T20 WORLD CUP: England Exit Harsh… But Fair

England were knocked out of the T20 World Cup at the semi-final stage, courtesy of the torrential rain which lashed Sydney all day, causing their match with India to be abandoned without a ball bowled. India, as group winners, therefore progress to the final.

There has been much talk about the unfairness of this system… and there will be even more if Australia exit the competition in the same manner later this evening. But the tournament Playing Conditions dictate that only the final should have a reserve day, and belated pleas from Cricket Australia for a last-minute change in the rules fell on deaf ears at the ICC.

And rightly so!

CRICKETher is the first to criticise the boards when they get stuff wrong, and it has earned us the ire of the ECB, Cricket Australia, the BCCI and the ICC themselves at times; but this time they didn’t get it wrong – they got it absolutely right.

One wonders whether the pleas of Cricket Australia would have been anything like as loud if they had been the ones in pole position at this stage?

Because the simple fact is that England and Australia were only in this situation because they lost their opening matches. If England had beaten South Africa, they’d have topped the group and would now being doing rain-dances in their hotel ahead of a semi with Australia. Ditto Australia, who lost to India on opening day.

England (and Australia, if that transpires) might not have lost this game “on the pitch” at the SCG, but they did lose it on a pitch – in England’s case, the one at the WACA in Perth.

As Heather Knight admitted when confronted with the weather forecast yesterday:

“It’s our own fault for losing that game against South Africa,” she said. “We didn’t top our group and only have ourselves to blame.”

Nor were the regulations “sexist” as some have suggested: the last men’s World Twenty20, in India in 2016, had exactly the same regulations.

The rules may be harsh – rules often are on those who fall the wrong side of them – but they were fair, and India deservedly go on to the final at the MCG on Sunday.

NEWS: Equal Prize Money For The Hundred

Six years on from the ECB’s Managing Director of Women’s Cricket Clare Connor describing the idea of equal prize money as “economically absurd”, the ECB have announced that the £600,000 prize pot for The Hundred will be split 50/50 between the men’s and women’s competitions.

 

The ECB received a lot of criticism in the media when the player salaries were revealed, with the best-paid women being paid £15,000 – half as much as the worst-paid men, who will trouser £30,000 for potentially six weeks of bench-warming.

In that light, Beth Barrett-Wild, head of The Hundred women’s competition admitted today: “We’re aware there is more to do in this space.”

However, this is nonetheless an important symbolic gesture and it certainly offers a genuine incentive for the players. Although the exact distribution of the prize pot within the women’s competition is yet to be revealed*, on the basis of the headline number it looks like some of the players on the winning team will likely have the opportunity to pretty-much double their tournament earnings, should they come out on top on Finals Day at Hove.

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* The Guardian are suggesting that the winners will get £150,000 and the runners-up £75,000, but it is likely not all of this will go directly to the players.

T20 WORLD CUP: Bowling Rankings

The T20 World Cup Bowling Rankings contain more good news for England, who have two of the top 3 ranked bowlers, as well as two of the top 3 batters.

Sophie Ecclestone has been quite remarkable once again. When a new bowler comes onto the scene and does well, as Ecclestone did on her ODI debut, taking 2-28 with 3 maidens against the West Indies in 2016, there’s always a nagging doubt that they may be “found out” and slip away as quickly as they’d arrived. But almost 4 years later, Ecclestone is bowling better than ever – she isn’t quite the leading wicket-taker, but no one else in the top 30 is even close on her tournament-leading economy of 3.23.

As with the Batting Rankings, there is an Indian sandwiched between the English players at 1 and 3. Leg-spinner Poonam Yadav missed the lead-up to this tournament with a broken finger on her left (i.e. non-bowling) hand, but she has come roaring back to take 9 wickets and help spin India to a semi-final spot.

Sarah Glenn at 3 is still a relative newbie. Having made her debut against Pakistan at the tail-end of last year, she continued to impress against more challenging opponents in the Tri-Series, and although she came into this World Cup in theory vying for her place with seamer Freya Davies, she has made it impossible for coach Lisa Keightly to consider leaving her out, by just doing her thing, bowling stump to stump, and doing it consistently. (For more on Glenn, read Raf’s interview with her in The Guardian.)

Though Australia remain favourites to win this tournament, the lack of Australian names near the top of the rankings has to be a worry for them going into the knockout stages, with only Megan Schutt scraping into the Top 10 at No. 10. Their batting order is immense, but one day it will fail, and when it does – perhaps in a semi against South Africa or a final against India – it isn’t certain that they’ve got the bowling to get them out of the hole. Some will point out that they’ve been unlucky with injuries, but others might reply that they’ve pushed some young bodies very hard and that’s what happens when you do! (Contrast with how England have held back Lauren Bell, in the hope that she’ll have a 10-year career, not a 10-month one.)

