Cobblers.

It’s only sport. Given that I’ve spent most of the last 48 hours doing the family visiting-thing at our local Emergency Unit I should be well-placed to remember that – to engage Philosophically Proportionate Mode. Ain’t always easy, though, eh?

Not when after what feels like a lifetime of trying to click into hospital wifi/phone signal you snatch a buffertastic update or two on the cricket and it unleashes a Ragin’ Fury, near as dammit. (Diversion but… was it Desperate Dan who flew into Ragin’ Furies? Or who? Fluttering right out there at the shadowy extremes, that one). Anyway, one minute we’re eyeballing a heart monitor, the next I’m watching Jason Roy ‘dance down’.

Dance down? Was more like a paralytic meander – a pre-chunder slalom to the pub khazi. With added air-punch. A catastrophically uncool Dad Dance, under a cruelly searching spotlight. (O-kaaay. Did say Ragin’ Fury).

But maybe that’s not how you saw it? Maybe you either drift easily, in that flow of positivity – that ‘this is what he does’ argument, or you really deeply commit to the idea that Roy, having been selected for his brilliance as a gladiatorial, instinctive smiter of absolutely bloody everything anyone slings down at him, is ab-so-lutely entitled to do what it says on his tin.

I say cobblers to that. I could try and be more measured – for fear of sounding reactionary, for fear of losing half my followers, for fear of stirring philoso-hostilities – but that would be a betrayal of my own instinct. Where many are saying ‘express yourself’ I say cobblers. Where that lazy-macho coaching mantra swoops in, defending the gutsiness, the stay-trueness, the incomparable and essential free-spiritedness of the batsman, I say cobblers.

Why? Because not then. Because embarrassingly stupid. Because repercussions on team-mates, because ushering in terminal momentum against. Because there’s an Ashes maybee already on the line. Because Smart Cricket you utter donkey, not mindlessly Positive Cricket.

*However, note not inconsequential footnote to follow…* dude, once you’ve been in there for two hours and have 78 not out and that wonderful eye is in and the game is petering out, then maybe. Maybe clatter that chirpy Australian barsted to the boundary, then.

Expect there were discussions, pre that knock – and probably pre the Roy selection. Fair enough. “Jase, you’re in there to blaze a trail, whenever possible”. But if there were no caveats – cobblers. Ridiculous.

Why? Because Test Cricket: a test over time. Meaning sometimes a test of skill and patience as well as hand-eye.  Meaning bravado can be earned or ‘expressed’, possibly but is measurably, in this genre of the game, more likely to be exposed for the cowardly fraud it so often is. If Root or Bayliss waived away all or any responsibility to contemplate erm, responsibility – cobblers.

The shot itself was a wildish, unbalanced hack. Roy’s exit, sharpish, utterly castled, smacked of humiliation and therefore offered the gift of triumph to the bowler, to Australia – stupid and irresponsible in a moment that calls for intelligence, for smart cricket.

So if Bayliss defends him, out of duff loyalty or (worse still), because Positive Cricket was the agreed approach… cobblers. They have insulted our intelligence. For all that they might argue that their way is the way of courage, it’s the way of the fool who hides behind the easy, unthinking swipe.

#Bristol. #WomensAshes. Crazy Dance.

Disclaimer: England won. England won and this changes some things… but not everything. The Widening Gulf may still be there; that key separation around being able to Execute Skills Under Pressure may still be there – or has been sufficiently present to be considered problematic, for England. Stuff still needs to be done.

But what stuff? It feels like the ECB has been revisiting the structural elements to all this, as the Ashes has collapsed around the home team. (That a fair description?) The brilliance and consistency and conviction of the the Australians has made further conversations around structure and development inevitable, given the blindingly obvious superiority of a) their team and b) the Oz Opportunity, for professional women cricketers. Note has been taken; the Australian system, with dozens more pro’ players and significantly better playing environment is undeniably better than the ECB’s. Endof.

It may therefore be ironic but it’s surely true that the Ashes walloping has stirred change that may be positive, in England and Wales. Who knows, we may even follow the Australians into further steps towards equal pay, equality of resource – who knows? At base level there will be, there has to be something of a shift: I think we’ve seen and heard already that slightly embarrassed process shuffle from its seat.

There will also be a de-brief on playing standards, players individually, selection, coaching, etc. Rightly. Broadly, it’s likely that the England squad is pret-ty close to the right squad – though admittedly this is partly by dint of the fact that there are (by Australian standards) so few candidates out there. Robinson should be given a polite going-over, to keep him honest and focused – likewise Knight – and then the work should start again. 

