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2016 Diary

A Ramble on Women's Cricket
 - with diversions -

This diary will be updated erratically throughout the year.

Previous Page (Danni Wyatt Chooses Sussex)

England Depart

Following England's defeat in the semi-final of the WT20 there have, not unexpectedly, been a plethora of articles on the web and in the papers suggesting the reasons. Hardly anyone, it seems, thinks that reaching the semis of a worldwide tournament is an achievement; it's a failure. I cannot accept that this is true. While I have much sympathy for some of the reasons given why England did not go one stage further, showing you in the top four in the world is not a minor matter.
That's not to say, of course, that we shouldn't analyse the reasons (If you're an England supporter) and try and figure out how 'we' might have done better. It's not hard to look back through the matches that got England to the semis and see a common thread, and most writers have latched on to it rather easily; that is the lack of runs from the middle order, but it not the entire story. With scores in the range 105-130 (in the main) to chase it is apparent that batsmen need to achieve scoring rates in the region of 87 to  108 - hopefully more to ensure you don't win every match on the very last ball! (And yes, Sanjay Manjrekar they are batsmen - no need to be embarrassed at using the word). In attempting this, the middle order has struggled, with the exceptions of Brunt and Wyatt. If you wish to criticise Wyatt, and some have, it would have to be on the number of runs scored. She has in fact the highest strike rate in the England squad (120) through the tournament (according to Cricket Archive). The actual number of runs you get (as long as your average is not in single figures!) may be less important. Scoring a lot of runs at too slow a rate is a recipe for a quick exit from any T20 competition.
Take a look here at the stats for the WT20 so far (I know they are not quite complete as I type!). Count down the names - the first England player you arrive at is Danni Wyatt in 9th position. You have to get to number 19 before you'll find another. If you scan across checking averages etc you also have to remember that openers have the luxury of the most time - the middle order players may well arrive at the crease with just a few balls left and death or glory are their only options. They do not have the luxury of 20 overs stretching in front of them. Their job is quite different and it's necessary to read their stats accordingly. If I have hinted that England have batted too slowly at times, putting unfair pressure on the later players, that does not mean that those players are 'exonerated' from criticism. Even if their run total is low, their scoring rates must be high if they are doing their job.
This analysis is all the more difficult in that you are playing sides of very unequal quality. The openers can sometimes "fill their boots" and it's not impossible - in 'ordinary' circumstances anyway - that the lower order won't even get a bat - or perhaps I should say that if the top order do their job, the lower order shouldn't get a bat.  Thus they will be required only when tougher opposition is encountered, another thing that mitigates against good stats.
All this is fine theory, but match conditions, especially the way the balls have been losing their hardness so quickly, complicates matters even more. Middle order batsmen have had a very soft ball to contend with - the openers the benefit of a harder one. A better quality of cricket ball might at least take that out of the equation. Surely that problem should be solvable.
Nonetheless everyone seems agreed it did not go "as it should" from England's viewpoint. I came across one article in the Independent which brings up another point which several have made, but the analysis here is interesting.
To quote...
Since England lost to Australia in the final of the last WT20 two years ago, their last match before becoming professional,
 there has not been a single debutant in their T20 side.
A chasm has emerged between the first batch of professional players and those underneath.
I am not sure how Tiim Wigmore, the author, views this chasm. He would seem to agree with a view I have held for a while, that England have been very conservative in their choice of squad. Not only that but even within that squad, some players have simply been reduced to carrying drinks for the majority of the matches. This conservative approach might be understandable in the last few months with a coach whose familiarity with women's cricket is patchy to say the least. It is not really forgivable for the period prior to his gaining the job, and having the South African series and the WT20 under his belt, won't really be forgivable from now on...
This was highlighted by the lack of Amy Jones in whites in the Ashes Test of 2015. Even if the management were struggling to think of those in the Academy who might step up (and I would contend they shouldn't have been) then her omission was frankly breathtaking. Could anyone else make 155* against one of the best bowling attacks in the world? I'll let you answer the question. Even if they believed that she was not a player ready for Test cricket, she had - very obviously - just entered such a rich vein of form that that alone should have settled the matter even if this was the only Test she ever played. That I should add is not my opinion. I am confident she's a better player than that - not a 'one off wonder'.
 
