Thursday, 15 August 2013

Ashes Test - Post Match Thoughts

The morning after the four days before and it seems appropriate to look back on the Women's Ashes Test before I forget what I saw and before the one day stuff starts next Tuesday at Lords.

It was a good Test Match, played on a very docile pitch and from the end of Day One, when the Aussies were 243/3 it looked inevitable that it was going to be a draw. Sarah Elliott (104) duly completed her century at the beginning of Day Two and when Australia finally declared 25 minutes before lunch on the second day on 331/6 it was up to England not to cock it up. As Jenny Gunn trudged back to the clubhouse just after tea and the scoreboard read 113/6 they were not making a very good job of it.

Fortunately for England Heather Knight, who had been in great form for Berkshire all year, showed just how to play on a slow pitch. She timed the ball exquisitely off her legs and through the covers and never really looked in any danger of getting out until she misjudged a run on a misfield and stranded herself in the middle of the wicket. But by this time she had scored 157 and England had moved on to 269. It was a record 7th wicket partnership for England of 156. Knight's ally at the other end was the obdurate Laura Marsh. Of the 156 she made just 35 and it was not until her 225th ball that she struck a boundary - it mattered not a jot. She was doing exactly what her room-mate and captain, Charlotte Edwards, wanted her to do - occupy the crease. The draw now looked nailed on.

Eventually just after tea on Day Three Marsh missed her 304th ball and was bowled for 55. It was the slowest 50 in women's Test cricket, but that is a record of which Boggie should be proud. She batted for 17 minutes short of 6 hours. It was a great feat of endurance, concentration and stamina. England were bowled out shortly after for 314. The Aussies had a lead of just 17. By the end of the day they had moved onto 64/1 - a lead of 81. Speculation was rife as to when they would declare on Day Four. In a post Day Three interview Alex Blackwell indicated they would be positive and the Aussies were going for the win.

Day Four saw a cautious start from the Aussies and a fired up one from England. Meg Lanning and Jess Cameron then showed some positive intent, but England's fielding was sharp, with Lydia Greenway's run out of first innings centurion Sarah Elliott, the icing on the cake. The Aussies were soon four down with only 108 on the board and their charge had been halted. Blackwell having promised to be positive in fact scored just 22 off 92 balls before she fell just before lunch. With their score at 153/5 at lunch (they had added just 89 in 34 overs) the game was already beginning to peter out. They did make one final gesture towards positivity as they hit 31 off the last three overs before they declared on 231/5, leaving England to score 249 off 45 overs.

It was never going to be of any great interest to England. With 6 points for this one match out of a total of 18 throughout the whole series, neither side could afford to lose. Australia had probably declared 10 overs later than they would have liked and had scored about 50 runs more than England would have been willing to chase. England lost Knight, run out for a second time in the match, and Brindle, but Sarah Taylor (38*) and Charlotte Edwards (23*) (who was obviously very miffed to have missed out on the runs in the first innings) saw England to a comfortable draw.

Heather Knight was rightly named Player of the Match, but one would hope she shared her magnum of Veuve Clicquot with Laura Marsh, Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt. The latter two toiled away on a dead track with commendable accuracy and gumption. Shrubsole got through 47 overs and Brunt 38. It was a sterling effort from both quicks.

Both teams will hope that the rest of the pitches in this series have more life in them than the Wormsley pitch. It was a great setting and the crowds were excellent (over 2000 on the First Day), but the pitch was lifeless. This may suit the corporate matches that it is most frequently used for, but it was not conducive to entertaining Test cricket. In the circumstances both teams did well to make the game as good as it was.

The teams now prepare for three ODIs and three T20 which will decide the destination of the Ashes. One team needs to win four of the six games, assuming they are all played. Ideally the marketing men would like it to go down to the last T20 in Durham on August 31. Let's just hope the weather does not intervene.

As for the future of the Ashes Points Series - it does seem the way forward, but 6 points was always too much for one game. I understand the concept of 6 points for each format, although I personally do not think the T20s merit the same status and I would reduce these to 1 point each. I would suggest two Tests in future for 3 points each, one at the beginning of the series and one in between the shorter games somewhere. The girls want to play Test cricket and Wormsley has proved that the public will support it. CA and ECB let them have it.


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