Let’s not fall entirely into doom and gloom. She ain’t a perfect cricketer but at 19/20 Sophie Ecclestone is a worldie of a spin-bowler. And Beaumont is quality, and Sciver, Jones, Knight, Shrubsole and Brunt have quality. And last night, before a goodish, engaged crowd, Mady Villiers made a notable introduction to the game at the highest level – made us smile, in fact, such was the delightful, unbridled joyfulness of her burst of wickets. So women’s cricket in England and Wales is gonna be okay, I reckon.

My live report follows…

 

 

Bristol is glorious – often is. But today it’s warm and cidery-by-the-river and cosmopolitan and trashy and musical. And glorious.

I’m at The Cricket, in Ashley Down, above the allotments and the friendly, noisy, smoky barbers and the skips and taxis of St Pauls and City Road. Find it hard to describe why I like this ground so much but there’s something about the sky, the light, the wrap-aroundness that appeals. Plus maybe it’s always seemed to be cosmically sunny whenever I’ve been here. ‘Tis, this afternoon.

Tough to know how sunny the general or individual dispositions might be, in the England camp. It’s so-o lovely a scene that it’s hard to imagine the ongoing Real Ashes Trauma is scarring every moment, even now, for Robinson, Knight, et al. Hope not.

Whatever happens, tonight this is done. Whatever baggage they’re carrying, this is sport, there’s another chance, the conditions are great, there’ll be a crowd – and lights!

As I enter the stadium, Kirsty Gordon and A.N. Other are doing timed circuits around the boundary – suggesting they’re not playing, I imagine. (Gordon not actually in this T20 squad but there have been whispers she may play tonight as things get rotated a little. Honestly too far away to be clear on the second player). Haven’t heard any other team news.

Just been for another wee promenade. Ver-ry pleasant evening, with some breeze. Temperature at 18.15 dipping under 70 degrees F, I reckon.

Now some Proper News. Team for England includes Shrubsole for Elwis and Raf Nicholson’s pal Mady Villiers for Laura Marsh.

Australia have won the toss and chosen to have a bowl. Some cynics in the Media Centre suggesting they may be looking to blast England out and scoot off, sharpish. Hoping that’s not how it turns out – none of us need (or rather women’s cricket doesn’t need) another massacre.

Aus have looked happy and relaxed as they gathered then endured “Jerusalem”. Inevitably, Perry will open. She bowls with that slowish, grooved approach then slams it down. First thought is the pitch looks slowish… but that could be premature. Six runs from the over and no dramas for either Wyatt or Beaumont.

Wyatt dances down to Schutt’s second ball and slashes it through point for four. Not entirely without risk – slightly aerial – but runs. It feels like the kind of evening (or time of evening) where there just may not be much through the air for the bowlers; however Schutt does get that inswinger going, very full, and it rather fortuitously slides past the keeper’s left hand, off I know not what, for four more. 17 for 0 off 2, suddenly.

Perry concedes a front-foot no-ball, marginally, and Wyatt  carts the free-hit bouncer skywards for one. The dynamic (when on it) batter then glides a beautiful cut away before launching Perry over the covers for six! England are a reasonably tasty 28 for 0 off 3 overs.

Schutt is replaced by Jonassen. Beaumont tries to lift a wristy clip up and over mid-on but merely finds Mooney. Gone for 5. Enter the skipper at three, again.

Wyatt is going well, not just belligerently. There are drop-and-runs and sharp rotations.

Schutt has changed ends. Wyatt gets cute, flipping her over her shoulder to fine leg, before the bowler has her revenge. Bowls her, as the opener tries to make room that kindof isn’t there: good ball that may have carried straight on. Wyatt made a swiftish 20 but was she racing a little too much, again?

England are 40 for 2 at the end of the power-play. That’s goodish provided Knight and Sciver can form a partnership, you suspect.

Kimmince follows Jonassen. Kimmince has all kinds of tricks but this pitch is looking pret-ty benign, to me. *Tries not to think of what Healy/Lanning may yet do*.

Sciver is slightly cramped, pulling and swishing. She gets a top edge and skies, behind. Caught, third man. Not good.

Have moaned a bit before about Sciver’s propensity to try to stick everything through midwicket. Caught her out here again. Just don’t know if the coach – any coach – should be *having words* about this. Plainly it’s ‘the way she wants to play’: plainly, against good bowling, she mishits too often, as a result.

Vlaeminck is in from the Pavilion End – from underneath us. Brisk. Bounces Knight. Then the England captain plays a particularly inelegant air-shot. An appeal follows, for one obviously tailing down to leg, before Knight absolutely smokes a similar delivery for six, forward of square. England are 61 for 3 off 10. It’s entertaining.

Jones, who needs something from this series, is flummoxed by Jonassen and almost run-out. She does greet the incoming Wareham with a beautiful, controlled lofted drive for four, mind, before sweeping to the fine leg boundary. Should be confidence-building. 76 for 3 after 12.

