Monday, 15 February 2016

Reasons to be cheerful for England and South Africa

England wrapped up what looks like a comfortable five wicket win against South Africa in the third ODI of the tour to take the two ICCWC points and the series 2-1.

Georgia Elwiss in full flow
(c) Don Miles
In reality the win, with six overs to spare, was far from comfortable, until Georgia Elwiss came to the crease with England 91/4, chasing 197 to win. Playing her first game of the tour replacing Lydia Greenway, Elwiss breezed past her previous best of 25* to record her maiden 50 for England in any format (for a lot of her early career she batted at 11). She went on to make 61, striking the ball cleanly and with freedom, before she was out with England needing just nine runs to win. She and Heather Knight (67*) had added 97 for the 5th wicket and taken the game away from a tenacious South African team, which seemed to have a new self-belief of their own.

Elwiss's innings was indicative of the new fearless style of cricket that Mark Robinson, along with coaches Ali Maiden and Ian Salisbury, seems to have instilled in the girls, in his brief tenure at the top of the women's game. Amy Jones, Lauren Winfield, Danni Wyatt and Elwiss all seem to have been asked to play their own pugnacious style of cricket. With the steadying influences of Charlotte Edwards and Heather Knight in the top order mix and with Nat Sciver to come back, it is a heady combination, which may sometimes come unstuck, but will make England an exciting team to watch.

In this series it was not the batting that let England down, but the fielding and the bowling, combined with an exceptional batting display from Lizelle Lee and Marizanne Kapp in the second ODI. England bowled better in the final ODI restricting South Africa to 196/9, and indeed it would have been far fewer had it not been for another belligerent innings from Lee (74) ably supported by the young Sune Luus (20), who will make a top order batsman over the next few years, and also sets the standard in the field for the Proteas. She, along with skipper Mignon Du Preez and 17 year old Laura Wolvaart, took stunning catches in the second ODI to remove set English batsmen and allow South Africa to outfield the England side in all three games. If they can bring that intensity and skill to their T20 game then South Africa could well trouble England in this format too, and their Group A opposition in the WT20 next month - Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Ireland. They will back themselves to beat Sri Lanka and Ireland, and if they can sneak a win against New Zealand or even Australia (who no longer look quite so infallible), or they slip up in any of their other games, South Africa will make the semi-finals of another world championship competition.

England will be relieved to have picked up the four points they have from the ICCWC games, which takes them to 13, equal with South Africa in fourth place in the table. England have by far the easier run in in the competition with Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies to play. South Africa on the other hand have West Indies (currently second on 16 points), New Zealand (currently third on 14 points) and Australia (currently top on 20 points). The West Indies' other series is against India (6th), who are currently playing Sri Lanka (1-0 to India so far), and finish with Pakistan. They are not out of the running if they can replicate the form they recently showed against the Aussies. New Zealand are due to face Australia in five days time, before being hosted by South Africa and then finishing with a home series against Pakistan.

For now England and South Africa will focus on the T20 format of the game. They play each other on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with the latter two games being televised. The WT20 then kicks off on 15th March. It is looking like it could be the most fiercely contested world championship tournament ever.

[3rd ODI scorecard]



  1. Overall I think England will be satisfied with the ODIs against South Africa. Two important wins were obtained, and the match we lost, we did so not by batting badly, which was refreshing. We will have to get used to this new competitive world, where teams who a few years ago may have been pushovers like SA, now fight to the last and offer a stern challenge. All sides now have some decent hitters and improving fielding, which in some cases is possibly better than England's.

    It was fun listening to Ian Salisbury's bullish commentary in the 3rd ODI. He was so enthusiastic and full of praise for our players. Indeed, his effulgent acclaim of Knight and Elwiss was amazing. Elwiss can't do much wrong of late, her batting is so calm and classy, her bowling full and straight - and without Brunt she is one of our quicker bowlers. We must ask the question why she was ever out of the side after that decent first Ashes ODI. The sea change in England's batting "brand" of cricket is striking, and there for all to see. The new coaches have brought in the same positive, fearless approach that has marked out the men's side since that dreadful World Cup. Winfield and Jones are now free to bat like Hales and Roy; Wyatt and Elwiss like Root and Stokes. It won't always work, but it gives a better chance than being "stodgy" and is always more entertaining.

    Let's not forget about Knight either. Only a few months ago I thought she was lucky to be in the side, but an impressive WBBL campaign and a string of very solid ODI showings has cemented her as one of our more reliable players. My biggest concern for England now, rather than batting, is fast bowling - we could do with bringing in Farrant sooner rather than later as I think she will be needed as backup or second change in the not too distant future.

  2. Interestingly the XI that took the field on the 3rd ODI have never taken the field collectively before. Winfield and Elwiss have only once before taken the ODI field together (against Australia on the final ODI last summer) and Jones didn’t appear in that one. QED.

    Elwiss’s (who hasn’t batted in any of the 9 T20s she has played) and Wyatt’s contributions in this series, and particularly their scoring rate, has given Robinson a headache for the T20s. He can’t drop either (well he could but that would be both harsh and bonkers), shouldn’t drop either Winfield or Jones if he wants that partnership to develop, so assuming Sciver replaces Cross then, does Greenway carry the drinks again ?
    Bit tough on Greenway with scores of 13*, 19*, 18*, 25, 26 and 20* in the last 6 T20s in which she has batted (granted her scoring rate doesn’t do her any favours). Perhaps this is one of those cases where the word ‘dropped’ isn’t correct – a pure batsman having to give way to pop up the bowling options maybe.