Capital punishment was abolished in New Zealand in 1989* but sadly for England’s cricketers, Kappital punishment continues to be very much legal… as Heather Knight and co. discovered to their cost last night.
Remarkably for someone who is arguably the finest bowler of her generation, Marizanne Kapp has never taken an international 5fer before, though she has taken 4 wickets 5 times – 4 times in ODIs, plus once in T20s. Her 5-45 at Mount Maunganui dismantled England, putting the defending champions in very real danger of not qualifying for the knockout stages, and leaving South Africa with a very strong chance of making the semis for the first time since… last time!
Although the vast majority of games in this tournament have been won by the side batting first – the only two that weren’t, prior to today, were against the “minnows”, Pakistan and Bangladesh – South Africa won the toss and opted to send England in, and it paid off quickly with the early wickets of Wyatt and Knight. Both were sucker-punched by Kapp: Wyatt chasing a wide delivery she should have left well alone, and Knight playing on attempting the withdrawal method… something that any British leader can tell you isn’t always entirely reliable… (eh Boris?)
Nat Sciver followed shortly after, playing do-si-do with a delivery from Masabata Klaas, who was obviously somewhat overshadowed by Kapp, but also returned some excellent figures, finishing with 2 for just 23 off 8 overs.
Amy Jones and Tammy Beaumont both had “ok” days, putting on 100 together and both grabbing 50s – Jones bringing to an end a run of indifferent scores over the winter. But one or the other really should have pushed on and turned 50 into 100. I know the commentators on TV are paid to cheerlead to a certain extent, but describing their performances as “absolutely magnificent” isn’t over-egging the pudding so much as making it entirely out of egg. Ash Gardner yesterday was absolutely magnificent. Or Harmanpreet versus the West Indies. Jones and Beaumont turned in a day at the office.
Nonetheless, 235 wasn’t a terrible score – it was, after all, nearly enough. If England’s ambitions are to mix it up with the likes of South Africa and India, it’s the kind of score that will win some and lose some. But if they want to be challenging Australia, they need to be doing Australia-like things, like scoring 100 off the last 10 overs. England today scored 3 boundaries in the final 15 overs – the same number Ash Gardner struck in the final over versus New Zealand. (On a different pitch, of course, but with the same bat and ball!)
As for South Africa, they didn’t exactly “ease” past Bangladesh, and they almost lost to Pakistan. I’m not convinced they are actually a better side than they were in 2017 – their top order is good… if by “top order” you mean Lee and Wolvaardt; but their tail arguably begins at 3. With Mignon du Preez in a terrible rut, with a string of sub-20 scores this year, Kapp has to rescue them far more often than I think they’d like to admit; but she keeps doing it, and she did it again today, sealing the Player of the Match gong with 32 off 42, and chivvying her side into a position where all they needed was one good over, which Katherine Brunt sent them wrapped up in a bow, conceding 10 runs when England really needed to keep it tight. That over got the required rate under 6, and South Africa realised that all they needed to do then was not lose their heads; while England looked like they knew they were about to be beaten by the better side on the day.
All isn’t entirely lost for England – if they win their final 4 games, and other results go their way, they can still make the semis. But the looks on their faces after the game reminded me of those on the faces of the West Indians after they got hammered by South Africa in 2017. It took the Windies 4 years to recover from that traumatic day in Leicester. Let’s hope it doesn’t take England until 2026 to do the same.
* Capital punishment for murder was abolished in 1961, but it remained technically applicable for treason until 1989.
I thought before the game that a big improvement was needed, but was worried that Kapp would get 5 wickets and Lee a century, and England would lose anyway. That nearly happened – except it was Wolvaardt that got the match winning score, and England spurned numerous chances to get her out beforehand. This England performance thankfully had more going for it than the WI debacle, but was still stymied by the same underlying issues.
All this makes me appreciate just how good an achievement it was winning the thing in 2017 – all the sides seem to be playing better against us now. Or is it just England are worse? Most likely – England have stood still while other sides have pushed on.
You make a good point that England’s recovery period from what can generously be described as a “tentative” start (Knight’s half-leave a prime example) was just decent rather than spectacular. In fact the spectacular (with possible exception of Sciver and Ecclestone at times) has been markedly absent from England’s performances so far in this WWC. The total we made was a bit sub-par but I can’t help but feel it’s more the fielding and bowling that have been the biggest culprit. Today Shrubsole was OK again, and randomly this time it was Brunt who was strangely off-colour, bowling far too short for long periods. It’s inexplicable, and I fear inexcusable.
The fielding and catching has been fairly lamentable so far. I’m sure the root of the problem is mental, as England have fielded and caught well in the past. Amy Jones batted well, and looked somewhere near back to her best in moments. But her wicketkeeping has not been right all tournament. Never seen her miss so many takes and stumpings. There have been heads going down in the field. England need to have ready replacements available, not just for Jones, Wyatt or LWH but for everyone who underperforms – and not be afraid to use them. The current management and team selection is too conservative. That’s on Keightley, who in fairness did come out and take responsibility.
We need to have competition for every place in the XI as selectable squad members, not just reserves “because that’s what good sides do” as they say. Therefore 22 players minimum centrally contracted. Key to this intervention is a rework of the central contracts system to a more flexible model that allows for internal competition and form, and refreshes much more frequently, maybe twice a year. I’m sure we’ll all have our views on what’s needed in the inevitable reset that will happen in the aftermath of this failure, but the central contracts system simply has to be looked at – it’s not fit for purpose.
This is starting to look like a ‘between the ears’ issue. Can’t think of any other reason why really talented cricketers would make so many mistakes. One wonders how much mental damage was done in The Ashes.
