Monday, 20 November 2017

Second T20 - Talking Points

If only.....

If only England could have batted like that in the first T20...

If only Brunt and Gunn could have bowled like that in the first T20....

If only Beth Mooney could have run herself out in the first T20.....

Ah the vagaries of cricket.

As it was England were very good and the Aussies weren't. Aussie hangover? Maybe. England more relaxed and more focused? Probably.

England's 152/6 was their highest ever score against Australia in a T20 in Australia. Their win by 40 runs was their largest ever margin of victory over the Aussies in this format (with thanks to @hypocaust). It was a comprehensive win.

And yet at the turnaround England's 152 looked to be slightly below par. They had run well, but failed to find as many boundaries as they would have liked. The pitch was quick and true and the outfield like glass. 165 looked like the score they needed to post.

As it was 152 was plenty, but with the Aussies at 45/0 in the fifth over that didn't look to be the case. Healy looked in good touch (as she so often does just before she gets out), even if Mooney wasn't quite as fluent as she had been in the first T20. She then thumped one straight to Jenny Gunn at mid-off and set off for a run. She was well short as the ball clattered into the stumps at the bowler's end. The next four overs turned the game on its head...

Brunt came on for her first over (the seventh of the innings). New bat Elyse Villani played and missed at the first three balls; to the fourth she walked down the wicket, swished wildly to leg and was stumped by Sarah Taylor.

In the next over Healy meekly hit Gunn straight down long-on's throat.

In the next over Ellye Perry contrived to hit a Brunt short ball onto her front foot and then back onto her stumps.

In the next over the much-hyped Ash Gardner hit Danni Hazell for a beauteous 6, and then holed out at deep midwicket, to a shot described on CA's livestream ball by ball commentary as a "slog".

Australia were now 65/5 after 10 overs - GAME OVER.

And so we move to the final game of the tour, and the penultimate entry on this blog. The last will follow the final T20.

The Aussies really want to win the last game so they can say they have won the series 10-6, and the T20 series 2-1. England will be desperate to square the series at 8-8, even though that means they have to leave Australia without the Ashes. I doubt there will be any changes to the England line-up unless there are injuries. As for the Aussies I think Villani may well give way to Alex Blackwell. Villani has had a poor Ashes series with scores of 38, 1, 8, 14, 17, and 1. Blackwell may be the calming influence they need to try and chase down any target England can set in the final match.

You should be able to watch it online here in the UK for free. I think it's going to be tight.

MD
20/XI/17

Friday, 17 November 2017

First T20 - Talking Points

The Ashes are gone and the first thing to say is that the Beth Mooney's innings deserved to be a game winner and, perhaps, an Ashes winner too. She batted like a woman possessed, striking the ball very cleanly. I have to admit I have always been a fan, having seen her play for Yorkshire in county cricket here in England back in 2015. Her timing and her ability to play in the V were a joy to watch. I only say "perhaps" as I'm not sure of the true merit of T20 cricket as a deciding format for an Ashes Series, or indeed any other multi-format series. T20 cricket is just too hit and miss. But it satisfies the needs of those that seem to need instant gratification and it keeps the television producers and the cricket boards happy, so it ain't gunna change any time soon.

England have really not had the rub of the green with some of the umpiring decisions in this series. Heather Knight's dismissal tonight was the third time she has been on the wrong end of a poor decision. This time by the third umpire! Wicketkeeper Healy's gloves were fractionally in front of the stumps before Knight hit the ball, and therefore the correct call was a no ball. Instead she was given out. England were further hampered in setting any sort of decent total when Sarah Taylor was given out lbw after the ball had struck her thigh pad. It was clearly too high, but there was no review.