[Amy Jones  Don Miles]

Amy Jones acknowledges the applause having made her century on the way to 155* (above)
... and strikes one of her 24 boundaries

[Amy Jones  Don Miles]

Does this make Amy a T20 contender? Well it's true that the 155* doesn't answer that question but would you say she is worse/better (cross out the non-applicable) than others used regularly? If we need to try someone (or several) new, then why not her who has been around with the England side drink-carrying far too long? There is another who should be given a run at the job. Georgia Elwiss seems to be in and out of the XI so fast her head must spin. Without a consecutive series of games you can never tell the worth or otherwise of any player. All you will do is your best to ruin any confidence they may have had.
So next time you consider the England line-up, don't forget where they bat - consider who has the easiest job (not that any are easy as such) and ask yourself whether when you go into bat would you prefer 20 overs ahead of you with the field in, or three overs left with 5 out and more than a run a ball required. You need different temperament players for each job, the added problem for the middle/late order being that if 3 or more wickets go down quickly, they are suddenly playing out of character as if openers. You need to be a more versatile player to come in at say 4 to 8 than you do to open when your job is probably going to be very similar to the last time you walked to the wicket. It's not an easy job. The question, however, is, can someone else do it better?
To add to the criticism that has been flying around, I have heard some say that the Academy lacks players who could fill the shoes of the current set. If that really is true - and I reserve judgement, frankly doubting that - then it is a terrible indictment of the running of that organisation. In some cases they possibly/probably could, and one thing is for sure. If you don't give them a try, you'll never know!
For further thoughts from England supporters, try CRICKETher's comments to their "England do an 'England'" article.

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Finally... a Hat-Trick

... it's West Indies (in U-19, women's and men's).
Finals tend to have a habit of being a disappointment in that they lack the excitement caused by a tight finish. I remember well the match at Lord's when a black-eyed Katherine Brunt won the match is the first couple of overs. The semi-final on the other hand had been a match even more remarkable than the final at Eden Gardens today. Well not this time - Australia and the West Indies provided a game to remember.
I have my usual list of bullet points in my notebook, but I'll not bore you with these on this occasion. This match just deserved to be savoured.
One or two things did catch my eye however, like the spectator determined to pick the winning side - he was wearing an Australian cap and a West Indies shirt! Also I did jot down the word 'imperious' about Meg Lanning's batting only for Alan Wilkins to use it an over or two later. If Villani was aggressive then imperious seemed an appropriate adjective.
The match (and the semi-final) did emphasise to me some things I already knew - namely that Dottin was one of the finest (possibly the finest) cover fielder I have ever seen. But it also showed me things that I was not aware of, in particular the huge talent of a certain West Indies opener, Hayley Matthews. Looking back at her stats I should not have been surprised but they had somehow crept up on me without my being aware of it. The one innings at Kolkata was all you needed to see, however, to know this lass will play for many years in this spot for the WIndies. There surely can't be a side in the world that isn't envious that they haven't a Hayley in their ranks, although it must be said Villani ran her close this day.
West Indies earned their win and you'd have to say it was a big one, not just chasing down 148 but doing it with 8 wickets still in the locker - and it was so nearly 9. True it was in the last over but West Indies accomplished it with the precision of a Michael Bevan.

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WT20 - afterthoughts

These matches, or at least those shown on TV in the UK, have revealed successes and failures throughout and given me food for thought on this format. To return to the dreaded bullet list (I promise to refrain for a while after this...)
  • The most successful teams in this series have played 'no-fear' cricket. Those that played with caution went out early.