Player Played Wickets Economy
1. Sophie Ecclestone (ENG) 4 8 3.23
2. Poonam Yadav (IND) 4 9 5.56
3. Sarah Glenn (ENG) 4 6 4.25
4. Hayley Jensen (NZ) 4 7 5.21
5. Shikha Pandey (IND) 4 7 5.30
6. Anya Shrubsole (ENG) 4 8 6.07
7. Amelia Kerr (NZ) 4 6 4.62
8. Diana Baig (PAK) 4 6 5.31
9. Shabnim Ismail (SA) 3 5 4.56
10. Megan Schutt (AUS) 4 7 6.60
10. Shashikala Siriwardene (SL) 4 7 6.60
12. Jess Jonassen (AUS) 4 6 5.75
13. Salma Khatun (BD) 4 6 6.45
14. Ritu Moni (BD) 2 4 4.50
15. Dane van Niekerk (SA) 3 4 4.54
16. Rajeshwari Gayakwad (IND) 4 5 6.00
16. Radha Yadav (IND) 2 5 6.00
18. Nida Dar (PAK) 4 6 7.25
19. Udeshika Prabodhani (SL) 4 3 3.68
20. Stafanie Taylor (WI) 3 5 6.21
21. Leigh Kasperek (NZ) 4 5 6.31
22. Aiman Anwer (PAK) 3 6 8.75
23. Georgia Wareham (AUS) 2 3 4.57
24. Sune Luus (SA) 3 3 5.00
25. Afy Fletcher (WI) 3 3 6.10
26. Nicola Carey (AUS) 3 3 6.60
27. Anam Amin (PAK) 3 3 6.75
28. Sophie Devine (NZ) 4 3 6.81
29. Nonkululeko Mlaba (SA) 3 2 4.58
30. Anisa Mohammed (WI) 3 2 4.70

Bowling Ranking = Wickets / Economy

T20 WORLD CUP: Batting Rankings

If tournament cricket is about your in-form players peaking at the right time, then England are in a very healthy position going into the knockout stages of the T20 World Cup, with two of the top 3 ranked players in both batting and bowling.

With the bat, Heather Knight is the top-ranked player, after two match-winning contributions of 108* and 62 at the Manuka Oval in Canberra, against Thailand and Pakistan; whilst Nat Sciver is ranked third, having scored more runs but at a lower strike rate. Sciver has been Ms Consistent for England, with three 50s and a lowest score of 36 – still a significant innings in T20 cricket.

Wedged between them is Shafali “Did you know she’s only 16?” Verma – the sixteen-year-old teenage wonder-kid who is only sixteen. [Ed: Ok – you’ve made the point!]

Shafali has it all in her armoury – the big slog and the elegant drive, and she’s been getting India off to a series of flying starts, at a strike rate that puts the “power” in powerplay. And even though her strike rate dropped-off slightly in her two bigger innings, against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, it was still touching 150 on both occasions.

Ranked 4th is Chamari Atapattu, who has once again held Sri Lanaka together with the bat and kept them competitive against the bigger sides. With the retirement of Shashikala Siriwardene, Sri Lanka will be even more dependent on Atapattu going forwards, and that has to be a worry for a side who are already ranked bottom of the “Top 8”, though bringing Bangladesh and (probably – sorry Ireland) Thailand into the ICC Championship will help them to get some more competitive matches over the 2021-25 cycle.

Australia’s top-ranked batter is Alyssa Healy, who has rediscovered some form after a dismal Tri-Series, closely followed by Beth Mooney. Interestingly, Meg Lanning doesn’t make an appearance until No. 25 – only just ahead of much-criticised Amy Jones – though as @_hypocaust has observed, she tends to save it for the knockout stages in these big tournaments, so there could be more of her to come.

