When cricket historians come to write their chronicles of The Hundred, 1 August 2021 will be an important date. It was the day that finally, after 72 years, the record for biggest crowd at a domestic match in England (previously 15,000 for Yorkshire v Lancashire Women set at Roundhay Park in 1949) was broken – 15,189 people turning up to see Southern Brave defeat London Spirit by 7 wickets at Lord’s.
Those same historians, though, might well diplomatically overlook what happened on the pitch in their accounts – for this was a spectacle that was far from edifying, certainly in comparison with what we have seen so far in the women’s competition.
If London Spirit’s scorecard makes for miserable reading – only Tammy Beaumont (34 from 45 balls) achieved double figures – watching Spirit’s batters get themselves out one by one did not make for much happier viewing. The sight of Heather Knight sending up the tamest of catches to Smriti Mandhana at cover was definitely not one for sore eyes. 93 all out in 96 balls (with 25 of them coming in wides) – ouch.
Even Beaumont batted at a meagre strike rate of 76 – not the kind of innings we have come to expect from one of England’s most dynamic T20 batters.
“It’s been a bit tough for me,” Beaumont admitted after the match. “I had to miss two games to go to my brother’s wedding. It was supposed to only be one, and it got changed last minute. I was a week or so without cricket, so I feel like I’m playing catch-up a little bit.”
“I think it’s just a bit of a confidence thing. Mentally playing in your mind that we’re 4 games in but I’m only 2 games in. I’ve just got to keep going but hopefully it will come good eventually.”
“I’m striking it well in the nets,” she added – and she’s right. I was at the ground early enough to watch her having a net before the match, and she looked in incredible touch, as did Heather Knight. You have to ask, then, what is preventing them from translating that into match situations. This was a side who were touted (by us and others) as one to beat before the competition got underway; yet it seems – judging by the body language of the players today – that all is not well in the London Spirit dressing room.
And so to the Brave, who have now gone top of the table after four wins in as many matches. And yet, in the words of Amanda-Jade Wellington: “We still haven’t really put on a 100% performance… it’s not how we want to bowl.” Well, quite. Giving away 25 wides to your opponents, 20 of which came in the powerplay, is… not ideal.
Praise where it’s due: Brave pulled it back well after a shoddy start, with Wellington adjusting her length to make it difficult for the batters to get her away, meting out a maiden “five” before going on to take 4 wickets. “On a wicket like that I really had to change up my pace and variations and length as well, that was really key,” she said after the match. “I saw early on it was turning quite a bit, so I had to change my plans.”
Carla Rudd also had a day to remember behind the stumps, pulling off 3 important stumpings, (admittedly the first one coming after an initial fumble against Deepti Sharma); while Maia Bouchier hit the sweetest of sixes over long-on in her not-out 15.
But Brave’s chase – pulled off with only 8 balls to spare – was far from convincing: Danni Wyatt looked scrappy; Sophia Dunkley ending up plonking it straight into the hands of Dottin at backward point; and Stafanie Taylor’s contribution was built on luck rather than judgement or placement.
The Hundred has proved brilliantly successful for women’s cricket to date, measured purely on getting people through the gates; and we’ve seen some special performances from the likes of Lauren Bell, Jemimah Rodrigues and Alice Capsey.
Not every match can be the perfect spectacle – that’s the nature of sport. But equality for the women’s game means more than just tweeting excitedly when we like what we see – it is also about calling it out when a match is poor quality. Let’s not be scared to admit that (crowd aside), today’s game was hardly one for The Hundred’s highlights reel.