England duly won the second of the three T20s against South Africa at Wantage Road last night by 42 runs, thanks once again to another fine knock of 75* by Charlotte Edwards, which allowed England to set the Saffers 142 to win.
To be fair to South Africa for the first half of their reply they were in the game thanks to the batting efforts of Dane van Niekerk (34), Marizanne Kapp (27) and skipper Mignon du Preez (15). They took a liking to the pace of Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole hitting nine boundaries in the six over powerplay and taking South Africa to 46/1 (Lizelle Lee the only casualty). But once England could put five fielders out on the boundary South Africa could only get the ball over the rope on two more occasions, and their effort petered out once du Preez and van Niekerk had fallen to hoisted leg-side shots. In fact they lost their last eight wickets while scoring just 28 runs, to be bowled out in the 19th over for just 99 runs. It was a disappointing end for the crowd of around 1,000 and those watching on television.
Television coverage of the women's game is, of course, a two-edged sword. Good games encourage more to follow (and play) the sport, but one-sided games encourage derogatory and negative comments, usually from ill-informed male morons. Unfortunately India chose not to stay after the Test and ODI series and have a T20 series against England, perhaps for fear of their own shortcomings in this format of the game. Given that the T20s are the only format that Sky are willing to broadcast at the moment, the ECB decided that they had to fill the fixtures and keep the sport on the television. Unfortunately so far South Africa have not proved much of a challenge, so the coverage has attracted negative rather than positive reaction. But even two evenly-matched teams often fail to produce a decent viewing spectacle and therefore I think the rules for Women's T20s need to be reviewed.
Much criticism has been levelled at England for their failure to hit 6s (they have not hit one since 29th January 2014), and there was much discussion on Sky about the size of the boundaries at Chelmsford (too big it was thought). Personally I am not that bothered about the girls hitting 6s. What I think is far more important is the lack of boundaries outside of the powerplay overs. The reason is obvious. The girls do not have the power to muscle the ball over the rope when there are five fielders back on the boundary, usually all in front of the bat - three on the legside - deep square, deep midwicket (cow) and long-on, and two on the off-side at long-off and deep extra cover. With little pace on the ball from the spinners and the medium-pacers, if you bowl straight then it is very difficult to get the ball to the boundary. The first change I would suggest therefore is that the maximum number of players allowed outside the circle outside of the powerplay is four.
In addition I would also suggest that the batting team be allowed a second four over batting powerplay spell to be taken before the end of the 15th over. As in the first six overs of the game only 2 fielders would be allowed outside the circle during these overs.
The final suggestion, and this is a bit more radical, is that the number of players in the team be reduced to 10, so that a skipper only has eight fielders available to plug the gaps in the field, along with the bowler and wicket-keeper. I can hear sharp intakes of breath being taken all over the country, and especially at Lords and the headquarters of the Association of Cricket Statisticians & Historians. This would fundamentally change the game. Records would have to be "pre" and "post" the change. The chances of it being implemented are probably less than 1%, but it is at least worth thinking about, isn't it?
Cricket revenues are dictated by television and therefore women's cricket needs to have a product that it can sell to the television companies that will attract viewers. At the moment I am not sure that Women's T20 cricket fulfills that brief. Perhaps some of these changes could be considered by the first Board brave enough to stage their own international T20 tournament?