Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes 1st T20

Knightmare

England have lost the Women’s Ashes, and there can’t be any excuses; but the gods were not on their side today. Heather Knight’s wicket was a nightmare for all concerned, not least the umpires who gave her out, then not out, and then out again. Yes it is complicated but they are paid to know the laws, and Law 27.3 is pretty clear:

“The wicket-keeper shall remain wholly behind the wicket at the striker’s end from the moment the ball comes into play until a ball delivered by the bowler touches the bat or person of the striker or passes the wicket at the striker’s end or the striker attempts a run.”

“In the event of the wicket-keeper contravening this Law, the striker’s end umpire shall call and signal No ball as soon as applicable after the delivery of the ball.”

Zooming-in on the moment the ball hit the bat, it is pretty clear that Healy’s gloves are marginally ahead of the wicket.

Yes, it is “marginal” but the 3rd umpire has a high-definition camera perfectly positioned to make these kinds of decisions, so you can only assume he didn’t know the law, which is… not great, to be honest.

Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp – the romanticised hero of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – was in real-life a reckless gambler who was always looking to make a fast buck. Danni Wyatt on the other hand… Well, joking aside, she can actually play big, sensible innings – we’ve seen it at county. But for England in the T20 format her role has always been to chase fast runs; and a career strike rate of over 100 attests that she has actually been quite successful in that regard – never more so than today when her 50 off 36 balls got England to a position where the game was defendable.

Bark At The Mooney

It was a defendable target, but ultimately not even the Prince of Darkness himself could have stopped Beth Mooney today – she pushed on well past 50, maintaining a Strike Rate of 150 which saw Australia win the game by a country mile. Of course, Meg Lanning will be straight back into the team as soon as she is fit again, but with so many different Aussie batsmen standing up at different times in this series, it might be a close call if she wasn’t the captain!

Heather Is Human

Heather Knight’s “game-face” never slips in front of the media, but it did today in the post-match interviews – for once you could see how much it really mattered to her, and I don’t think it will do too much harm for people to know that there really is a human under that implacable mask. It hasn’t been the Women’s Ashes result she (or we) wanted, but she’ll be back… and so will England!

Advertisements

OPINION: Women’s Ashes Test – England Beaten By Perry, Not The Pitch

Following the drawn Women’s Ashes Test in Sydney, England coach Mark Robinson talked a lot about the pitch in his post-match interviews:

“We want to play on better wickets,” he said. “It wasn’t a fresh wicket [and] fresh wickets make such a difference.” He then went on to draw a contrast between Coffs Harbour, where England won the 3rd ODI – “a great wicket [with] bounce and carry” – and North Sydney Oval where “the bowlers ran in hard [but] in the end, the wicket beat us.”

His comments have been echoed by many in the media, with for example Charlotte Edwards tweeting “pitches need to be looked at moving forward”.

But was the pitch that bad? Or was it just that one batsman was that good?

Ellyse Perry’s monumental innings – which Robinson rightly praised as “something special” – was 213 off 374 balls. If Perry had “only” scored a hundred, rather than a double, this would still have been by some way the biggest innings in the game. But Australia would have posted a lead of only around 50 and there would also have been an additional 70-odd overs in the match, if you include the overs “lost” in the final session when they called it quits.

Under those circumstances, England could (and likely would) have taken a few more risks to bat themselves into a position where they could have declared, with either result then still a genuine possibility.

It’s all “ifs and buts” of course – it is true that there have been better pitches, and maybe we need to also look at having more “new balls” in pink-ball Tests; but in all honestly England were not beaten by the pitch – they were of course not beaten at all – but if they were beaten by anything, they were beaten by Ellyse Perry, not the pitch.

Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes Test – Day 4

Knight In Shining Armour

This is the second time in her career that Heather Knight has saved a Test for England, albeit in quite different circumstances. In 2013 at Wormsley, England were staring down the barrel of the follow-on at 113-6, after Australia had posted 330 in the 1st innings; this time the circumstances were perhaps a little less dramatic, but no less perilous – with the Ashes at stake, Knight had to dig in, and her and Georgia Elwiss did what they had to do. It was a “proper cricket” innings from Knight, demanding all her mental and physical steel – the only disappointment being that she didn’t get the chance to put the seal on it by going on to 100. (We’d have liked to see her bat on at the end; but apparently we were alone in that regard!)