Kimmince bowls a shocker down to leg – wide. Jones visibly ‘stands and delivers’ to haul one over extra. Knight clouts one straight, aerial but safe. England are hitting. But do they have the power of the line-up to come?

Knight’s running looked poorish to me, tonight: she may be carrying a ‘hammy’ apparently. She is run out going for a second that was maybe never on AGAINST PERRY; felt like a bad misjudgement. When her partner Jones also departs shortly afterwards, for 19, edging to Healy, things have suddenly started to crumble. 84 for 5, England, off 14.

Suddenly we have Brunt and Winfield picking up the pieces: Schutt returns at the Ashley Down Road End. The sense is that 150 – possibly more – is a minimum to make this competitive.

Wareham’s legspin is comparatively unthreatening. In fact all the spin has been that way – hence the likelihood that one or more of the women in yellow may go decisively big.

Both Brunt and Winfield prove willing. Willing to heave. Gardiner is clumped sweetly to square leg by the latter, then driven up and over mid-off for a further four. Experienced players, both, these two realise a Grand Finish is an absolute must. 116 for 5, after 18.

Schutt will bowl the penultimate but she starts with a yorker around the ankles which escapes everything and scuttles for four. Brunt dispatches the follow-up magnificently for six! 13 from the over.

Jonassen will have the last over. A hilarious, cheeky, defiant reverse-sweep goes to the third man boundary. Also hilariously (for the locals) Jonassen fluffs TWO successive run-outs as the batters charge. Innings closed on 139 for 5. An honourable effort… which feels 20 short as we dart for coffee.

During the break I begin to question this assumption – if that’s what it is – that Aus will chase this down with some ease.  Mainly because the evening is closing in. It’s cooler and already markedly less bright. Of course fielding may be less easy as time progresses but could batting be more of a caper, too? Reckon Australia will have enough but let’s see.

Kate Cross will open for England. She starts with what looks like an attempted leg-cutter but it’s wide, legside. Third and fourth ball are both dragged down – deliberately or otherwise – and runs come. A poor over, in truth, with 8 conceded.

Shrubsole will follow from the pavilion but she also drops short and is punished. England need a moment, here, already: Shrubsole settles and nothing further conceded. Brunt replaces Cross immediately and she too mixes up the length. (There must be plan to invite cuts/pulls/aerial slashes but Healy and Mooney commit no early indiscretions).

Healy booms Shrubsole over extra and you might say it’s not an entirely clean hit – and therefore there is some risk. But it’s four.

First blood, though to Brunt and England. Mooney is caught in the proverbial several minds and serves one up – a dolly – to short cover. This, of course, brings in Lanning. Healy almost offers something similar, again off something back-of-a-length but escapes. Ecclestone will bowl the sixth with Australia 27 for 1.

The young offie’s reputation for making something happen is again enhanced when, with Lanning drawn forward, the ball strikes pad momentarily before bat. Out l.b.w. Yes, Lanning!

Big moment in the game and in the career of Mady Villiers, follows. Her first bowl in international cricket and it’s only Perry down yon end. A single is taken. Seconds later Healy strikes back fairly sharply to the bowler – sharp but catchable – but the young spinner can’t snaffle hold. The over is okay but that may prove key.

Cross again, from the Ashley Down Road End. Tidyish. In fact, without remotely being a strangulation, this is a low-key knock, so far, from the visitors.

Villiers again and again she’s drawing an error from Healy. This time it’s ‘fatal’. A rather mistimed off-drive goes comfortably to hand. The celebrations are a delight for us Poms but they are repeated soon after! Gardner comes down but misses and Jones is swift to execute the stumping. (The ball did nothing except *may-bee* slide on a touch). Australia are actually scrambling a tad, here.

Perry responds by stroking Ecclestone straight for six – just. 54 for 4.

Villiers, coming around to Perry, is looking comfortable – as are England. Australia really do have work to do to change the momentum but both Haynes and Perry have both experience and Proper Quality. Goodish over sees the Southern Stars on 57 for 4 after 12.

Shrubsole is back from the Bristol Pavilion End and Perry greets her with two ver-ry different boundary shots. (Straight drive, clip through midwicket, piercing the field superbly). England’s World Cup heroine has been targeted, rather, in this series – indicative perhaps, of the levels of both skill and confidence the Stars bring to their game.

Hey. Did I mention there is a crowd, here, tonight? Lovely to see and hear; it can only be supportive of England’s effort.

And that effort is so often personified by the punchy, impassioned Brunt, who has Haynes caught by Wyatt as she hauls to leg. 79 for 5 now, Australia, needing 61 from 33 balls.

Perry can play a bit – she’s on 33 – and the incoming Jonassen has a cool head – but with five overs remaining, England are favourites.

