TRI-SERIES: Australia v England – “Heather Say Die”

Knight Knight

England twice looked dead and buried in this match – and twice it was captain Heather Knight who refused to say die, seeing England home in a thriller of a match that felt at times like it had as much riding on it as a World Cup final.

At 41-3 at the halfway stage of their innings, England could easily have given up (we nearly gave up on them from our sofa…) To recover as they did to post a total in excess of 150 – beating their effort against India yesterday by 7 runs – was a remarkable effort.

That recovery was spearheaded by Knight, who smashed her highest score in T20 internationals for the second consecutive day in a row – this time with a 45-ball 78; alongside a 115-run stand with Fran Wilson, who underwrote her newly-found status as England’s middle-order power-player.

Then, after debutant Annabel Sutherland smashed Katherine Brunt for 17 off the antepenultimate over, in a display of youthful swagger that almost cost England the game, Knight did the job for her side again in the Super Over – hitting Ellyse Perry for consecutive boundaries to reach the target with two balls to spare. Unsurprisingly she was once again named Player of the Match.

Perry v Jones

Ellyse Perry’s opening spell of 4 consecutive overs went for only 9, but it was interesting to note from coach Matthew Mott that her economy rate wasn’t the only reason she bowled all her overs up front. Mott, interviewed during the match, said that he had sent out a message telling Meg Lanning to keep Perry on for her fourth over because it fitted with their pre-planned “match-ups”. Presumably it hasn’t escaped the Australians’ attention that Amy Jones effectively became Perry’s “bunny” last Ashes, and there is clearly still a psychological “block” there, with Jones playing out 12 dot balls against Perry today. It all built up to what was a frankly suicidal run-out.

Jones’s confidence will have taken a big knock after being unfairly lambasted for claiming the Smriti Catch-That-Wasn’t yesterday, which is very unfortunate. England will need to hope she can find some form across the rest of this series.

Uninvincible Australia

England will take a lot from this win, which will be all the sweeter after Australia walked all over them in the Ashes last summer. More to the point, it showed that Australia aren’t the invincible super-humans that we’ve come to expect. Both Knight and Wilson were dropped at crucial stages in their innings’ – Knight when she was on just 2* – and there were also some distinctly average pieces of fielding on the boundary rope during the Knight-Wilson onslaught. It just goes to show that even the Aussies aren’t immune to pressure when their backs are against the walls.

There is one other cause for concern for the home side. Captain Meg Lanning – who looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable at the crease today – missed the Super Over, having gone off for treatment for a “bad back”. It seems a bit odd that she would miss such a crucial part of the match unless there was something genuinely wrong – fingers crossed she holds up OK for the next match of the series against India tomorrow.