Monday, 27 January 2014

More than a trophy at stake in Ashes T20 deciders

The Aussies have won the ODI mini-series 2-1, with victories in Melbourne and Hobart, after England had won the Test Match and the first of the ODIs. It means England lead the Ashes Series 8-4, with just the three match T20 mini-series to come.

As Jenny Gunn said in a recent interview "I'd rather be 8-4 up than 4-8 down" and England really need to go into the T20s with that in mind. They should also take heart from the fact that they won all three of the Ashes T20 matches in England last summer.

Have England got what it takes to win at least one of the T20 matches? It is going to be very tight. Remember Australia are the current T20 World Champions. You may also remember that they beat England in the final in the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo by four runs in 2012 to secure the title.

The Aussies' tails are up and they will come out all guns blazing. On paper I think they have the better T20 side with several batsmen very capable of hitting the boundary - Lanning, Bolton, Cameron, Villani, Perry and Osborne (as she showed in the last ODI). They are natural shot-makers and risk-takers, and if one or two of them come off then they can win their team the game. I don't think England have many players in that category, perhaps Edwards, Taylor and the emerging Sciver. The flip-side of course is that they can also get out, as they did in England last summer.

I think this series is definitely going to be decided by the batsmen, not the bowlers. Neither England nor Australia have penetrative bowlers, especially on these Aussie wickets and with the white ball. England will need to try and stifle and frustrate the Aussie batsmen. They will miss Katherine Brunt and Holly Colvin. Brunt offered raw aggression and Colvin left-arm flight and guile. Dani Hazell, who used to try and fire the ball down to the other end, seems to have been working on giving the ball more air, and it is working for her, but she has no spin partner. Danni Wyatt is an option, but she would be a risk. She has not bowled well for some time. The ball just does not seem to be coming out right for her.

England will therefore have to look to their seam bowlers for more accuracy and better lengths than they have bowled in the last two ODIs. Shrubsole is a given, but they may go into at least the first game with left-armer Tash Farrant as her opening partner - she is a left-armer which gives variation, and the Aussies will not have seen much of her. I would keep Cross and also play Elwiss as a batting all-rounder rather than Brindle.

My England team, in batting order, would therefore be :-
Edwards, Knight, Taylor, Sciver, Greenway, Elwiss, Gunn, Hazell, Cross, Shrubsole, Farrant.

Is this the team that England will play? Probably not. I guess that Brindle will play ahead of Elwiss and they may play either Jones or Winfield instead of Farrant or Cross. Bear in mind that had Katherine Brunt not been injured that Kate Cross would have been back in England by now, replaced by Farrant.

I doubt the Aussies will make any changes to the team that won the two ODIs. They will stick with spinners Osborne and Jonassen and the pace of Perry, Ferling and Farrell. Bolton has to play, surely, as she should have done from the start of the series. Meg Lanning looks like she has got her timing back, and Jess Cameron is designed for T20. Alex Blackwell has turned her Ashes Series around with three consecutive 50s after her pair in the Test, and who says Ellyse Perry is batting too high at 6 (oh I did!). Healy has the gloves if Fields remains unfit. With that line up they could score 180 in 20 overs, but then again they might only manage 100. England will be hoping it is the later on at least one occasion, because that is still all they need.

Whatever happens in the next few days this series has been another great advert for the women's game - a brilliant Test Match; close ODIs and now the televised T20s. Hopefully both sides will continue to perform just as well in front of the cameras. There is a series to be won, but there are also tv execs looking on keen on adding a Women's BBL to the current successful men's version. This mini-series and the T20 World Cup in March might just prove that it is a viable option.



  1. Interesting blog (as always).

    Does your T20 XI have too long a tail ?

    Is Knight really a T20 opener ?

    Bowling-wise Hazell (30-2-99-3) was head and shoulders the best ODI bowler. Gunn, whose bowling I thought was shot for good a couple of years ago (how wrong was I), was next (29-1-137-4). They'll both bowl in the T20s.

    My XI (based on (a) whatever they score, we'll score more (b) never having coached a cricket team in my life and (c) being 12,000 miles away from the action - otherwise I'm an expert) would be :-

    Edwards, Winfield, Taylor, Sciver, Greenway, Brindle, Knight, Gunn, Elwiss, Hazell, Farrant.

    No 6, 7, 8 and 9 can flex dependent on the innings situation (eg if after 15 overs then Gunn or Elwiss before Brindle or Knight, if 6 off last ball then Gunn). There you go, sorted !!

  2. One thing going for Knight in T20 terms is she's a capable 6 hitter which can't be said for some of the other England women.

    I'm not sure I like both Brindle and Greenway in the middle order for T20 TBH. They work very well in tests and ODI but I don't think they get going fast enough for T20 to have both of them in your batting line up.
    Like Martin I'd go with Greenway but she could have some problems. While she did score the series winning innings in the second T20 in England I felt there was some really poor captaincy from Fields in that match.
    We saw in the final ODI on Sunday that if that if you actually set a decent field to Greenway her almost unthinking tendency to sweep shots can get her bogged down and that's something you really can't afford in T20.

    As has been pointed out though the main problem for England is the bowling.
    She might not always get the credit she deserves in victories, but you can see how valuable Shrubsole has been for England in the matches where she doesn't perform. On the occasions when she's been off her game, the rest of attack has looked incredibly thin and almost incapable of exerting any pressure on the batsmen.

    It looks like Australia are coming to terms with playing in the post Sthalekar era especially with Perry now looking a very impressive and consistent presence in the middle order.

    I wonder if part of the reason Fields captaincy seemed a bit off since the world cup (where she was very impressive) was because of the loss of an experienced sounding board like Sthalekar?
    Though they were T20 and ODI world champions coming into the series in England, it was a very good time to play them having just lost the services of one of the top competitors in the women's game.

    You have to back England from this position to get at least one victory in the mini series and retain the Ashes but I don't think it will be as straightforward as some commentators are suggesting.

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