The Winner On Points

You’d have to say in one way that this was a clear “points victory” for Australia, having forced England into batting for the draw; but this is also a bit odd, because two of the four days clearly went to England – Day 2, when they had Australia 5-down and still 100 behind; and today, when the Aussies huffed and puffed but couldn’t get anywhere near blowing England’s house down. In fact, ultimately it would perhaps have been Australia who were slightly disappointed – they definitely felt they had the glimmer of victory in their sights with both the openers gone and England still a long way from safety – but in the end they didn’t have the bowling to force the win.

Pitch (Im)Perfect?

Was the pitch to blame for a “boring” end to the game? We don’t think so – it was the same pitch that gave us Ellyse Perry’s double-hundred yesterday, and we don’t remember hearing too many complaints about it then!! Obviously both sides played quite low-risk cricket, with the 10-over run rate averaging around 2.5, and only once climbing above 4 – but if you want to blame anything for that, blame the points system which, even at 4 points for a win, with only a single Test massively punishes defeat. Anyways… it was only boring if you didn’t really care about the outcome – speak for yourselves, we were glued to it!

Another Win For Robinson

Although England were once again outplayed by Australia… or outplayed by Ellyse Perry, at least… there was a difference from Canterbury in 2015 – England didn’t look like amateurs, out of their depth at this level. And lest we forget, this isn’t because they have played a pile of Tests in the meantime – having in fact played no Tests in the intervening two years. It is because they were well-prepared this time, by a coach with 20 years of experience playing and coaching tough, declaration cricket in the (Men’s) County Championship. And you have to chalk this up as another win for Mark Robinson, who has taken basically the same team, with 70% of the same players, and turned them up a notch – they aren’t up at 11 yet, but they are no longer at 2 or 3!

Random Thoughts – Women’s Ashes Test – Day 3

The day England lost the Ashes?

England can’t now win this Test – that much was apparent even before the third session of the day began. Their best hope now is to hang on for the draw, but that means that in order to win the series, they’ll have to go on and win all 3 T20s, which is a big ask.

Given that England “won” day 2, and had set themselves up nicely with some late wickets falling last night, that’s quite a disappointing result.

… or the day Australia won them?

Having said that, did England do a lot wrong today? The ball wasn’t doing much, the pitch wasn’t doing much, and Australia just didn’t give them many chances. That was always the worry – Australia’s batting order is like waiting for a bus – you get one wicket and then two more world-class batsmen come to the crease!

People often seem to forget that at Canterbury in 2015, for example, England actually had Australia 99-5 – then Jess Jonassen walked in… and they ended up racking up 274-9! It was a similar story today.

Syd’s Worms [Ed: he really needs to go to the doctor’s about that] make the point pretty clearly: it wasn’t that Australia were ahead of the eight-ball the whole way through – they just bat longer than England, and in Tests, that’s crucial.

It’s looking more and more, in fact, like England really lost this match during the last session of the first day, with the mini-collapse where they lost those 3 wickets for 13 runs. That stat about 280 being a good 1st innings score in a women’s Test is actually quite an illusive one – the game has come on so much, even since that last Test in 2015, that I always had an inkling that 280 wasn’t going to be enough to put England into a winning position. Once again, for England, it’s the batting that’s been the real issue, not the bowling.

Ellyse Perry

There really isn’t much to say, is there? The craziest stat in cricket is that Ellyse Perry had never made an international century before today. But when Perry gets it right, she is unrivalled. She didn’t offer a single chance in the first 100 runs. There was barely a chance in the second.

It makes it even more poignant, in a way, that she might not get very many more opportunities in her career to bat with that level of depth, concentration and duration. The ICC don’t think Tests matter – they think people don’t care about women’s Test cricket.