Player Played Runs Strike Rate
1. Heather Knight (ENG) 4 193 137
2. Shafali Verma (IND) 4 161 161
3. Nat Sciver (ENG) 4 202 113
4. Chamari Atapattu (SL) 4 154 135
5. Alyssa Healy (AUS) 4 143 144
6. Beth Mooney (AUS) 4 153 119
7. Lizelle Lee (SA) 3 109 143
8. Sophie Devine (NZ) 4 132 104
9. Rachael Haynes (AUS) 4 85 135
10. Maddy Green (NZ) 4 92 112
11. Sune Luus (SA) 3 74 137
12. Nigar Sultana (BD) 4 114 88
13. Aliya Riaz (PAK) 4 80 123
14. Katy Martin (NZ) 4 72 129
15. Javeria Khan (PAK) 4 82 106
16. Nattakan Chantam (THI) 4 103 84
17. Ashleigh Gardner (AUS) 4 78 107
18. Deepti Sharma (IND) 4 83 97
19. Laura Wolvaardt (SA) 3 53 147
20. Jemima Rodrigues (IND) 4 85 90
21. Marizanne Kapp (SA) 2 69 106
22. Chloe Tryon (SA) 3 46 153
23. Shemaine Campbelle (WI) 3 69 101
24. Stafanie Taylor (WI) 3 84 82
25. Meg Lanning (AUS) 4 67 97
26. Amy Jones (ENG) 4 48 123
27. Amelia Kerr (NZ) 4 41 137
28. Rachel Priest (NZ) 4 60 88
29. Nannapat Koncharoenkai (THI) 4 65 78
30. Danni Wyatt (ENG) 4 47 102

Batting Ranking = Runs * Strike Rate

T20 World Cup: Jones Closes The Deal As England Grab Semi-Final Spot

England made it through to the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup by bowling out a slumping West Indies, after posting a solid total on a low, slow pudding at the Sydney Showground.

Earlier in the day South Africa had laid down a marker for what was possible on what was clearly a tough track to bat on – posting 136 against Pakistan, thanks to a brilliant “Closing” half century from Laura Wolvaardt, who hit 53* off just 36 balls at the death. They were runs South Africa really needed – had she struck at a run-a ball, South Africa would have totalled only 119 – exactly the score Pakistan eventually made in their chase.

So with Wolvie’s heroics to live up to, England elected to bat first having won the toss, and sent in Tammy Beaumont instead of Amy Jones to open the innings and get them off to a flying start. It didn’t quite work out as planned up-top – the pressure was all on Beaumont after everything that’s been said in the media, and she found herself walking back after just two balls, LBW to Shakera Selman.

So had the new plan failed?

Initially, yes, but there was a twist in the tale to come!

After Danni Wyatt, Heather Knight and Nat Sciver all contributed, England found themselves with 3 overs remaining on 107-4 – heading for a score of around 126. Then came the twist – Amy Jones, having been dropped down the order, effectively swapping with Beaumont, smacked a vital 23 off 13 balls. With the help of Katherine Brunt (10 off 4) England succeeded in “Closing” the innings even harder than South Africa had done, hitting 12, 11 and 13 off those last 3 overs to finish on 143 – bettering South Africa by 7 runs.

We know how much of an up and down side the Windies can be, so those last 3 overs must have been devastating – they certainly didn’t come in looking like a team that believed they were capable of chasing that total, and so it proved. They played out more dots than the Morse Code… and with very few dashes between the wickets either, they slumped to 97 all out, with Stafanie Taylor retired hurt.

Sophie Ecclestone finished with 3-7 from 3.1 overs; but the Play of the Day for me was Mady Villiers wonderful Caught & Bowled to dismiss Shemaine Campbelle. It was Villiers first outing of the tour, and England emphasised afterwards that it was a tactical change to add another spin option for this particular track, so we may or may not see her again, but she’s taken a special wicket here that will live long in the memory.

England and South Africa now both move across Sydney to the SCG for the semis; but their respective opponents won’t be settled until South Africa take on the Windies – if South Africa win that game, they will face New Zealand or Australia; but lose and they play Group A winners India. They will obviously be going all-out to win, because momentum is so important in a short tournament; but I’m not sure they will be toooooo disappointed if they lose, especially if it turns out to be Australia they end up handing to England in the semis.

T20 WORLD CUP: Monarch of the Glenn

England strolled to a comfortable victory against Pakistan in Canberra, keeping their World Twenty20 campaign on track for a spot in the semi-finals next week in Sydney.

It was Heather Knight who walked off with the Player of the Match medal for the second time in succession, having scored 62 off 47 balls; but it was England’s performance with the ball that was most impressive under lights at the Manuka Oval.

England did a job with the bat, but it wasn’t the perfect performance by any stretch – their run-rate flat-lining at 8 runs per over through the middle overs, despite having wickets in hand. It was the perfect opportunity to showcase their new “Closing” strategy, but it didn’t really come off, and they ended up scrambling round in a bit of a panic at the end, losing 4 wickets in the last 3 overs.

