WOMEN’S ASHES: 3RD ODI – Second Best

“Don’t go for second best baby – put your cricket to the test,” as Madonna didn’t quite sing on her 1989 hit Express Yourself. England talk a lot about the batters “expressing themselves”; but it’s something they’ve had little chance to do in the ODI leg of this Ashes series, as Australia’s bowlers have turned the screw ever tighter.

England rolled the dice by bringing in Emma Lamb to open the batting in place of Lauren Winfield-Hill, who has gone more than 5 years without passing 50 for England. Lamb had a good ‘A’ series, but coming into an Ashes series is a step up at the best of times, and with just one game to prove herself against the rampant opening bowling of Ellyse Perry and Megan Schutt, the pressure was really on the Lancashire Thunder player.

And it didn’t work out – Lamb falling to a lovely delivery from Perry that was pitched up and moved late, for a 2-ball duck. But this absolutely wasn’t a case of Lamb having been tried and failed – she can’t be judged on one innings, especially if the other option is to go back to Winfield-Hill, who has been given the benefit of the doubt for the best part of fifty innings!

And the bottom line anyway is that nobody has really “succeeded” for England in this ODI series. Tammy Beaumont got to 50 today, but it was the slowest 50+ innings of her ODI career at a Strike Rate of 49.5, and she couldn’t push on. Nat Sciver made an even slower 46 at a Strike Rate of 48.4, which was the slowest ODI innings she’s ever played having reached double-figures.

England have now been whitewashed in their last two ODI series versus Australia, and they haven’t beaten them in an ODI since 2017. And far from closing, the gap appears to be widening – England’s batters just can’t score runs against Australia, it’s getting worse, and today they looked like a side that knew it.

And yet whilst England have come up second-best against Australia again and again, they’ve maintained a win percentage against everybody else of over 70%. Add matches against everyone else to that chart, and the “Ashes Dips” versus Australia in 2019 and now in 2022 are startling apparent, amid what’s otherwise a decent record.

This is what England need to take away from this series – they have come up second-best against Australia, but they are still the second-best team in the world; and that’s not a bad place to be going into a World Cup. It’s not going to be easy to keep believing that through 10 days of hard quarantine in New Zealand, but believe it they must.

As for Australia, they go to New Zealand perhaps firmer favourites for the title than they’ve ever been, having lost just once in their past 30 ODIs against all-comers. With the Ashes wrapped-up, the tournament is theirs to lose – for Lanning & co, second best will not be good enough.

13 thoughts on “WOMEN’S ASHES: 3RD ODI – Second Best

  1. In one significant way, Women’s cricket globally is in very poor health. The 2nd best team in the world (by some margin) can’t compete with the #1. It’s been that way for some time and a look at domestic structures etc suggests it won’t improve any time soon. It’s worse than the home:away issue in men’s cricket.

    How long before audience interest outside Australia starts to wane? And then top-level player participation goes with it? The WhiteFerns are about to collapse as Devine/Satterthwaite/Bates leave. South Africa seems to be approaching the same issue, but with longer to go. Other nations below the top 4 or 5 are not progressing.

    I don’t know, just have the feeling this Aus team is so good, and their structure so professional, that it puts the game at risk as others don’t match it.

    We could see more and more girls starting cricket, but fewer women staying with it.

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    • Ha yes, “Dear Australia, please get worse at cricket!” ;-). Have been saying it for years! Seriously though, I think ECB should be pushing for less frequent Ashes series (every 3 years?) because they’re generally not enjoyable for us and usually get the same results. Why should we bother? Meanwhile England women haven’t played the likes of Sri Lanka / Bangladesh women at home for a long time and it would be a good experience for them. The real money is in playing India anyway.

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      • Just need some sort of ball-tampering scandal … haha 🙂

        They’ve set the standard that women’s cricket needs to become a stronger global sport. Just need the others to catch up, somehow

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    • We have speculated before on the podcast about this ending up like baseball or basketball, where there are effectively two versions of the sport – the premier version, played as a domestic competition in one country which doesn’t compete internationally; and the rest of the world continuing to play internationals largely separately.

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      • It may all hinge on whether India fully embrace women’s cricket? Then we might see a 2 or 3 country hegemony (like men’s cricket) rather than 1 nation to rule them all. While there will still be the haves and the have nots, overall growth will help 2nd tier nations like NZ, Sth Africa, Pakistan as well, based on the men’s example

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    • I’ve watched quite a bit of the NZ domestic women’s T20 competition this year, and my impression is that there’s plenty of good young talent in these teams – especially Wellington and Otago – but without franchise or international experience. In a few years, the White Ferns – led by Amelia Kerr? – may have a squad with more strength in depth than the current squad.

      There could be some tough times while the early-20s generation comes through, but with players who haven’t yet played for the Ferns beginning to build their profile – Xara Jetly, for example – I don’t think the public will lose interest.

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      • Good points. Otago is a fascinating example of what you say, its a team with two parts: the very experienced pros/White Ferns, and the rest are nearly all barely out of school. In part where NZ goes will depend on what happens globally with women’s cricket I think, especially India.

        There is a lot of young talent – players in high school or not long left. The weakness I see in NZ’s set up is that outside of those women who leave school and keep playing in the Sparks/Magicians/Blaze etc setup, very few stay playing. So the pool of players and the competition is limited to non-existent. If a player gets in the pathway early (used to be from U15 or earlier), there isn’t a lot of competition from outside. A coach in the regional set up told me its a major concern of theirs, that top athletes are lost to cricket because they mature later (or don’t go to the right school) – because the pipeline gets narrowed down too soon.

