Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Ashes' Opener doesn't disappoint!

What a great day at Taunton!!

And not just because England won, although I have to say that helps!

The atmosphere was electric before the start. The media were there in force with pre-match pitchside interviews for radio and television. Photographers were getting set-up. The crowd started to trickle in, filling up the traditional small stands. The owners of the penthouse flats on the far side of the ground settled down with a coffee on their balconies to watch proceedings. The Ashes were about to get under way - NOT the WOMEN'S Ashes!

There is always that nagging fear that the game might not quite live up to all the hype, and when England reduced Australia to 35/3 with the MegaStar, Meg Lanning, one of the wickets to fall, there was a mixture of anxiety and euphoria amongst the bloggerati (a word I think I have just made up for those of us who blog on women's cricket). It was great to see England doing so well, but the game, being broadcast on Sky and on BBC radio, needed to be a good contest. We needn't have worried. Ellyse Perry and Alex Blackwell ensured it was a decent game. They added 121 in 161 balls for the fourth wicket, before Blackwell was run out by a direct hit from Heather Knight at mid-off. It was the first of four run-outs by England, who until that time had not had a great day in the field, with fumbles in the field, missed stumpings and a dropped catch (Perry on 21 at the time) by Becky Grundy off her own bowling. The run-outs took the wind out of the Aussie sails which meant they ended up on 238/9, rather than the 260/270 they looked like achieving at one stage. It looked a decent score on the board, but with an outfield like glass and no movement in the air or off the pitch for the seamers and no spin for the spinners, it was well below par. England just needed to bat sensibly.....just....

Charlotte Edwards pulled the first ball of the England innings for 4, and all seemed right in the world. The crowd had grown to around 3,500 and they were enjoying themselves, even if the sun had given way to some rather ominous grey clouds and the occasional spit and spot of rain. But Edwards dragged one on from Perry; Knight clipped Coyte to mid-on; Jones swatted a long-hop from Osborne to midwicket; and Taylor edged Osborne behind trying to dab the ball down to third man. England were 80/4. England's previously fragile middle-order was exposed, but this was still a good batting track, and none of the Aussie bowlers really looked that threatening. Did they? But still there was little confidence that England would pull it off.

Again unnecessary pessimism. Nat Sciver, despite some indifferent form in the County Championship, rose to the occasion like a leaping salmon. She, together with a more circumspect Lydia Greenway, gradually brought the game round England's way. They got to 30 overs with the score on 124/4. England still needed 115 from 20 overs. Eminently doable, but if they lost a wicket now..... They did not. Instead they hit Jonassen for eight; Beams for 10; Perry for seven and Osborne for 10 in consecutive overs. 35 off four overs and the game was theirs to lose now.

Cue slight palpitations when Greenway departed with 37 still needed and then Sciver with 22 still needed, but Georgia Elwiss looked like the calmest of calm people on a calm day as she cut her first ball off Osborne for 4 and then lofted her over extra cover for 4 more. Her glove punch and smiles with the enigmatic Katherine Brunt as she edged Osborne for 4 two overs later, before cutting her for the winning 4 two balls later, were great to witness. As was the noise of the enthusiastic and partisan Somerset crowd, who gradually came to life as the Sciver/Greenway combo took the game by the scruff of the neck.

England won with more than four overs to spare. Why were we ever worried?

It really had been a grand day out. Perhaps it was the day that women's cricket finally came of age?

scorecard here



  1. A very interesting match – live TV but still 3000 spectators. Fantastic.
    A very interesting match – England’s middle order actually rescued a match, something which has not happened for some and is very welcome …. one suspects especially welcome to Greenway whose place must have been at risk if she had failed.
    A few facts to illustrate:-
    First time a No5 and a No6 has hit ODI 50s in the same England innings (previous nearest being a 58 and a 43).
    The 144 runs amassed by No5, No6 and No7 beats the previous record of 131 scored by Knight (38), Gunn (52) and Jones (41 on debut).
    3rd highest differential between the runs scored by No1,2,3,4 (72) and No5,6,7(144). There has been a 74 run differential before and even a 90 run difference (23 v 113 – Edwards(10), Birch (4), Taylor SC (9), Gunn (0) verses Brindle (52), Greenway (40) and Atkins (21) and even the No8 Morgan weighted in with 22).
    An interesting match in that Elwiss (did not bowl) is clearly in there as a batsman (and presumably a 6th or 7th bowler if things are going really grim). This might explain (not suggesting it justifies) Hazell’s omission because Knight is clearly considered a full blown spinner and that frees up Hazell’s place for a full blown batsman. Having the power of Elwiss at No7 and Brunt at No8 might be very useful towards the end of an innings (and Shrubsole isn’t exactly a nudge & nurdle merchant at No9).
    This was England’s 3rd highest successful run chase in ODI (only beaten by the 242 they got against NZ in 2008 and the 241 they also got later in the same series). Very impressive given the circumstances.
    Only concern from this match is probably Knight’s batting. The NZ ODI scores of 11, 5, 79, 5 and 0 have been added to with a 12. She’s a lot more talented than this sequence suggests.
    It might be the day England v Australia came of age (although I’d claim the Eng v Aus T20 World Cup semi at the Oval was the best match played between the 2 teams), not sure about women’s cricket more widely. The presence of the men and women series running concurrently is a massive boost and simply has to continue – preferably for other visiting teams as well. Whether the same level of interest can be generated beyond The Ashes by other visiting teams remains to be seen next year.

  2. What a fantastic match it was. I feel very privileged to have been there because it was such a great day out. Taunton is a beautiful ground and we saw some very good cricket by both sides.
    I was almost ready to give up on England at 80/4, with a seemingly out of form Greenway scratching away at one end and Sciver seeming to be taking big risks at the other, it seemed like only at matter of time til they would be departing.

    But they managed to stick it out, and importantly made the most of their chances by putting away the bad balls, something the top four had generally failed to do. Indeed, when they tried, they got out. So I think I was kind of right in suggesting that the ongoing problem of middle order batting may have been transitory...and that England's big hitting ability would be important. There a few better than Sciver when she's in the mood. Her square of the wicket shots, and those straight back over the bowler's head, made the match worth seeing alone. Even Greenway came to the party with her sweeps and nifty footwork. And Brunt in full flow with the ball was another highlight.

    Sciver, Brunt and Greenway are big game players - although form is never irrelevant, almost regardless of it, they have the ability to perform when it matters. Which is why you'd be wise in keeping them around at vital times like these. Knight's batting form is a bit of a puzzle, though, as her record down under in the winter was very good. Maybe dropping her down the order might work especially if she is going to be bowling full allocation of overs.

    Some of the fielding was phenomenal. You rarely see that sort of regular stump hitting from long range, anywhere else. The only two I was a bit disappointed with were Shrubsole and Elwiss who both seemed to give away a few runs.

    I was disappointed with Australia's batting though. I think about 250-260 would have been par and would have forced us to lose more wickets in chasing due to the required run rate. And their bowling seemed to lose all threat after the 4th wicket (but maybe that was the Sciver/Greenway effect!).

    If tomorrow (Thursday) is anything like as good we'll be in for another treat. The question now is if Australia can find the character to come back into the series. As they probably need at least 8-10 points depending on weather/ties etc. it will be tough for them to come back from 4-0 down. Another win will really put the pressure on them and mean that we'll still be in the series up to at least the 2nd T20.