England once again proved they are the best team in the world that aren’t called “Australia”, coming within a wallaby’s whisker of victory after the Southern Stars posted a huge 310-3. England’s 298-8 is the second-highest total ever made chasing in a women’s ODI; and would likely have won them the game against any other team in the world.
In terms of the tournament, this result is far from a disaster – this was a match that England could afford to lose; and the important thing is that they have done so with minimal damage to their Net Run Rate, which could be crucial in 3 weeks time, if semi-final qualification gets squeaky.
Australia aren’t fliers in ODIs at the best of times, but they started particularly slowly. England bowled well, making Healy look scratchy again, while Rachael Haynes dug in like a wintering wombat. Healy’s dismissal brought Meg Lanning to the crease, who joined Haynes in the wombat warren – at the 20-over mark, England had Lanning on 19 off 38 (a Strike Rate of 50) and Haynes on 22 off 47 (SR 47). But the important thing from an Australian perspective was that they were still there, and slowly but surely they began to rebuild towards that big total, and recover those strike rates up towards 100.
Haynes was the one to go big on this occasion, for just her second international century (it feels like she should have more!). But it wasn’t just that she went big – she accelerated too. Haynes wasn’t immune to the ‘Nervous Nineties’ but once she passed the milestone she absolutely smashed the death overs to put Australia just out of reach. Given the eventual margin of victory – 12 runs – that was basically the difference between the sides.
England got off to pretty-much the worst possible start, with Heather Knight having to de-facto open the batting after Lauren Winfield-Hill was dismissed 3rd ball. Winfield-Hill was preferred to Emma Lamb up-top today – Lamb’s “run” in the side lasting just one match; but it is difficult to see how that can be justified going forwards – Lamb could hardly be doing any worse.
Knight and Tammy Beaumont played positively – as on the final day of the recent Ashes Test – and they obviously believed they could win the game. They got ahead of Australia early on the worm, and stayed there for the best-part of 40 overs.
Even at the very death – needing 16 off 6 – England obviously believed; but in an interesting parallel with yesterday’s match between South Africa and the West Indies, Jess Jonassen, who had been knocked out of the attack earlier after conceding 16 to Knight and Beaumont in 2 overs, played the role of Deandra Dottin (who hadn’t bowled at all in that game, but defended 6 off the final over) and broke up the party by taking the wickets of Brunt and then Ecclestone off the final ball.
Will there be changes for the game against the West Indies on Tuesday? None of England’s bowlers disgraced themselves by any means, and it would feel mighty unfair to drop any of them, but Heather Knight could perhaps have done with having a bit more variety up her sleeve – Ecclestone aside, all her options were right arm medium-fast; and while it is true that Anya Shrubsole is a different kettle of fish to Katherine Brunt, they perhaps aren’t different enough, especially once players like Rachael Haynes have got their eye in. Australia had 7 bowling options to choose from, and made use of them all; England had 5, and no joker to play when they needed a trick.
If you need an extra bowler, the place to find it is Winfield-Hill’s spot in the XI, which means moving Wyatt up to open with Beaumont and bringing in Dean or Farrant. But it feels like very-much the wrong time to be making drastic surgery to the batting line-up, so I’m not sure I’d actually do it; and Heather Knight is generally much more conservative than I am, so I wouldn’t expect it.
And besides, we shouldn’t lose sight of what we said just 8 short paragraphs ago – this was not a catastrophe for England’s chances of winning this World Cup. If anything, it should have given them hope that if they meet Australia again in the semi-final or final, they can match them. And if they play like this for the rest of the tournament, they will make that final – they just need to keep calm and carry on doing pretty-much what they did today.