T20 WORLD CUP – England v India: Spinners Are Winners

The South African city of Gqeberha has been crying out for rain in the midst of a severe drought, so yesterday’s downpours were good news for everyone except cricket fans, who woke up to further persistent drizzle this morning, with two crucial matches being played at St. George’s Park – the oldest Test ground in South Africa.

England overcame India in the first of those matches, with the key difference being their spinners, who maintained their control where India’s had lost theirs, despite having to contend with a damp ball as the skies let loose once again part-way through India’s innings.

Having put England in, India had the better of the powerplay, almost entirely thanks to the brilliant Renuka, who took a wicket in each of her first 3 overs, finishing the powerplay with figures of 3 overs, 3-12; while the 3 bowlers used at the other end recorded 3 overs, 0-25. It was reminiscent of the way she had Australia on the ropes in the opening match of the Commonwealth Games; and how India must wish that bowlers could be permitted more than just the 4 overs in T20 cricket! From England’s perspective, Sophia Dunkley could perhaps have played a more appropriate shot, but there wasn’t a lot Danni Wyatt or Alice Capsey could have done differently – it was just good bowling.

To their credit, Heather Knight and Nat Sciver-Brunt didn’t flinch from playing positively, despite that less-than-ideal start, and England had their best phase of the match in the early middle overs, taking advantage of some wayward bowling from India’s spinners, which let England right back into it.

The fall of Knight led to another lull, but India again let England off the hook as Amy Jones took Pooja Vastrakar for 14 from the 15th over, setting England up for a decent finish – they’d definitely have taken 151 having been 29-3 early-doors. Things have been up and down of late for Amy Jones with the bat, but this was definitely a very good day to have an “up”, making 40 off 27 balls.

England decided to open with Katherine Sciver-Brunt today, rather than Lauren Bell – possibly to save Bell from having to bowl at the left-handed Smriti first-up – and her opening over went for just 4; but her second was a disaster. Having conceded consecutive 4s off not-terrible deliveries on the opening two balls, she predictably went short and equally predictably got hammered to the boundary twice more in the over. It should have been the end of her day, but it wasn’t… as we shall see!

Post-powerplay, Sophie Ecclestone, Sarah Glenn and Charlie Dean were into the action, and they locked India down tight, with the Strike Rate slipping back towards 75 in the early middle phases. In essence, this was where England won the match, given that India only fell 11 short in the end. Both Jemimah and Harmanpreet gave their wickets away trying to break out of the gaol England’s slower bowlers had them in, and although Smriti always remains a danger, she was forced to play within herself and try to anchor the innings, denying her the chance to accelerate her strike rate very much.

India did start to get the motor turning in the late-middle phase, thanks to Richa Ghosh, on her way to an eventual 47 off 34. (Somewhat counter-intuitively, Richa has looked a much better player in the senior World Cup than she did in the preceding U19 one, which might be a lesson for selectors for future U19 events if nothing else.)

Nonetheless, India looked dead and buried as the asking rate began to spiral in the death overs; until Knight made the inexplicable decision to bring back Katherine Sciver-Brunt for the final over, with India needing 31 and Charlie Dean still having an over in the locker. In some ways it was a risk free decision – statistically speaking no one ever makes even 10 off the final over in women’s T20s, let alone 31 – and India did not make 31; but they did make 19, as Sciver-Brunt was taken to the cleaners by Richa.

Sciver-Brunt has been a hero for England for more years than most of us can remember; but no one deserves a place on sentiment alone, and if she plays the next match, that will be the only reason. If that had been Bell, it would have been the end of her tournament, and probably fairly so. The last match of the group is one England (at time of writing) still have to win to be 100% sure of qualification – if Pakistan thrash West Indies and go on to win big in that last game against England, they could mathematically overhaul them on Net Run Rate. Freya Davies should be in the XI for that game.

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4 thoughts on “T20 WORLD CUP – England v India: Spinners Are Winners

  1. Yes England turned up big-time after that early loss of wickets, putting paid to that much lauded theory that batting teams losing 3 wickets in the powerplay tend not to win! It was excellent from Nat S-B, Knight and Jones in the middle order. No record individual performances from England yet – no centuries, 80s or 5-fers, so they can hope that’s still to come at the sharp end of the Comp. They’re doing it as a team!

    England’s spinners were the real match winners, and have been consistently putting in strong performances. It’s rare that none of them will step up for England when needed – which is why it was such a good idea to include all 3 in the team. All 3 are playing superbly at the moment.

    More of a concern is the pace bowling, and England’s opening bowling. After having seemingly sorted out their problems in the West Indies tour, the same issues have come back to haunt Katherine S-B and Bell in this T20WC so far. Bell admirably overcame her loss of line in the first 2 overs, to produce a much finer late spell that helped England seal the win, so that was a positive. But I agree, Katherine looked crestfallen having nearly given it away there at the end. Hate to say it, but she was all over the place. I just don’t understand the short bowling tactic she seemed to revert to. The lack of control was very worrying, and I agree either Davies or Cross will surely produce better returns. The final group game against PAK also offer England the opportunity to try out one or two different options anyway.

    And finally “…Richa has looked a much better player in the senior World Cup than she did in the preceding U19 one, which might be a lesson for selectors for future U19 events if nothing else”. Spot on Syd!

    About the other group, and England’s potential semi-final opponents (assuming they avoid disaster against Pakistan – a narrow defeat may still see them top, but we’ll know beforehand anyway, after India’s game tomorrow). Haven’t New Zealand and Sri Lanka had contrasting fortunes?! After 2 opening victories SL must have thought they had a real chance of getting through, but they’ve stumbled badly since and suffered a heavy defeat today against NZ, never really looked in the game. NZ on the other hand, have gone from not being able to buy a run in those first 2 matches (and my goodness their batting was poor against Aus and SA), to blowing away BAN and SL. Highest total of the tournament against BAN, and more runs than the sum total of their previous 2 matches, incredible. The bowling performances have been consistently good, but for me the NZ batters are still playing legside and across the line far too much.

    It’s been a bit of a story of the tournament so far, how the lower ranked nations started really well but have fallen away a bit since. Some good close games, especially WI-IRE and WI-PAK. There have been some good young players on show as well. I have really enjoyed watching the very impressive young Marufa Akter for Bangladesh, with her energetic, aggressive and pacy bowling. She’s an instant hit, and will be a real superstar I think.

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  2. If South Africa beat Bang, then England will play SA in the semi.
    One of the bizarre features of NRR is that it can go down despite a team winning. However, in this case it can’t go down enough for it to drop below that of NZ (if SA win).
    Sadly for NZ the weather looks like it will be glorious in Cape Town tomorrow.
    It also looks glorious on Friday – it has been known for Eng/SA semis to be weather affected !

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