  • You must score big at the top of the order, but probably even more important than that, if batting second,  you must be up with, or preferably ahead of the rate when you lose your first couple of wickets. If you're not, the later batsmen are being asked to do more than the top order. This they can't be expected to deliver on a regular basis. From time to time maybe, but if you're the top order you must play like it and not make life harder for those that follow than it was for you when you arrived at the crease.

  • Low, slow wickets do not good T20 matches make! The final's success was due in a large measure to providing a wicket on which runs can be scored without too big a struggle.

  • I had written in my notebook "Villani made a fine 39" for at that point one of the umpires, Aleem Dar, managed a 'not out' verdict to a ball which produced 3 reds on hawk-eye, meaning it wasn't even an 'umpire's call' on any of the criteria on which lbw is decided. This is very poor in any match, let alone a world final. He was not alone. The standard throughout this competition has not been high, and I am puzzled why. I have never know such a long series of matches where this has been true, even in the days when top umpires were not hiding their disdain at umpiring mere women.

  • I am pleased that the stats did reveal something I have been typing throughout and which I know you'll be bored with by now, but indulge me one more time. And that is that Australia progressed to the final hitting only one six along the way. Yes, I know that there were five in this match and the side that hit the most (3-2) won the game. However, I think only one six means I can rest my case. Sixes don't, on the whole, winning sides make since they cost too many wickets in the attempt.

  • Several times (3, maybe 4) the idea of collecting the ball from a fielder in front of the stumps and not in the 'old fashioned' position behind has cost the fielding side a wicket. I think the experiment needs to be brought to a dignified conclusion. Yes, it will occasionally make the difference between not out and out, but the stats seem to be against the idea. What would help fielding sides much more is some urgency on the part of the bowler (or nearby fielder) to get behind the bowler's stumps. Sides seem far too relaxed about this.

  • Expecting sides to jet all around a major country like India is not going to improve the quality of cricket. It is also grossly unfair when one side has more than 12 hours in the air while the other stays put. This is not a level  playing field. On the whole the players have given us a top rate tournament - the tournament organisers need to get their act together - they have the easier job - and the organisation can be improved dramatically.

  • Quote of the tournament - "that ball was in the air so long I'm surprised it's not air-sick" - Ian Bishop about a spin bowler.

I must conclude by saying 'well done' to the West Indies. Has this hat-trick of U-19, women's and men's success in the format been done before? I don't know the answer but I doubt it. They deserved their win in the two tournaments I have followed with all the players making a contribution in one game or another.
I am hugely looking forward to the 2017 50-over World Cup! What will those teams produce then? It seems to me that the field is more wide open than ever before and hopefully that makes for an exciting contest. Sadly, I expect to be able only to watch a small sample of the games as matches will probably be played on the same day. If I am right, it's hard to see why one goes to the trouble of ensuring the best teams in the world play each other and the organisers ensure you can see as little of it as possible! I live in hope but...
My thanks to all the players who have kept me anchored to my sofa in the last couple of weeks! It has often been miserable weather as I watched. What a way to spend a rainy March/April  day - I can think of no better... except  possibly watching the 50-over variety.
Addendum: (added 04.04.16) : I have just come across this article which suggests the WBBL is responsible for West Indies Win. I take it there were no English, South African or Australian players in the WBBL then? Oh, there were - then tell me why they didn't win. At least the daftness of the idea raised a smile.

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Kia Sponsorship

The ECB have recently announced that Kia, one of the world's major car manufacturers, will be sponsoring the Cricket Super League which starts its T20 format competition this year. A search on the 'Net has not provided any firm details on what that sponsorship may mean apart from the statement "The partnership includes a range of sponsorship and marketing rights, including activation at the venues for all 15 group stage matches and at finals day at the Essex County Ground on 21st August."  Now I really can't make out what "activation" means, and what are those 'sponsorship rights'? If your searches have been more thorough than mine please let me know and I'll amend these words.

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  Next Page (new women's cricket book due for release)