The fact that England then made it to 132/9, having been 16/4 in the fifth over, will have pleased coach Mark Robinson. Danni Wyatt's first ever 50 in her 124th game for England, shows a degree of belief in her abilities, which is perhaps hard to fathom. Perhaps finally Robinson is the man to get the best out of her?Personally I'd like to see her open in the next two T20s, rather than Heather Knight, who looks far more comfortable down the order. Wyatt could be England's Alyssa Healy. What have England got to lose? At the moment they do not have the right combination at the top of the order. I know Wyatt has had her chances to open before and blown those chances, but she deserves another go, perhaps with a bit more guidance and support from the sidelines.

As for Katherine Brunt she is not a first ten overs bat. Her technique and temperament does not merit her being that high. It seems the more that is expected of her as a bat, the less she is able to perform. Free her from expectation and she does not try so hard, and then she succeeds. I think she should bat at 7, and be elevated only if quick runs are needed late in the innings. As for her bowling she has taken just four wickets in three ODIs, a Test and now one T20. England will have to decide if she is still the force that she once was, and the opening bowler they need for the WWT20 in the Windies in just 12 months time.

Somehow England also need to find a space for Elwiss in the next two T20s too, and realistically that has to be at the expense of Jenny Gunn. Again looking forward England need to decide if Gunn is part of the squad for that WWT20 next year. It is a moot point.

England will be disappointed, but it was in the 50 over format where they should have racked up some points. They are better than the Aussies in this format. Despite no real warm-up games due to the weather, they should have won the first ODI, and taken a 4-2 lead into the Test, and then a 6-4 lead into the three T20s. It was not to be, but it should not take the gloss off what has been a very rewarding 2017 for England.

The challenge now is to have an equally rewarding 2018!!

MD
17/XI/17

Monday, 13 November 2017

T20 Ashes Showdown!!

So it all comes down to the last three T20I games, starting with the first on Friday on the same pitch at North Sydney Oval, under lights. If England lose then the next two games will be academic, but if they win then the battle will continue at the Manuka Oval in Canberra, two days later, and, if needed, two further days after that.

England will choose their starting XI from the same 15 players that have been selected for the whole series. It is doubtful there will be many changes in personnel, but Alex Hartley may get the nod this time ahead of Sophie Ecclestone,  and Georgia Elwiss may have muscled her way back into contention, after showing some character with the bat in the Test, if not speed.

We will have a better idea of what is in Mark Robinson's mind when England play the Governor General's XI at Drummoyne Oval on Wednesday evening.

The fact that Nicole Bolton has been given the job of captaining the young GG's XI side may be an indicator that she will not be included in the full Australian side to play on Friday. Indeed Australia are yet to name their T20 squad.

It would be no surprise to see Alyssa Healy back up into the opener's spot, perhaps accompanying Beth Mooney this time. As well as the usual candidates I'd expect to see a couple of young guns named in the squad and perhaps even making the final XI. Heather Graham, Georgia Redmayne, and Molly Strano could all be hearing from coach Mott in the next 24 hours or so. Existing youngsters Ash Gardner, Tahlia McGrath, Lauren Cheatle (if recovered from injury - she is named to play in the GG XI game?), and Amanda-Jade Wellington are also likely to feature on Friday, meaning some of the more established faces may have to give way, as Australia look to build their T20 squad for next year's World Cup in the West Indies. Under threat are Elyse Villani, Alex Blackwell, Jess Jonassen and even skipper Rachael Haynes. It is doubtful all would go en masse, as the side needs some experienced campaigners, but I'd expect to see some fresh faces in the squad, and out on the park if Australia win either the first or second game and have the Ashes safely back under lock and key.

England haven't played a T20 game since their series against Pakistan in the summer of 2016. The Aussies last series was against New Zealand in February of this year - a series that they lost 2-1. With everything riding on it it should be a nail-biting affair, with the pressure perhaps more on the Aussies to get over the line, as everyone expects them to do, than on England, who know their chances of winning all three games are pretty low. Of course if England should win the first, and then the second games then the pressure will shift to them in the third, as they get to within touching distance of an unlikely Ashes Series win. It could all be in the mind!