This is now knockout for England (yes, in theory they can get through on 6pts but that relies on some really really crazy results) which adds yet more mental pressure.
England don’t need coaches right now, they need Steve Peters type assistance. Let’s hope something clicks in their next match.
Didn’t expect this situation – its nice at least to have places 2,3 and 4 in the semis still up in the air.
Interesting to think how close it was to being very different for England – a few less wides, a couple of catches sticking, and they could even have been 3-0, not 0-3!
Growing up in country Australia, I was always taught that catches win matches, and I learnt that a couple of top line bowlers can cover a multitude of gaps in a team.
Both of those truisms (if you include all fielding in the catching analogy) have been very evident in this World Cup.
England’s fielding has been lamentable, abysmal. A sure sign of a team with serious mental doubts or internal issues. A serious rethink on selection and team makeup is needed. Too many samey bowlers, as Sid has been pointing out. Sciver & Ecclestone have looked the only genuine world beaters in the team (of course there are other, just not right now).
It has to be time to pension off Katherine Brunt. She’s been an awesome cricketer, but surely it’s time to move on from having her as the attack leader? I know people will point to Goswami, but she’s a freak of nature (and I do suspect that having her as still India’s main seamer at such an advanced age is as much a sign of a lack of suitable replacements as her own brilliance & staying power).
South Africa, for mine, should be semi finalists, they have probably the best overall bowling attack, although Van Niekirk’s absence dents this somewhat. Their batting is weak without her though. Sune Luus is decent, but a middle order of her, Brits, Tryon & an out of touch Du Preez won’t be unduly troubling Lanning & Mott, one feels.
Australia are going to have to completely self destruct in a semi or the final to lose this though
Recent history suggests India at their very best could beat Australia on an off night – but otherwise, I can see only rain or COVID standing in Australia’s way come the semis and final, and I don’t want either to intervene.
If the Ferns don’t make it, my personal preference would be to see South Africa make the final. With van Niekerk back and a possible four-pronged pace attack of Ismail, Kapp, Khaka and Klaas, they are going to be exciting to watch come Test time!
THIS COMMENT IS POST THE AUS/WI MATCH
there is a 2% chance of any match being washed out
AUS are 97% likely to beat BANG
AUS are 59% likely to beat other teams they have to play
ENG/IND/NZ/WI/SA have a 95% chance of beating BANG or PAK
ENG/IND/NZ/WI/SA are equally likely to beat each other in matches between themselves
then England’s probability distribution is as follows:-
Qualifying outright = 4.86%
Requiring NRR to qualify = 17.88%
Not Qualifying = 77.26%
So England are in a hole.
However, were ENG to win their remaining matches, and applying the same probabilities to above, the probability distribution is as follows:-
Qualifying outright = 21.52%
Requiring NRR to qualify = 76.14%
Not Qualifying = 2.34%
The above diverges radically from combinations because combinations assume all results are equally likely – such as every 3rd match is washed out and BANG or PAK are equally likely to beat AUS as AUS are to beat them. Whilst Combinations absolutely do NOT inform how likely something is to occur, they can be very useful, can inform (eg they can determine impossibility) and are far far far easier to calculate than probability – so I’m not trashing Combinations.
Given England have an incredibly good NRR for a team that lost 3 matches and they haven’t played BANG or PAK and winning their 4 remaining matches will improve their NRR in all of those matches, one should be very optimistic that England will qualify if (huge ‘if’ I know) they win their last 4 matches.
We surely can’t think England will beat either Ind or NZ though, if they can’t beat WI or SA? Chances of Bang or Pak beating Aus/NZ/WI/SA/Ind (which are the types of results England need) must be in single figures. Magical thinking, I fear, given what we’ve seen. It’s incredibly difficult for England to get out of their negative mindset – and every opponent will be right at it from the get-go. As things stand it will be a challenge to overcome Pakistan, and Bangladesh will offer a real threat. Wrong decisions have been made and are continuing to be made. The speed of England’s decline has been shocking.
Is it better to bat 1st or 2nd ?
If NRR was a logical concept the answer would surely be “it doesn’t matter” ……………… um, read on.
Let’s demonstrate with a trivial example
Team A bat 1st and score 200 runs in 50 overs.
Team B bat 2nd and score 100 runs in 50 overs
Team A’s run rate was 4 rpo whilst Team B’s run rate was 2 rpo.
Team A get a NRR of +2
Team B bat 1st and score 100 runs in 50 overs.
Team A bat 2nd and score 100 runs in 25 overs (so same run rate as case 1)
Team A’s run rate was 4 rpo whilst Team B’s run rate was 2 rpo.
Team A get a NRR of +2
Ah, so what’s the problem ? Well, in the 2nd case Team A has only had to maintain a run rate of 4rpo for 25 overs whilst in the 1st case they had to achieve that over 50 overs.
Therefore they have had to work a lot harder for their 2 rpo gain in the 1st case compared to the 2nd case.
To really underline my point, consider a real example; the ENG v WI match at Loughboro on 12/7/2008.
ENG bowled WI out for 41 and knocked off the runs in 7.5 overs
ENG gained a +4.5417 NRR
If ENG had batted first (and then bowled WI out for 41) they would have had to score 268 to gain a +4.54 NRR
Which is easier: scoring 268 off 50 overs or scoring 42 over 7.5 overs ? According to NRR these are equally difficult !
I’d be interested in contrary views but this suggests batting second gives one a batter chance to improve ones NRR
Today’s match, and NZ vs SA tomorrow, are suddenly huge deals. Almost quarter-finals. Despite the standards in the field, this is becoming a very exciting tournament (bar matches vs Australia)