Saturday, 29 August 2015

Hove rocks as England expire

So with one game to come in the Ashes Series the destiny of the trophy has already been decided after England's batting crumbled into a heap at a packed County Ground at Hove, leaving the Aussies 10-4 up in the series with just two more points on offer.

Yet again England's bowling was good, their fielding generally sharp (with the exception of Winfield's dropped catch), but their batting was woeful. The only crumb of comfort for England was Danni Wyatt's three ball innings. She put more energy and effort into her nine minute stay at the crease than any other England batsmen in this entire series. Her dismissal (cruelly run out at the non-striker's end) was the final nail in England's batting coffin. Please England bat her at a sensible position in the final T20 and let her have a chance to show what she can do. She deserves that chance.

Having contained the Aussies to just 107/7 in their 20 overs England should have been heading to Cardiff just 8-6 down and with the Ashes still in their grasp, but poor shots from Edwards, Winfield, Sciver, Taylor and Knight left the England innings gasping for breath and clutching its chest on 28/5 at the end of the six over power play. Katherine Brunt, inexplicably still sent in at number five when England were 10/3, and Lydia Greenway did what they could to resuscitate England's fortunes, but they could only add 25 in the next six overs. England were clinging on, but they were on their second round of adrenalin.

It was at this stage that Meg Lanning, whose captaincy has been a revelation in this series, produced another masterstroke. She switched Megan Schutt to the Cromwell Road End and very deliberately moved her third man over to the leg-side, leaving an inviting gap at third man for Brunt to try and score in. Schutt bowled a good length ball just outside the off-stump, gently swinging in to the right-hander. Brunt attempted to guide it down to third man, but only succeeded in guiding it onto her stumps.

The England innings briefly twitched into life again when Wyatt walked in at number eight as she scampered through for twos and threes, where before there were only ones and twos, and scored seven off the three balls she faced. She even seemed to inspire Lydia Greenway, who had dab-swept her way to just nine off 19 balls. She hit a crisp straight drive for four off Farrell, but two balls later Wyatt was forlornly trudging back to the pavilion, as Farrell deflected another Greenway drive onto the stumps at the bowler's end.

Greenway presided over the last rites, as she hit another 11 singles and a two, before she was last out in the last over and England were all out for their lowest-ever T20 total of 87 in, ironically, their 87th T20 innings, losing the game by a comfortable 20 runs.

It was a sad end in front of 5,750 paying spectators, who had created a great atmosphere. As Sussex Chairman Jim May explained with a large smile on his face. "It is a different sort of crowd". He was right. It is not the same people who want to see men's cricket. This is a different audience, which is why there will be hardly anyone to watch the final game at Cardiff on Monday, as it is an early-start double-header with the men. Those that have paid their £45 are there to watch the men and will not rock up four hours early to watch the women. They don't want to watch the women. If this series does nothing else let us hope that it has killed the concept of double-headers as being 1) a good idea and 2) necessary.

Going forward England need to stop talking about looking to improve their batting and actually do something about it. This is not a new problem! The players they have in this squad have now been "professionals" for 16 months. There seems to have been little progress over that time despite that very focused investment. They also need to play more cricket. Even I can look good against a bowling machine in the nets. Get out and play. Get time in the middle. Batsmen bat best when they don't have to think about what they are doing or why they are doing it. Charlotte Edwards for example has played just five County Championship games and four County T20s this season. It is not enough.

The proposed Women's Cricket Super League may help, in time, but only if it is properly funded. The ECB appear to be asking a great deal from the host organisations and from the girls that will be selected to play in it. It will be interesting to see who gets the six franchises in December and what they do with them.

The next couple of years could be painful for England. They have the T20 World Cup next year and then they host the 50 over World Cup in 2017. Change takes time, but now is surely the time to start that change?


1 comment:

  1. Absolutely brilliant piece Martin, I agree with your assessment wholeheartedly! One thing we do have an advantage over Australia at is how well the team is supported. You could see the Aussies think the same based on what they said post-match. They were not used to playing in front of so many people. We are going to Cardiff on Monday and (traffic allowing) will be getting there early for the women's game...hopefully England can give us one last thing to celebrate this summer.