After losing to England in the semi-final of the 2017 World Cup, and then having a nightmare against a rampant Anya Shrubsole in St Lucia at the 2017 World T20, South Africa finally got the England monkey off their backs with a memorable win at the WACA.
This was always going to be England’s most difficult game in the group stages, and they will still expect to qualify for the semi-finals by targeting wins over the West Indies, Thailand and Pakistan. But if they are going to go any further than that in the tournament, they will need to bat a lot better than they did today, especially in the middle-overs.
Between overs 4 and 15, England trudged along at just 4.5 an over, despite having wickets in hand and plenty of proper batting still in the shed. There were really no excuses. Overs 16-through-18 – which went for 13, 10 and 11 – showed that there were runs out there, but neither Heather Knight coming in at 4, nor Fran Wilson at 5, were able to find them – between them scoring just 20 off 35 balls.
It would be remiss not to mention Nat Sciver, who scored a half-century at a Strike Rate of 122; but when the batters at the other end are going at under 60, as they were, there’s a limit to what even Super-Sciver can do to build a defendable total.
And let’s be clear that although the scorecard will show that England defended it into the final over, this was not really a “defendable” total. South Africa’s batters just did what they needed to do – Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp were brilliant in controlling the chase, keeping the required rate hovering around a comfortable 7, knowing that with wickets in hand that would get them over the line.
Overall England didn’t bowl badly as a unit. Shrubsole’s last two overs went for 22, which isn’t ideal when you are defending a low total, but then her first two had delivered 1-4, so bringing her back was a reasonable bet, especially with England really needing wickets.
But although the wickets of Kapp and van Niekerk did both come eventually, the hard yards were done by then, leaving Chloe Tryon and Mignon du Preez to steer their country to an exciting win, which should (… and I say should!) all-but guarantee them a semi-final spot. And on the balance of today, it is a spot they’ll deserve.
“It was a disappointing performance, but I’d rather we got it out of the way ahead of the World Cup,” said Knight after the Sri Lanka warm-up match. Er …………………………
However, this is all a bit of ‘phoney war’ – one group was always going to be Aus/Ind/NZ and still is, the other group was always going to be Eng/SA/WI and still is. There is no guarantee that SA will beat WI nor that Ind will beat NZ, so not only are the semi-finalists nothing like decided, the group winners aren’t either (which I guess is a positive for the competition). Granted; Aus (v NZ) and Eng (v WI) have effectively created quarter-finals for themselves, something Australia have historically been rather good at winning.
The main take out from Aus/Ind and Eng/SA is that both matches produced ‘edge of your seats’ cricket, which is excellent news.
Credit to England for the way we fought back with the ball, despite being below par on the fielding side of things. With three overs to go we probably should have won it. Ecclestone and Glenn bowled with good control on the whole.
Did Knight miss a trick by not bowling herself? Sciver and Brunt went for 26 runs off 10 balls (Including extras) in those last three overs. That’s the risk with pace at the death, and it’s hard to believe pace off the ball could have done any worse.
We also gave them an overthrow in the 19th over with a needless shy at the stumps which allowed Tryon to get back on strike. That’s a lack of game intelligence – granted, under the pressure of a nervy situation.
But really we lost it with the batting, which was immature. Although Jones’s boundaries masked it to a degree, even in the first four overs we weren’t looking for enough singles, and Sciver/Wilson took far too long to build any kind of momentum. Wilson is usually such a “busy” player, but it’s a short journey from there to “frenetic”, and that’s how she looked today. And I thought Beaumont/Brunt/Winfield at 6/7/8 were supposed to be the insurance policy enabling the top and middle order to play with more freedom? As it turned out, another 15 or 20 runs may well have been enough.
Things to work on, but my overriding feeling is that Keightley has tried (arguably needlessly) to put too much of her own stamp on the team in too short a space of time leading up to a major tournament, and England look a little bit lacking in confidence as a result of not quite believing in what they’re doing.
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I agree Richard…
Only fair to add that I DO believe we are capable of winning this tournament, and nothing I’ve seen from other teams so far (notably Australia) fills me with fear.
But we need to find form and confidence quickly, and that requires players to be “in a good place.” My gut instinct, from afar, is that we are not in that good place at the moment, but it might not take a lot to actually get us there.
