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A Ramble on Women's Cricket
With the unaccustomed sight of international players in white, the Test Match commenced at England's most attractive ground, Wormsley. A member of the crowd informed me the groundsman had been here since 1992 and had always said he wouldn't move unless offered Lord's and, were I in his shoes I simply wouldn't move, Lord's or not!
There is no need to give you details of who did what - the scorecard is here - but I can add or enforce the 'twits' (or should it be 'tweets') of others. The pitch was low and slow and with occasional unpredictable bounce. This, for instance 'did for' Sarah Taylor attempting a hook who was hurried into a last second change of plan, and others found it difficult too. Sarah Elliott's century, a real Test Match innings that Geoffrey Boycott would have been proud of, put her side in a strong position and made the declaration possible. The fact it was the fifth slowest on record didn't inspire English spectators who are not used to the women's game, but it did what was necessary for Australia. On the morning of the second day, however, there was much more purpose in the batting and debate arose on whether a declaration would come before lunch or whether Australia would take the view that the more you made in the first innings, the less you need to worry about in the second. The former proved to be the case.
A South African journalist asked whether Elliott's innings was the first made by a mother but it proved to be the third following England's Enid Bakewell and Laura Newton. Before you all email me to tell me Arran Brindle is a mother, I should add the caveat that the three are, as far as we can tell, the only three whose child was born before the century was made! Enid Bakewell was present at the game, to watch an Australian join that select band.
England then showed how brittle their batting can sometimes be. Only Heather Knight and latterly Laura Marsh managed the temperament required for this form of cricket on a not easy pitch, although it has to be said the skipper Charlotte Edwards got probably the worst lbw decisions I have seen all summer and I have watched plenty of club matches and third and fourth grade umpires in action. The only debate among the crowd who, like me, were fairly straight on was how many extra stumps would have been needed outside leg for the ball to strike them. Opinions varied between two and three. Although I wasn't straight on at the time there was head shaking over Arran Brindle's dismissal too. Did any Australians suffer the same fate? I wasn't in line for those so I can't say. Needless to sat the DRS immediately became a matter of discussion.
The Aussie quicks were most impressive. Both Perry and Ferling bowled with superb line and length and troubled all the batsmen. Erin Osborne, bowling well too, perhaps reaped the benefits of their efforts as so often happens in this game.
England should avoid the possibility of following on with only 10 more runs needed and then, if Australia want to win this - and they have played as if they do - they will have to get their skates on.
The follow on didn't trouble England and in the end many were wondering if the batting side might even finish with a lead. As it turned out the Australians were able to gain a slight advantage as their second innings got underway.
There can be no doubt however about the star of the day! Heather Knight just batted and batted to ensure England were almost on par with Australia when the innings came to an end. Her stamina and skill were quite outstanding. And mention must be made of Laura Marsh who played in a completely different vein from her T20 opening role. It takes a certain mental toughness to play as these two did, especially when these girls don't play four-day or even two-day cricket more than once every few years. It must run contrary to every bone in your body to rein it in and get the job done.
This match seems to be heading for a draw but that doesn't mean there won't be more eminently watchable cricket today. What will Australia's tactics be? Is a declaration due at some point or will they settle for half the points? It will be interesting to see the Australian's 'mind-set'. Gamblers or not? Adventurous or not? And if they throw down the gauntlet will England pick it up? While the draw is the most likely, the minds of the two camps might be fascinating to read.
In the fight for headlines during the Ashes, surely this must win by a country mile... "Mum's the Word". The champagne to Wisden India I think!
A long time since I typed here but the schedule has been rather punishing, taking, sorting and uploading some of the photographs with more to follow!
So first the Test, or at least the last day. A declaration did come but with Jodie Fields understandably playing it pretty safe and giving England only the faintest chance of chasing the required runs, it was not surprising that England replied in kind and batted out the time. Disappointing in some ways but with the time available it was difficult to see how Fields could have done anything different. An earlier declaration might well have given England a sniff but it was hard to see how Australia could have taken 10 wickets even in a full days batting.