Of course, it was plenty enough to win the match; but largely thanks to some brilliant bowling and fielding. This World Cup has not been a great showcase for the fielding side of the game (we’re looking at you in particular, West Indies) but England were really sharp tonight. Yes, Lauren Winfield put down a very tough chance; but England’s ring fielding was top-notch and probably saved 10-15 runs in the powerplay alone – that doesn’t sound like much, but it could easily be the difference between winning and losing a World Cup final.

And then there was Sarah Glenn.

Glenn hasn’t quite come from nowhere. In 2018 she was mentioned in dispatches after a brilliant bowling performance for Loughborough Lightning against the Vipers; and by 2019 she was rated 5th overall in our KSL Bowling Rankings, after taking 11 wickets at 6.05. But nevertheless, her England selection for the tour to play Pakistan in Malaysia at the tail-end of last year was definitely a surprise.

Sophie Ecclestone was obviously long-established in the team by this stage, and rated by many as one of (if not the) best left-arm slow bowler in the world; but the search for her perfect spinning partner on the field had been a long and not entirely fruitful one, taking in the likes of Linsey Smith, Bryony Smith and Kirstie Gordon along the way.

So the question was: was Glenn finally Ecclestone’s “Miss Right”?

Well, after 12 internationals, I think we can finally say that the slipper is fitting pretty well, and she was fantastic today, taking 3-15 at 3.75.

As she freely acknowledges, she is not the spinniest spinner: “I don’t naturally get as much turn,” she admitted today. But what she does do is stick to her plans and bowl stump-to-stump with unerring consistency. And it sounds like the England coaching staff are doing the right thing too: “They don’t throw a load of stuff at me, telling me to change this, change that – they’ve just told me to keep it quite simple.”

Cricket can be a complicated game, but if what works for you is keeping it simple, then keep it simple!  And if Glenn can continue to do so, then she and Ecclestone have got a beautiful future ahead of them.

T20 WORLD CUP: Thailand Go Gentle Into That Good Knight

Having started the day with zero points and a negative Net Run Rate of -0.16, following defeat to South Africa in their opening game, England turned things around in Canberra, getting two points on the board against Thailand, and perhaps equally importantly boosting their Net Run Rate to a whopping 2.38 positive.

The result puts England temporarily top of Group B, albeit with the West Indies, South Africa and Pakistan all having games in hand; and leaves them in a much healthier position should semi-final qualification come down to Net Run Rate.

England went into the match with an unchanged side, with Heather Knight having definitively ruled-out a u-turn on either the policy of playing 8 batsmen, or the that of batting their most consistent player of recent times – Tammy Beaumont – right down the order in a “closer” role which means she faces at best only a handful of deliveries.

Today she faced none at all, as Heather Knight took charge with a commanding hundred, which put paid to any hopes Thailand might have had of an upset after getting both openers out for ducks.

The recent form of Amy Jones in particular has been called into question after a pretty miserable Ashes last summer, but she did make two big T20 scores – 53 off 39 balls, and 89 off 52 – against Pakistan; and the bottom line is that she is essentially undroppable anyway, unless England want to hand the wicket-keeping gloves to Tammy Beaumont, which they really don’t, so they might as well continue to play her in her preferred position. (It isn’t like she’s chewing up deliveries – she is at least making runs or getting out.)

Wyatt also made runs against Pakistan, and given the damage we know she can do at the top of the order she also needs to stay where she is. By moving her down England would be depriving themselves of the one player they have capable of causing real carnage in a semi or final against an India or an Australia.

Getting back to today… Knight battered the Thais with 13 fours and 4 sixes, finishing with 108 off 66 balls – a Strike Rate of 164. As is often the case with Knight it wasn’t particularly pretty, but more of a professional demolition job that put put a wrecking ball through the scorecard, and taking England to a total of 176.

This was always going to be too much for Thailand whose highest ever score is 133, against the Netherlands last summer. They haven’t posted a score in excess of 100 since, despite qualifying for this tournament in that time, and today wasn’t going to be that day either. England’s spinners – Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn – both recorded Economy Rates under 3 as the Thais were held to 78-7 in their 20 overs. They didn’t shut-up shop, as we’ve sometimes seen from the minnows in these kinds of situations, so credit to them for trying to play some shots and still “going the distance” but they were still as definitively outplayed by England with the ball as they had been with the bat.

England still have work to do – beating the tournament’s lowest-ranked side is not in itself a reason to break out the champagne, but Heather Knight herself perhaps deserves a glass or two tonight after joining the “Hundred Club” in international T20s and getting England’s World Cup campaign back on track.