The reactions today; the cheering of every dot ball that Megan Schutt faced while Perry was on 199* at the other end; Perry’s response (twice!) to hitting her 200th run – it matters. Please take note, ICC.

Can England survive?

They’ve made a decent start by not losing any wickets before the close, but if they’re going to save the game from here then England need to bat out at least two sessions tomorrow. The best advice Mark Robinson can give to his players is to play their natural game – going into their shells isn’t going to do anyone any favours (it didn’t work at Canterbury!) They definitely have the capability – it’s going to come down to whether they have the mental toughness to see it out.

Random Thoughts – Women’s Ashes Test – Day 2

Two-Hundred-And-Eighhhhhhhhhty?

Word from inside the England camp is that they were pretty happy with their 1st innings total of 280 – in the entire history of women’s Tests, only one side has ever lost after posting a higher 1st innings total – New Zealand, back in 1969. [That’s so long ago it’s before you were born… just sayin’ – Ed.]

However, England have to have been a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a few more – no blame on the tail this morning, more on the batsmen who didn’t push on yesterday.

But having now seen the Aussies bat, it is clear that maybe this pitch isn’t the road everyone thought it was, as it has actually been England who have set the pace, as the worm shows:

🎵 Walking In A Perry Wonderland 🎵

(Yes… it is stuck in my head – and if it wasn’t stuck in yours before… it is now!!)

As the chart also shows, Ellyse Perry is the key player for Australia – they only started to catch up with the run rate when she got motoring in the period leading up to the new ball. England need to get her out not once, but twice, to win this Test match – that’s the key challenge – if they can do that, they will be in with a shout.

Aussies Under Marshal Law

Laura Marsh was exceptional today – bowling at the left-handers at the top of the innings, she got into a trance-like rhythm, and then just kept it there – tick-tocking through 23 overs for just 28 runs.

Bowling props also to Sophie Ecclestone (2-51) and Georgia Elwiss. (In fact, given her figures – 5 overs, 2 maidens, 0-7 – I’m surprised Heather Knight didn’t find a few more overs for Elwiss, with Nat Sciver not really looking like she was troubling the Australians too much.)

A Tail To Tell Tomorrow?

England need just one more wicket tomorrow morning and they are into the tail, with the Aussies still currently over 100 behind. Admittedly it is a tail that includes Jess Jonassen (99 in the last Test) and Amanda Wellington (116 just the other week for South Australia in the WNCL) but if England can grab almost any first-innings lead they will rightly be pretty chuffed with that, and they will certainly be the ones sleeping easier tonight after having a winning day today.

Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes Test – Day 1

Gunn Fired

[That’s enough Jenny Gunn puns now Syd – Ed.]

We debated whether Fran Wilson would have to make way for Georgia Elwiss; but in the end it was Jenny Gunn who was left on the sidelines, with Mark Robinson clearly deciding that England needed Elwiss’s batting more than they needed Gunn’s bowling. Was this a good decision? Well… Elwiss didn’t exactly “fail” with the bat but it remains to be seen how we’ll feel if (when?) Australia are 300-3 this time tomorrow and all our front-line bowlers are exhausted!

Winfield Not Winning

Unlike Tammy Beaumont, Lauren Winfield has struggled to build on her 2016 purple patch – her numbers have reverted back to where they were pre-2016; and today she faced over 50 balls for just 4 runs, before getting out to a shot that she shouldn’t have gone near with a barge-pole, let alone her bat!

But… but.. but… who or what is the alternative? Heather Knight doesn’t want to open; Sarah Taylor shouldn’t open; and we’ve just got rid of all the “senior” batsmen in our Academy! If there was an easy answer, believe us, we’d be all over it – we are The Media™ – we love easy answers; but in this case there isn’t one – we just have to trust that Winfield will come good again in time.

A Way Back For England?

England just about edged the first session-and-a-half – Beaumont and Knight both played well for their 50s, but they couldn’t push on and Australia smashed the final session, as England melted in the darkness. 237-7 is not a good place to be, and you have to feel this is Australia’s game to lose now.