MD
13/XI/17

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Ashes Test - Final Thoughts

Ultimately both teams were beaten by the North Sydney Oval pitch, as England comfortably held off the Aussies on the final day, ending with a handshake an hour before the scheduled close of play on 206/2. Heather Knight (79*) and Georgia Elwiss (41*) saw England to the draw after Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield had fallen midway through the first session of the day. Knight and Elwiss simply dug in and on a slow pitch there was little that the Aussies could do.

This leaves the Aussies 6-4 up in the series and needing to win just one of the three T20Is, which start on the same pitch on Friday. England cannot afford any more slips.

Whilst the last day may have been a bit of an anti-climax, the Test has been an absorbing contest and once again sparked the debate about why the women don't play more Test cricket. The simple answer is because the ICC don't want them to. The reason is that it is not a format they can see being lucrative. That is not likely to change anytime soon, more's the pity.

This will always be the Test that is remembered for Ellyse Perry's magnificent double hundred. She is the consummate professional and the game is lucky that she decided to pursue a career in cricket rather than in football. She will continue to dominate bowling attacks around the world for many years to come, but Australia will need to rely less and lesson on her bowling. She cannot be expected to carry both, and her batting is now far superior to her bowling. Whilst her T20I and ODI batting numbers are good, you definitely feel that, given more opportunities, her Test stats would be out of this world.

The series seems to have captured the attention of the Aussie public, with 12,000 turning up to watch the Test. Crowds for the three T20Is are likely to also be very good. It will be the most watched Women's Ashes series in Australia to date.

The series will be swiftly followed by the WBBL, again with increased television coverage and bigger crowds.

Women's cricket in Australia has become mainstream. It has become a viable career option. Who would have thought that five years ago?

MD
12/XI/17

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Ashes Test Day Three - Talking points

So England ended Day Three 128 runs behind Australia after Ellyse Perry's mammoth knock of 213* took Australia to 448/9 declared. It was simply magnificent. A chanceless double hundred. The first time she has ever got into three figures in international cricket. A pleasure to see no matter what your affiliations may be.

England were 40/0 at the close of the third day, but not without a few flutter. They will have 100 overs to negotiate tomorrow to draw the Test and keep their Ashes hopes alive. If they lose then the Ashes are gone.

But is an England win completely out of the question? The bookies think so. You can get 80/1 on England winning the Test, but just hang on a minute....

There are 100 overs to be bowled tomorrow. If England treated the game like a 50 over game and could score at 5 runs an over then after 50 overs they would be 122 runs ahead of the Aussies. Bat another 10 overs and they could take that lead to 200, if they have wickets in hand. Declare and that would leave Australia 38 overs to score 201 to win. Would they go for it? Of course they would, at least to start, which could open the door for England with the final session under lights.

It would be a risky strategy, yes, but one that I am sure Mark Robinson will at least be thinking about, albeit only briefly. England are not good at simply batting out time, so why not take the positive route. Let the batsmen express themselves. That is how they bat best.

True if England lose the Test then they lose the series, but if they draw then the Aussies will only need one win in the three remaining T20Is to keep the urn anyway?

Come on England let's go down all guns blazing!

MD
11/XI/17

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Ashes Test - Day One - Talking Points

Who will be happier after the end of Day One? It has to be the Australians.

Midway through the second session England were 129/1 with Tammy Beaumont (70) and Heather Knight (62) seemingly in control. Within seven overs both were gone and England's innings began to stumble. Beaumont chased a wide leg-spinner from Wellington and edged it to slip, and Knight was harshly given out lbw sweeping at Jonassen.

At 214/4 England were still not in too bad a shape. True they had lost Nat Sciver, also to a somewhat dubious lbw decision, but Sussex pair Georgia Elwiss (27) (in for Gunn) and Sarah Taylor (29), batting at 6, seemed to have the measure of the pitch even if they were not scoring quickly, but then they both got out to Ellyse Perry playing ugly shots. With Brunt wafting a wide one to backward square England closed on 235/7 and had handed the advantage to Australia, who will look to knock them over for less than 250. England will now be pleased if they can get to 300.