        If more pro and semi-pro opportunities open up globally (eg WIPL) that might help. But NZC now needs to think what to do with all the young players coming through as a result of their initiatives in primary/intermediate age.

        I’m not a cricketer but work in human behaviour fields and find this interesting stuff. Moneyball (the book, but also the movie) should be required reading for regional cricket staff – high school performance is a poor indicator of adult performance overall, but its nearly the only criteria used at present.

        Its come a long way, lets hope it goes further.

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  2. This Australia team have to be regarded as a ‘great’ team given they have lost one of 30 ODIs. Just a bit galling that England came so clearly second best despite restricting this ‘great’ team to 205 and 133-5 in two of the matches. And no, I can’t see an end to this dominance unless England, or any other nation, commits to matching the Australian domestic professional structure in full.

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  3. Somehow England contrived to produce an arguably even worse performance than the 2nd ODI. The bowling effort was sub-optimal again, after a pedestrian batting innings, that might only have threatened 200 if the Beaumont-Sciver partnership could have picked up pace and England hadn’t collapsed afterwards. A lot of ifs! But it wasn’t to be, much like this whole series.

    After a promising first match with the bat, The T20 series was largely a non-event and the Test was fine for England, good even. I’ll forgive the 1st ODI loss given the good bowling and late effort to make the chase – but since then it’s just not been good enough. Last 2 games have been disastrous, and thoroughly poor.

    The selections today were quizzical to say the least – picking an extra bowler when the batting was failing (perhaps a misplaced thought into forcing the top six to do their jobs) and England didn’t really learn about picking up the tempo through the middle overs. I feel we’re now paying the price when Brunt’s not in the side after relying so heavily on her, no one else seems capable of really troubling Australia’s batters. Farrant didn’t really push her case and was too expensive. Only Davies and Ecclestone really performed well with the ball. Lamb got a fairly unplayable leg-cutter from Perry this time, although with experience she might keep those out. Surprised she didn’t get to bowl an over or two.

    One of the points that did ring true from the Aussie pundits’ commentaries in the ODIs was that England make things easy for opposition attacks with their procession of right handers. We can expect the Canterbury Effect as I’m calling it (a massive collapse with no batters able to stop the slide) on a regular basis, as England’s batters do the bowler’s job for them and line things up for the wickets to tumble without any left handers. It’s a serious issue and really doesn’t help England. There are many benefits England are currently missing out on from lack of left handers – disruption to bowler’s line, and having to change the field every time a single is scored, fielders being more tired etc. It’s really not a small thing.

    England are at risk of really failing to capitalise on the 2017 title. They couldn’t not qualify for the 2022 WC, but might not fare well based on this evidence and the psychological harm it could do. Summary: The success of 2017 has not been built on and this Ashes is the evidence. England are semi-competitive in T20 and Test cricket, but miles behind Australia in ODIs.

    Despite all that is being made of the importance of England’s opening WC fixture vs. Australia, I see it as a bit a of a free hit for England now. We might as well give it a go. It was always going to be difficult and this series hasn’t helped, but England just need to make sure they play more positively in preparation for the following matches.

    Wins over the lower ranked sides would mean that we just need to come out on top against one of NZ, a Rodrigues-less India or a DVN-less South Africa. Barring some freak results and the possibility of NZ & Ind & SA all having a storming series, it should still be possible for England to get through to the semis even with a slip-up or two aside from Australia, but England must play in a more busy and disciplined manner.

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    • The extra bowler was because they were “resting” Nat from bowling. Shows how dependent England are on her – whole team balance gets skewed without her batting and bowling.

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      • Arguably they could have played Eve Jones as the extra batter, and cobbled 10 overs together from her, Lamb and Knight. Not ideal, but the series was gone, and the selection already had a slightly “experimental” look to it, so why not go a step further? Of course, EJ would have added the left handed dimension too.

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  4. Whether I like it or not my feeling is Australia have England tucked cosily away in their pocket going into World Cup. They are a class apart and showed that impressively. The only comfort from this is that ENG are so firmly underdogs v AUS that it gives the option of the ‘huge surprise upset’ (an England special in a range of sports!) In These ODIs England have looked timid/afraid of Australia’s bowling, not an encouraging sight. But as you say, WC isn’t just about Australia, England can take more than just hope & belief into that competition.

    Emma Lamb should get a proper run instead of 1 game here and 1 game there. And not just Lamb but any new batter who looks like having a future for England. It seems she does need a few games to settle nerves when on the big stage, she had quite a nervy start in the 100 for example then settled into her good batting. If she’s hooked out now not to be seen again till God knows when, that would seem irresponsible to me.

    I didn’t miss a ball of this series, despite the downhill trajectory and late nights. It was really nice to have good company on this blog and on Twitter and such, ERB in the studio as well. England Women are a great team to follow and support even if things get a bit ugly at times. There were some highlights – the thrill of THAT chase in the test, the promise of the 1st T20 batting innings, Kate Cross’s continued rise, the control of the 1st ODI bowling, Katherine Brunt’s all-round brunting brilliance, particularly memorable is that appeal against Gardner for…obstruction was it??… just makes you smile, the audacity 😆

    One thing I won’t miss is some of the aussie punditry on tv AND radio – the constant pumping of the Aussie tyres, some of the clueless guessing about England women’s cricket, it’s their home turf I guess but I’m glad that’s over for now.

    England looked so sad at the trophy ceremony 🙁 I pray they don’t take that mood into MIQ and can ultimately free-up relax a bit in that first WC game!

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    • I’m not from either country but certainly noticed that about the commentary. Distinct lack of balance/impartiality. Hard to do I guess with the all-conquering nature of Australia but at least they could have tried

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