If there is a way back for England, it is to bat long enough tomorrow to prevent the Aussies piling on the runs during the day, and then hope that they too struggle under the lights in the evening session. In the last Test at Canterbury in 2015, Anya Shrubsole occupied the crease for over an hour for a 47-ball duck – it was widely derided at the time, but it would actually be quite a useful contribution here – the duck is intact, and she is 15 balls in already – maybe she can push on towards 50 (balls) tomorrow?

Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes 3rd ODI

Never Say Die

With England already 4-0 down on points in this series, today’s game really was do or die – fortunately one thing we know about Mark Robinson’s England is that they never say die! With Australia 159-2 after 30 overs, chasing 278 with 8 wickets in hand, it really seemed (to us at least!) like the end might be nigh; but a combination of economical bowling and, eventually, some key wickets paid dividends. If England can win the Test they are right back in this series.

England’s Batting

This was, overall, a much improved performance with the bat from England, helped by the fact that they reverted to playing to their strengths, and choosing to bat when they won the toss. With 3 players – Taylor, Beaumont and Knight – all making 50, England’s best batsmen are at last showing some form.

Of the 3, Heather Knight’s innings was probably the most important. Having lost 3 wickets for 9 runs in the middle overs, England really needed her both to weather the storm and remain in until the end, AND to ensure that she kept the strike rate up above 100, so that they had time to set a competitive total – she managed both, finishing 88 not out from 80 balls.

One concern for England is their incomprehensible zeal for the ramp shot. Taylor whipped it out when still on 0* and was lucky not to be dismissed – Beaumont later followed suit, missed it completely and promptly found herself stumped on 74. Either the England coaches are giving some quite unhelpful advice, or the England batsmen are ignoring the advice they’re getting – either way, it’s a shot that doesn’t come off nearly enough for it to be worth the risk!

Wickets Early Doors

Robinson’s England are not known for their ability to build early foundations. In 2017 they’ve had only one 1st wicket partnership of over 50, largely because Lauren Winfield hasn’t backed up her excellent 2016 summer with subsequent consistent performances. In the 3 ODIs this series England’s first wicket has fallen with 47, 2 and 2 runs on the board, respectively.

Meanwhile Australia have racked up opening stands of 14, 98 and 118. In fact during today’s game Channel 9 brought up the following stat, which is rather concerning for a side who have generally been stronger with the ball than the bat:

It’s a stat backed up by the fact that today, of the five 10-over periods in the game, Australia were ahead in only the first 10:

Fighting back is a hallmark of this England side – but perhaps some early consistency might negate some of that need to always be playing catch up.

It should certainly provide food for thought going into the Test match, which England need to win to ensure the series is kept alive.

Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes 2nd ODI

Game Set & Match?

With two games played, the Australians are already 4-0 up in this Women’s Ashes series, so (assuming all matches are completed) England now need to win the Test and three of the four remaining limited overs games to bring home the trophy which started life in a wok at Lords, back in 1998.

Can they do it? Yes, of course they can – England haven’t become a bad team overnight!

Will they? Um… let’s just say it doesn’t look as easy as it did this time last week!

England: Taking The Positives

  1. England didn’t bowl too badly; and Sophie Ecclestone looked “born to run”, bowling 10 overs and going at under 5 runs per over, the only England bowler to do so.
  2. Katherine Brunt passed 50 for only the second time in her long international career – fully 12 years after the first – an Ashes Test at Worcester, way back in 2005, when she came in at 10 and batted for over two hours, putting on 85 for England’s final 1st innings wicket in partnership with Isa Guha.
  3. Alex Hartley still hasn’t been dismissed in international cricket. And she took a very good catch to dismiss Tahlia McGrath, proving that she really isn’t a complete numpty! (Not pointing fingers, but it is telling that when Katherine Brunt dropped a pretty straightforward Caught & Bowled, it was all “There are no easy catches!” and “It happens – move on!”; whereas when Alex Hartley did it, it was more like “That was easy!” and “She’s rubbish – drop her!”)

