WOMEN’S ASHES: 1st T20 – England Eaten By Big Mac

Four short months ago, Tahlia McGrath was yet to play a T20 international, though she’d won a handful of ODI caps, plus one Test cap, mostly during in the 2017 Ashes. No one disputed that she was a very good domestic player, but aged almost 26 it looked a good probability that she’d nonetheless end her career without troubling the international honours boards too much.

Her T20 debut against India, on October 7th 2021, was ended prematurely by rain without McGrath (or any other Australian) having the opportunity to bat; but in the final two games against India she scored 42* and 44*, snagging two Player of the Match awards, plus Player of the T20 Series.

If there were any remaining questions over whether she belonged at this level, they were comprehensively answered today against England.

After playing a crucial role with the ball, taking the wickets of Danni Wyatt and Nat Sciver in the 17th over, when both were in full flow and England were threatening 180, she then topped that with the bat, scoring 91* off just 49 balls to win her third straight Player of the Match gong. She has now scored 177 runs in 3 T20 innings without being dismissed – it will happen one day, but that day wasn’t going to be today, and she still hasn’t got a T20 average!

England looked to have made a decent enough total, after Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt were given the chance to shake off some of their winter rust, hitting their straps by the end of the powerplay, and taking England to 82-0 at the halfway mark. Wyatt went on to make a 54-ball 70, but England stuttered slightly with the dismissals of Wyatt and Sciver. It was a situation made for someone like Alice Capsey to come in and start striking from the get-go; but instead England faltered, and despite hitting 14 off the final over, were probably 10 short of par in retrospect.

Not that it would have made any difference – with McGrath in the form of her life, and Meg Lanning looking back to her ominous best, Australia simply cruised to their highest ever successful chase. Par? Pah!

Would it have been a different story if Amy Jones had held on to a relatively straightforward chance to dismiss Lanning early on off Sarah Glenn? We’ll never know, and Australia still had a lot of batting to come, but those are the chances England need to take if they are going to have any chance of winning the toughest prize in cricket – Nat Sciver’s brilliant catch to dismiss Healy (and it was a much more difficult take than it looked, with the ball on a trajectory so close to the ground) was what England need to do more of if they are going to come back into this series.

Dave Tickner joked on Twitter: “At least the men never tricked us into thinking they might be competitive.” I’m not sure it is quite that bad… yet! But England can’t afford to fall too much further behind – Saturday’s 2nd T20 already feels like a “must win”. Top Tip for England: Make it the day Tahlia McGrath finally gets a T20 average!

One thought on “WOMEN’S ASHES: 1st T20 – England Eaten By Big Mac

  1. England performed admirably with the bat and reached a total beyond what I thought they might achieve. Forget 10 or 20 under par – this was a solid total that should have had Australia scrabbling a bit at least. Wyatt in particular did the business incredibly well as she has quite a few times down under for England or in WBBL.

    However England were unable to exert much control or pressure with the ball, and this gave Australia free reign to play a more attacking style of cricket than we’ve perhaps always seen from them. England’s bowling performance started off quite well but it and the fielding gradually got worse. The economy and wickets are kind of inexorably linked – many wickets come as a direct result of pressure from the run rate built up by economical bowling. And England weren’t able to execute that – it was a “sub-optimal” bowling performance, as they say. Glenn especially had a day to forget, and was far too expensive.

    Could McGrath turn out to be one of these rare players who has better International than domestic stats? She’s been solid over a number of years but only recently really improved – her overall WBBL record is still not as great as it might be. But she could be the sort of player Australia need to cement their authority over everyone – almost an English style batter, super aggressive and willing to chance her arm in the way some of her more conservative colleagues might not. Although she had a bit of luck, it certainly paid off in this innings. England must be left wondering how many more of those performances McGrath has left in her this series.

    Just a final word on some of the unhelpful media coverage around the game – outlets dismissively summarising the result as a thrashing which doesn’t tell the whole story – this was a record run chase, and eminently losable up to about the 130 run mark regardless of wickets. England got a good score, and could have been in the game till relatively late on if the runs had slowed down after 12-13 overs. But they didn’t, instead the rate accelerated.

    Hard to see any way England can get back in the series – but some positives – if they can stay competitive, this will at least quickly become a better Ashes for them than 2019.

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