Nonetheless it was four days of cricket I would not have missed in England's most attractive ground.
Pictures from Day One and from Day Two are available and some from other days will follow, and my apologies for messing up the links to these pages earlier.
And so to the ODIs. Lord's managed to put its usual jinx on England. We seem to lose here with great regularity and someone remarked to me that we hadn't beaten Australia here since the 1970s. The turnout was remarkably good and while parts of the ground were out of bounds which always gives a slightly odd sound to the applause and crowd hum, the numbers seemed as good as I've seen here for a women's game. We also managed a defeat to India only a season ago in a match Raj engineered quite beautifully.
Even for this Englishman, Lanning's 56 from 64 balls was a treat to watch.
Useful contributions from Australia's middle order followed but at 203 their target was hardly imposing. England stuttered from the start and while the captain manfully held on, no one managed a scoring rate that ever put England in contention. Many around me wondered about the batting order and suggested changes to the XI. In the end England fell 27 runs short but it felt like more.
At Hove one might have wondered if some of the comments I had heard at Lord's had been overheard by the management. Knight opened and Brindle returned to a position in which she more regularly plays for Sussex and Natalie Sciver was given a chance to show what she can do. My pencilled XI from the night before was only one player different from that which took the field. I am not always that close!
The contrast with Lord's could hardly be more obvious. With a similar, although not identical, line-up a different team was created. The batting order many of the 'experts' in the stands at the previous matches had suggested now bore fruit. Knight made better than a run a ball and Sciver, who did the same, showed she's not afraid of taking on the opposition at this level. For those who may have wondered in the past why Sky TV commentators spend time discussing where people should bat in the order - well if you saw these two contrasting games you now know! It will be a while I expect though before you see a scorecard where Edwards and Taylor have the lowest strike rates. That's not to say they didn't do their job and there hangs a tale of why 50 over cricket has so much more to offer than the 20 over stuff. The top batsmen play the innings required at the time they reach the crease. In 50 over this could be consolidation, it could be working it around, or it could be a full frontal attack, or a blend as one batsman takes one role and the other another. Twenty over cricket lacks this (and other) subtleties and only full attacking mode is normally required. Try any other in T20 and the game is already lost!
Two days later we're back at Hove to do it all again, and that's pretty much what England did. Rain did mar the proceedings but with a 36-over match in prospect at least it wouldn't be totally a T20 slog. Lanning again showed what a player she is, with 64 from 69 balls and made in that elegant fashion that is her trade mark.
Such was the interest in this match that Sky TV turned up and the match was available 'on the red button'. However a technology slip meant that some viewers at least caught no more than the last few overs, but we were rewarded with an hour highlights package a day or so later. It was great to see them there even if unexpected and hopefully indicates that the TV company realises that they can sell advertising to be shown in this cricket and, who knows, maybe we'll get fuller coverage in the future.
It was during this match that Sarah Taylor brought off one of the most remarkable catches you'll ever see. Any description I could give it would not do it justice and it was apparently played several times during the TV coverage of the men's game, such was the impression it made on the commentators. Was it probably the best catch I have ever seen? I guess so and Arran Brindle will have to be content with second place for her catch in a match against India in the 2005 World Cup.
Highlights package from this game, including that catch, is here....
I must mention Ellyse Perry's batting which showed real purpose making 45 from 38 balls and looking relatively untroubled. Nat Sciver managed a run-a-ball for England and must be considered an England regular even with such a short career so far, but Knight and Taylor were the backbone of the innings with scores in the 60s. England must have driven away happy that evening feeling that their plans had come together well after the oddly tentative performance at Lord's.
And I must convey the thanks of many of the player's parents to the CEO at Sussex CCC. He obligingly allowed them the use of a small cabin at the top of the ground where Sarah Taylor's 8-month old niece could be looked after and where coffee and shelter could be had. During men's games the building is reserved for wives and girl friends and so has, inevitably perhaps, become know as the 'WAG Shack'.
Paige Scholfield Rattles all the Records