England: Taking The … Not Quite So Positives

  1. If Hartley’s catch was good, Knight’s to dismiss Villani was even better, but Villani and McGrath were both dismissed on 1; and when it really mattered (Perry, on 41; and Haynes on 60) England dropped two relatively unexacting chances. Perry went on to make 67, and Haynes 89 – that’s 55 runs gone begging, which wouldn’t quite have won the game, but would have made it a damn sight closer!
  2. Brunt’s dismissalThat’s a paddlin’! Gunn’s dismissalThat’s a paddlin’! Wrap us up in woolly socks and call us Granddad, but sometimes the paddle-sweep isn’t the right shot to play… and those sometimes are ALL THE TIME when you are trying to save the game with only the tail still to come.
  3. Last time out, none of England’s batsmen exactly “failed” – they just didn’t “succeed” by going big or long. This time around, several of them failed, whilst none of them (the “recognised” batsmen) went big or long. We’re not calling for anyone to be dropped or anything at this stage in the series; but even with the best bowling in the world, if we don’t make the runs we won’t win too many matches.

Australia

Australia definitely “won” this game more than England “lost” it – 4 of their top 5 batsmen made 50s, and their innings was perfectly paced – building and building towards a total which was probably always going to be a bit too much for England, even without the dropped catches.

And then they finished England off with the ball, without Ellyse Perry, who it looks like didn’t deserve to be taken off – though she didn’t appear to realise this, as she didn’t even wait for the umpire’s say-so before reaching for her cap. But it seems that the playing conditions override the laws – so although the laws have changed to say that a delivery only has to be “high” for the bowler to be warned and then subsequently taken off; the playing conditions say that it also has to be “dangerous”, which the second of Perry’s deliveries really wasn’t.

Random Thoughts: Women’s Ashes 1st ODI

A Close Game?

The scoreboard will tell you this was a close match, won with just 5 balls to spare; but on the pitch Australia’s margin of victory felt a lot more convincing than that – more like 5 overs than 5 balls! This is partly down to the completely unflappable nature of Alex Blackwell – most players would have pressed the panic button watching Tahlia McGrath make 7 off 26 balls at the other end; but Blackwell just kept playing like it was never in doubt… and in the end she was right – it wasn’t!

A Low Scoring Game?

On what all the experts reckoned was a good pitch, England’s 228 – a run rate of 4.6 – felt a little short; and indeed it was well short of the 5.7 an over England averaged at the World Cup. But Australia also fell well short of the 5.4 per over they averaged at WWC17, chasing England’s total at 4.7 an over, so by recent standards it was a fairly low-scoring game. Was this to do with all the rain they’ve had in Brisbane? Perhaps – both teams had their warm-up preparations severely disrupted; but the field of play itself looked okay – remarkably, given the pictures we saw of the rain falling and the super-soppers at work yesterday – so was there something else at work?

Two Balls Better?

This was the first time these teams have played an ODI under the new playing conditions, with two balls – one at either end – and you can tell the players aren’t used to it: more than once the bowler went to return the ball to the captain at the end of the over, only to be reminded by the umpire that he (as it was in both cases here) holds on to it now!

The men have been playing with two balls for a while now – since 2011 – and there is still debate about the effect, made all the more hazy by the pull-through of T20-style power-hitting into the 50-over game. But the change was designed to benefit the bowlers, and in the immediate short term, it does seem to have caused run-rates to fall a bit – from 5.23 an over in the year before the change, to 5.18 in the year after*.

Is that what we are seeing here? Certainly when you talk to the bowlers, the ball getting old quickly has been a constant complaint, so you’d guess they feel like it should benefit them; but obviously this is just one game, so who knows? But it is definitely something to add to the list of things to investigate in a year or so’s time!

Call The Plod!

From an England fan’s perspective, if you want to Take the Positives™ then they didn’t collapse – the top 6 all got starts, and all looked reasonably comfortable; but the problem was than none of them pushed on and they all plodded… with big, ploddy boots on!

