Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Ashes Test Preview - England would settle for a draw

I expect England to name an unchanged squad of 14 for the one and only Test Match, which starts at Canterbury on Tuesday. So the 14 from whom they will pick the starting 11 will probably be:-
Edwards, Brunt, Cross, Elwiss, Greenway, Grundy, Gunn, Jones, Knight, Marsh, Sciver, Shrubsole, Taylor, and Winfield. I would expect Jones, Elwiss and Marsh to miss out when the teamsheet is handed over at the toss. [In fact England have today named the same squad with the exception that Fran Wilson replaces Amy Jones]

England are 2-4 down in the series and they really need to win this Test Match if they can, but what they cannot afford to do is lose it. There are four points for a win and two points for a draw. If they were to go 2-8 down with just the three T20s to play (worth two points each), they would need to win all three T20s to retain the Ashes, as a drawn series means the holder gets to keep hold of the trophy. That would be a massive ask. But if they were still just two points down at the start of the T20 series, two wins would be enough to keep the Ashes in England. Still tough, but perhaps a little more doable.

All of which means that England are in a bit of a difficult situation when it comes to the right attitude for the game. I think they will attempt to play it safe. Neither Charlotte Edwards, nor the England management, could be said to be anything other than conservative. There will be no adventurous declarations from England (if they are afforded that luxury).

The Aussies on the other hand are in a great place at the moment. They won the second and third ODIs convincingly, and in their last warm-up game against a strong Academy squad (which included seven contracted England players) their batting was majestic, with centuries for Ellyse Perry and Alex Blackwell, plus a good-looking 79* from Jess Jonassen. True it was a great batting track, but Perry, Blackwell, Jonassen and Meg Lanning (who missed out in that game) all look like they can bat for a long time. England will have trouble bowling Australia out once, let alone twice. They will not be helped by the fact that the women play their Test cricket with a Kookaburra ball. It swings and seams less than the Dukes' ball that the men use in England. Apparently Dukes do not make a women's ball that is good enough to last 80 overs. A fact which Dukes' MD Dilip Jajodia strenuously denied to me when I spoke with him this week. If this Test does not go England's way then perhaps talks with Dukes may re-open, so that the girls can use a similar ball to the men.

I can see the Aussies batting long....very long, whether they get first dig or not. At the top of the order they have Nicole Bolton, who has the perfect Test Match batting temperament. Her opening partner will be the more aggressive Elyse Villani. She has calmed down a lot since she first appeared for Australia, but she will still give England chances. I would not be in the least bit surprised if Lanning or Perry made a hundred, if not a double hundred. They are both very focused individuals. After the new ball has gone, which could be after less than 20 overs, batting will get much easier. There could be a lot of work for the spinners, probably Grundy and Knight, but Grundy is no great spinner of the ball, and I cannot see either being a great wicket-taking threat.

That said, of course, the same is true for the Aussie bowlers. I doubt there will be much in the pitch for them either and they will have the same issues with the ball. England need someone in their top order to bat long - Edwards, Knight, Greenway, Winfield or Sciver. The Aussie attack did not look too penetrative against the Academy. Seven of the top nine Academy batsmen got into double figures, but only Fran Wilson managed to score over 50. They batted comfortably for 89 overs against the Aussies before declaring. With 100 overs bowled in a day in Women's Test cricket that is the least that England will have to achieve.

Without seeing the pitch it is always difficult to predict what may or may not happen. But I cannot see England forcing a win. If they can bat with authority and play straight then I can see them getting a draw, but it will need some application. That is the very least that you would expect from a team that are now paid to play for their country. The pressure is on, but that is how professional sport works.



  1. In some ways I think you may be a bit too negative. If we don't think we can win the test we may as well give up now, unless some secret recipe for T20 cricket has suddenly been discovered (!) This game will end up breaking records if the Aussies do score double tons. That will be good for the game, if not England.

    I have one comment to make about the Duke ball fiasco - "typical". They obviously don't rate the women's game as important.

    It still may be possible through a good combination of solid line and length, good fielding and the odd wicket-taking ball, coupled with a few mistakes from the Aussies, to take all 20 wickets. We just need to have a couple of good days at the office and Australia a couple of bad ones. It's not impossible.

    However I would not fancy the prospect of going into the T20 series needing to win it. That seems unlikely, be it 2-1 or 3-0. However, in a 3 match T20 series winnig 1 game is definitely possible even against Australia. So I think we may as well go for the win in this game. But obviously it will depend on the line-ups, conditions, and forecast on the first morning.

  2. I suspect that more or less anything could happen given its Test cricket and it is so rarely played. One player scores a 100 or takes a 5-for for not very many and the dynamics will change - although, as you noted, England can't afford to lose this match and that means a defensive approach from them. In truth I can't see either team taking any thing remotely like a gamble.
    One thing both teams have to respect is the fact it is on telly - please do try for something slightly less turgid than only 2 an over.

  3. So you think (and I don't disagree) that the likely team is: Edwards, Brunt, Cross, Greenway, Grundy, Gunn, Knight, Sciver, Shrubsole, Taylor, and Winfield

    A few interessting points on this selection follow. I hope you can see why I have batting worries!

    * This lineup is very similar to the one that lost to India at Wormsley last year. In fact, the batting is weaker, on paper, since Beaumont has been replaced by Brunt, and Odedra by Grundy

    * Coupled with the fact that Australia's attack is probably more dangerous than India's, there are reasons to think we'll struggle with the bat

    * Kent men's team got bowled out for 167 today by Northants at Canterbury - big names Bell-Drummond, Northeast and Billings all getting ducks - this look ominous so I wonder will this be on the same track?

    * If we want to be conservative, the above side is light on batting solidity. Wilson, Marsh, and Elwiss all miss out despite doing well against Australia in the Academy game. Wilson got 55 (both Elwiss & Marsh scored 40's and Marsh got 1-46). If there was ever a conservative selection, it would have to be Wilson for Winfield. In fact I might do that and only include 1 all-rounder (probably Sciver). We could do with another full batter instead of Gunn, there still would effectively be 6 bowlers in the side.