 50.
Australia finished the day on 265-3. Having scored 100-odd in each of the first two sessions, Ellyse Perry and Rachel Haynes were happy to take the evening session at their leisure, scoring just 64 between tea and the close – the game was done by then; the Ashes basically won – it will take a miracle for England to win the match from here, and the Aussies know it. The weather forecast for tomorrow is terrible, and it’s little better for Saturday – there’s simply no time for England to take the 7 + 10 more wickets they need and score the 500-odd runs they’d require in-between.
Is there a “glass half full” scenario for England? If the forecasters have got it completely wrong, and we get 3 more full days, they could bowl Australia out tomorrow morning, bat aggressively for a day and a half to pile-on 500, and then try to bowl them out again on the final day, leaving them a small (or even no) target to chase at the death on Sunday.
Stranger things have happened; but it doesn’t feel terribly likely.
England haven’t got a brand new combine harvester – they’ve got a rusty old one… and they’ve lost the key.