It is not a disaster by any stretch of the imagination, but this looks a good batting pitch, even if the outfield is a little slow. 350-400 would have been a decent first innings score.

The positive is that the Aussies have had to field all day and will have to come out again tomorrow afternoon for at least one more stint. If England can take them beyond the first break that will be 8+ hours in the field, which is very sapping, particularly when you are not used to it. England will then need early wickets to get the Aussies on the back foot. If they can get them 20/2 chasing 315, then that will look a tall order.

As for the Aussies they generally bowled decent lines, but Ellyse Perry looked extremely tired as she bowled her last over. She was still good enough to react to Taylor's uppish straight drive and get an arm out to parry it up, so that she could catch it. Just when she seemed to be at a really low ebb.

For all her talk Amanda Wellington has no variation ball that she bowls. If its in her armoury then she is keeping it there....but when for? Last over of the day surely you bowl the googly if you have it? She didn't.

Schutt, McGrath and Jonassen toiled away solidly, with the latter two picking up two wickets each. But England will feel that they got themselves out, rather than they were got out. If he were dead then Geoff Boycott would be spinning in his grave!

All in all a decent day of Test cricket and nicely set up for Day Two.

MD
09/XI/17

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Ashes Test Preview

The stage is set for the biennial Ashes Test, this time at the North Sydney Oval in Australia, to be played as a day/night game, with a pink ball. Like you didn't know that already?

It all kicks off on Thursday 2.30pm local time, which is 3.30am GMT.

The warm-ups are done and here is our best guess at the probably line-ups


Australia
Mooney, Bolton, Blackwell, Perry, Villani, Haynes, Healy, Gardner, Wellington, Schutt, Cheatle


England
Beaumont, Winfield, Knight, Elwiss, Sciver, Taylor, Brunt, Gunn, Marsh, Shrubsole, Ecclestone

The issue for Australia is in the bowling department - should left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen or medium pacer Tahlia McGrath replace Gardner or Cheatle? Whichever they run with, it looks like the Aussies are a bit light on bowling, with only five front-line bowlers. It would be no surprise to see part-timers Villani, Haynes or Bolton twirling their arms over if England can bat long. Beware the rank long-hop England!

For England that may be their major issue - batting long. One of their top six needs to bat, and bat, and bat. Their two imponderables are whether a space should be made for Alex Hartley or Fran Wilson. Two left-arm spinners is a bit of a luxury so the Hartley question comes down to a straight choice between her and Sophie Ecclestone, with Ecclestone likely edging it. Wilson has kept her place in the ODI team, but may be passed over in favour of Georgia Elwiss. Both could play if Jenny Gunn were to be dropped, but that seems unlikely. The XI above is stacked with bowling - eight realistic options. Given that England really need to win and therefore need to take 20 wickets, it is a line-up that will give skipper Heather Knight plenty of options.

So who will win? Well the Aussies are favourites with the bookies on home soil and you would say that Test Match batting will suit Bolton, Blackwell and Haynes. England will need to winkle each one of them out, but England have the better, varied bowling attack, so it should not be impossible. 

Stickability is not a quality much evident in England's top six, with the exception perhaps of Beaumont and Knight. The rest need to bat around these two. If England can get on top of the thin Aussie bowling attack then they could go very big. Any score in excess of 350 on the board in the first innings and England will be in the box seat.

So what is the answer then? Who is going to win? Your guess is as good as mine! Which is how it should be. An even contest. I am sure both coaches will be telling their players that now is the time to pull out that top performance. It is time to stand up and be counted. This is an Ashes Test! [Is that strains of Jerusalem I hear in the background?]

Someone is going to put in a key performance, probably with the bat. The question is who will it be?

MD
07/XI/17