Posted this immediately after the South African innings. Go back one post to check out how the England knock went.
Opening salvoes. Brunt first, to Lee; bowls full and straight. England seem suitably bristly and busy in the field – need to be, immediately. They are noisy and bright, knowing they must make something happen. After two fairly uneventful overs the visitors are 2 for 0.
Then the breakthrough: Wolvaardt, ball that seamed in at her. Inevitably, it’s Brunt, who sends her off before leaping in that Proper Pumped Fast Bowler stylee.
Ayup. Next over the fabulous Taylor stumps Luus, standing up to Shrubsole – confirmed by a tightish review. We going to get a game, after all?
Lee responds with the first boundary, off Brunt. And the second. South Africa are 14 for 2, off 5.
Shrubsole now getting appreciable inswing, Brunt bowling with her customary passion. Love the way the Northerner demands a wicket from herself – from everybody – at least three times an over. Proper ‘quick’.
They really are a good combination, these two. Energy in the field remains high. But have South Africa settled? Maybe.
Predictably, Gunn is in for Shrubsole after four good overs. Equally predictably, Gunn is targeted and the runs suddenly flow. Lee and Van Niekerk are on 19 and 18 respectively after Gunn’s rather concerning first over – the tenth.
Ecclestone comes in for Brunt, at 43 for 2. Importantly, she drops onto a decent line and length but there’s a sense that the batters will counter forcefully; both striking freely against anything unworthy.
Is Gunn removed promptly, in favour of Sciver? No. Knight banks on her experience and unflappability… and Gunn settles. Important phase, in which South Africa control things, as opposed to surge ahead. After 15, they are 64 for 2.
Sciver is in for the 16th: she owes us one. Van Niekerk and Lee endure, with increasing, building authority; there are boundaries – sixes, even – as well as skilled resistance.
Things ebb and flow but as South Africa seem to have a measure of control (at 80 for 2), so it may be natural and reasonable enough to consider England’s weaknesses. Not, you understand, out of malice or premature negativity, but because the individuals, the environment must be durable to challenge. It comes with the profile, with the money, the expectation.
England are, of course pretty strong, being World Champs, but as greater investment comes in and the squad grows numerically, so the competitive nature of selection bites more brutally – or should.
Two players from the World Cup Squad missed out here, because (I’m guessing) Robinson and Knight want yet more dynamism, or a shift in the balance. At 16.26 p.m. with the South Africans having cruised through the period of second/third change bowlers, this mix feels like an area to be looked at.
Gunn, tremendous servant though she has been, is on that vulnerable cusp. But Sciver, Marsh and Ecclestone as a group did not back up the work of Shrubsole and Brunt and they, too find themselves in the Must Do Better category.
Ecclestone has to bowl well, not being a great athlete; Sciver is a real talent but we need more from her with the ball; Marsh has to play really close to her maximum in all three disciplines; Gunn is coming to the end of an illustrious career. To complete the rant, Shrubsole’s fitness is a concern: the team needs a couple more stars.
All this arises because England barely challenged Lee and Van Niekerk until Brunt then Shrubsole began the charge again – Shrubsole bowling the opposition skipper for an excellent 58. But this is not just about today.
Batting-wise, the lineup seems goodish… but they had a poor, poor day. However I don’t foresee too many occasions when all of Beaumont, Taylor, Knight and Sciver will fail.
Folks will inevitably compare today’s sloppy dismissals with The Blokes: unwise but so were the wickets – gifted away. Credit Brunt with breathing life into a performance that seemed fatally poor at 61 for 5 and then 80 for 7.
So England, in my humble view, need bowling. The fielding was good, the batting is or should be competitive at this highest level but the team lacks an edge with the ball; or rather needs more, quality options.
As Ecclestone starts the 33rd, South Africa are at 133 for 3. Minutes later, it appears Brunt has emphasised that star quality factor by executing a stirring catch deep in the outfield. It’s the sort of effort that reflects how her desire and power and athleticism set her apart. Turns out – after a long review – she never quite got there. The relieved but deserving Lee returns to her crease.
She is still there, on 77, into the 41st, as Brunt returns for her final fling at this. South Africa require just 27, with seven wickets left intact. The afternoon is now still and lovely, so if nothing changes in the next few minutes we’ll be applying the ‘s’ word to the visitors victory – serene.
Marsh is now firing them in flattish, from the New Road End but England are being quietly picked off. Occasional, incongruous music meets the boundaries that prick the calm.
Brunt is in for her last, the 43rd. She wills herself towards raising once more the contest… but it’s done.
Gunn must bowl the 45th. Her slower ball is just too slow, too easily read and is carted to extra cover for four, leaving three needed.
Next over Lee kabooms Marsh for six to finish it. A deserved win for South Africa, who have emphatically outbowled and outbatted England. Lee is undefeated on 92 and Du Preez on 36. Whilst plainly England’s batting cost them the game, I’m left with more concerns about the bowling. Wonder if Mr Robinson feels the same?