I think it’s important to point out that this was a very good performance from South Africa. Much better than they’ve normally produced against England. Not too much went wrong for them. England had a poor middle over period with a lack of boundaries, Wilson’s “fran-tic” effort where she really got bogged down and tried to be just a bit too funky. Even Sciver got tied down, although SA bowled very well.
A couple of media nightmares as well, as the anthem was affected by sound problems and then Keightley was on mic when Knight holed out, and had to take a moment off, understandably. That all didn’t bode well, and England never really got into a good position again after the first 3 overs.
It’s also important to point out that there’s something clearly wrong with England’s batting order. Beaumont should definitely be moved up the order. Wilson is probably better at the end than in the middle. I’m not sure what Winfield is bringing to the party at the moment as she seems like a specialist number 8, but probably won’t get enough time to make too many runs and didn’t field very well today. It would be better to bring in say Davies or Elwiss instead as they could also offer another bowling option if anyone else starts to go for a few.
Knight missed a trick in leaving out midwicket for much of SA’s chase as that certainly could have saved us a few runs. SA’s field placements seemed to be perfect.
We can’t afford another slip-up, but I’m not sure the side now has the confidence to win all 3 remaining group games. We should beat Thai and probably Pakistan, but I’ve a feeling Windies could cause England a lot of problems. We’ll keep fighting though, I’m sure. I can’t see England going all the way to the final this time, but I’d love to be proved wrong.
Katherine Brunt is going for 7.82 runs per over this year. Is her batting that important, should they be looking to play either Cross or Davies ahead of her and be happy with Winfield at 7 and everyone else move a place up?
England batting even in matches they won in the tri-series seemed haphazard and saved by Sciver or Knight in the second half of the innings. Beaumont conundrum is a bit perplexing, you have decided she will be your designed finisher, but it is a job that should be determined by the number of overs left than a batting position. They can always open with her and Jones and let Wyatt bat 3. She has the game for it, as for English spinners may be bring in Mady Villiers too if you are not going to use Winfield’s batting anyway.
Good points again, I tend to agree. Brunt more useful in the side than Winfield is at the moment though.
Did anyone else notice Jones hit the cover off Kappa’s first ball? Jones had earned the right to anchor innings bt chose to go hard and paid the price.
The batting order seems to be the coach trying to make a statement but how many times do you continue with an experiment when it keeps 1/2 working or completely failing?
On bright side the tournament is wide open…
England’s batting strategy at the moment seems incoherent.If you were being generous, you could argue that’s down to a new coach but the team composition makes no sense. Firstly, why would you bat Tammy Beaumont at 6/7? This is a player with a T20 hundred, she has to bat in the top three because you want your best batters to face as many balls as possible, she definitely should be above Fran Wilson and Katherine Brunt who much better suited coming late. There’s an argument for batting Nat Sciver at three but do that if the first wicket falls after 10 overs.
Having a specialist batter at eight seems like a waste too. As others have said, if you’re going to play in such a conservative manner then it defeats the whole object of playing one there. Sophie Ecclestone and Anya Shrubsole are useful with the bat so it makes more sense to play an extra bowler.
That West Indies game suddenly looks huge now. They have been poor the last year but they’ve had a lot of injuries and if Deandra Dottin or Stafanie Taylor have a good day, England could well be in trouble.
I could be proved wrong as it is very early stages, but pace is not the answer in this tournament. Quicker bowlers have fared worse than the spinners, as batters however inexperienced, are able to score cheap runs. Against spinners they have to generate their own power, and that s not easy, especially for the smaller players – you just have to see the 6 that the indian number 8 hit off the Aust pace bowler for evidence.
Neither Aus nor Eng have looked comfortable, even in the tri-nations series, so it is a question of which team can get some rhythm and consistency. NZ and WI are the two to watch for me, and IND with a stronger middle order will be hard to beat, tho their fielding is woeful….there is no stand out candidate here, which makes it for an exciting tournament
I think South African teams of the past would have failed to get across the line after Kapp and van Niekerk fell, so it’s a credit to them that they won this one. That said, the England bowling and fielding effort fell away after the Powerplay, where they were very good.
But what’s with England’s batting order? Why did they leave Beaumont and Brunt, two women who can find and clear the rope, till so late in the innings?
NZ beat South Africa 4-1 in our recent warm-up T20 series, so this result is encouraging for the White Ferns. However, I think Sophie Devine will have to score big runs against almost every team for NZ to win the tournament.
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*Sorry, 3-1: the final game was rained off.