Ideally you want players to score big runs, and if they can’t do that then you want them to score quick runs; but nobody quite did either – nobody got past 50, and the highest strike rate (of the batsmen) was Fran Wilson’s 84. Contrast Heather Knight’s innings with Alyssa Healy’s: they made similar runs (15 vs 18) but Healy made her 18 in 15 balls at a strike rate of 120; Knight made her 15 in 33 balls at a strike rate of 45 – that is a big, big difference at this (or I guess any other) level of cricket; and that’s where England really must do better.

———–

* Top 8 teams in men’s ODIs, the years before & after October 2011.

OPINION: Diamonds’ Davidson-Richards & Levick Shine As Journeymen Stand Up in #KSL17

When we talk about KSL, much of the focus tends to be on the big international names – the England players and the overseas stars that everyone recognises. Whether it’s Katherine Brunt steaming in at Headingley, or Suzie Bates carving up the Rose Bowl, they’re the ones they’re all here to see!

And perhaps they’ll also ask about the “Ones To Watch” – the next generation, who might be lifting a World Cup in 2021 or 2025. Will Freya Davies be the new Katherine Brunt? Could Emma Lamb be a future Suzie Bates?

But there is also a third group of players – the “journeymen” of county cricket – who are actually just as important. They won’t pull the crowds, and they probably won’t ever play for England, but they aren’t just here to make up the numbers either!

At yesterday’s “Roses” clash between Yorkshire Diamonds and Lancashire Thunder, Chamari Atapattu (41 off 38) and Lauren Winfield (41 off 43) laid down a solid platform for the Diamonds; but someone still needed to turn that platform into an intimidating total, and that job was done at the death of the innings by Katherine Brunt (31 off 16) and Alice Davidson-Richards (22 off 13).

Alice Whaty-What-Now? (As we could almost hear some people saying from our living room 200 miles away!)

Well… although she has been involved in the Academy recently, and has definitely improved as a player over the past couple of years, “ADR” (as she is known) will likely not ever pull on an England shirt; but she is in her 8th season playing county cricket for Kent, and is now their de-facto captain. (The “official” captain is Tammy Beaumont, but TB’s England commitments mean ADR does the job most of the time.) ADR has made 92 appearances for Kent, scoring nearly 1,000 runs (a big milestone when you play a maximum of 14, limited-overs, matches per season) and taking over 70 wickets.

And now ADR is doing it in KSL too – following up her cameo with the bat, she went on to take 3-20 with the ball, and scoop up the Player of the Match award – not bad for someone who is essentially an amateur playing in a league full of big name pros!

ADR had “competition” for Player of the Match however – a spinner! Perhaps it was Dani Hazell, still ranked one of the top international bowlers in the world despite having to “share” her spot in the England line-up with Laura Marsh? Or maybe Sophie Ecclestone, who made her England debut last summer? Nope – a leg-spinner! Ah – in that case, it must have been Sune Luus – the South African superstar, who at 21 already has over 100 international wickets? Wrong again! It was another “amateur” – Katie Levick – who took 3-30, including the big wickets of Emma Lamb and Amy Satterthwaite.

If ADR still might perhaps dream of circumstances coming together where she plays for England, self-described “Sheffield lass” Katie Lev realistically probably does not; but in county cricket she is actually something of a legend. The 26-year-old is the leading wicket-taker in this year’s County Championship, with 19 wickets; and currently lies 3rd in the “All Time” list, behind Alexia Walker and Holly Colvin. Given another couple of seasons, she will likely overtake them both; so she has some serious experience to bring to the KSL stage, and if yesterday is any indication, she is ready to bring it… as a certain American president might put it… bigly!!

Of course, KSL needs the international stars – they are the ones who bring the crowds to the stands and the TV audience to their sofas. Without them, it would just be a re-named County T20 Cup – a bit of fun for the hardcore fans like us… and a bit irrelevant to everyone else.

But long-term, it also needs the journeymen like ADR and Katie Lev – they might not be the face of the game, but they are its backbone.

And without a backbone… it’s a job to stand up!