Villiers will bowl her fourth and final over from underneath us. For the first time, she is dispatched, imperiously, by Perry, for six. Haynes then drills one that I personally think the diving (or flopping) Ecclestone should have stopped. (Have majored before on Ecclestone’s fielding so will move swiftly on).

It’s dusky now. Ecclestone will bowl the 17th, with the lights making a real contribution. Very much to the bowler’s credit, she has Perry flustered three times, the batter unable to clatter some yorker-length deliveries.

We’re back to Cross, for the 18th. 100 is up but they require 40 from 14. The ‘goddess’ (see previous blogs) gets another 50. Ecclestone is in again for the penultimate over, with England in command.

Perry begs to differ. She drives straight and high for six. 28 from 8 needed. Jonassen, going for the reverse-sweep, falls l.b.w.  and that may be that. Aus 112 for 6, with 28 required off 7. Didn’t expect this but we’ll take it. 👊🏻

Immediately, Kimmince falls the same way, pulling to leg, plumb: Ecclestone’s reputation goes up a further notch. Brunt has 23 runs to play with as she runs in for the last. The newcomer Wareham can only top-edge to mid-on, for nought. Brunt is erm, bruntaciously pumped.

Perry looks to have tweaked a muscle in the scramble for a run that’s never there but claims her ground in the end. Schutt clouts one out to midwicket and finishes with an off-drive past mid-off. But HOLD THE FRONT-PAGE, England have won it, with something to spare. The unbeatable, magnificent Perry has 60 not out and Schutt has 8. At 122 for 8, Australia are 17 runs short.

Tonight can be seen as both a dead rubber and a significant return, from England. It will matter significantly to their players and to their coaching staff, who have been inserted decisively beneath the microscope, following a profoundly disappointing Ashes series.

I can only imagine that ‘conversations’ will still take place but there may be a little less bite in them. And it may well be helpful that there is no avoiding wide-ranging discussion around structure as well as selection, fitness, ability to execute – the Widening Gulf between Aus at no. 1 and Eng at no. 2 being generally recognised as directly related to better support for and organisation of women’s pro’ cricket Down Under.

In short, there is more to say about both the cricket matches and the various cricket environments, the forces shaping what we’ve seen during this series. *May well* say some of that very soon. Final word, though, is for the visitors. Australia have been excellent; they are a team, they have depth but they have special individuals.

One of them spoke in impressively accomplished style (be-medalled, on the podium) about how enjoyable a journey this Ashes has been – how good it’s felt, because of crowds, facilities and performances. Ellyse Perry (I’m sure you’re listening) I’m a dumb, middle-aged Pommie bloke but I hope you really have enjoyed it. Your team is outstanding, your performances have been ridicu-fab, so go, go, go have a beer and a crazy dance round the outfield.

Day 4. The (non)denouement?

So back again. With another full day of cricket possible. The overwhelming likelihood of a draw hasn’t entirely thrown a blanket over us Meedya Peeps’ enthusiasms – in fact the various theories about what the teams have been trying to do, these last coupla days, have kept discussion lively – but inevitably the prospect of a slow grind towards anti-climax does challenge/will challenge our levels of attention, no doubt. Forgive us.

I do hope to stay with it. In fact, I may note to the universe that I expect to be less critical of a slide towards no-result than some of my eminent colleagues have been. (Go read the previous blogs… and maybe compare).

Check my twitter. Pre their stretching of muscles etc etc, England had a circular pow-wow in front of us. (Have posted an admittedly rather ordinary pic). Impossible and inappropriate to eaves-drop but it had the look of a Proper Moment, where Robinson (the coach) may have *had words*. I liked the look of it.

Have no idea what he said – and could speculate and may, later – but I liked the look of it. The coach should be shaping the will, the aura, the direction of all of this. Not just for today or even for this series: England must find or re-discover their intent. Robinson has therefore to both host and lead discussions.

Hearing right now from the ICC statistician Marion Collin that today’s game MUST LAST at least 91 overs. There is no option for a handshake (over a draw) before that. I have also heard from a ver ver reliable source, that Australia will not shake until the latest possible second. Because they want(ed) to win… a contest.

There will be flak flying if this does peter out. The media are already pretty feisty about lack of ambition (actually from both sides). Could also be that the teams will be blaming each other – that this might introduce a little spite – if we spend all day in Doursville. Soon find out. Molineux is opening up to Sciver.

Quiet over, in which England get to 200, for 6. Then Perry, from the river. 7-2 field with about 42 hectares unprotected between Schutt, at fine leg and Molineux at mid-on. Guessing Perry might mostly bowl wide of off.

Molineux bewilders Shrubsole into a play and a miss. Some turn. Then the batter fails to connect with a ver-ry short one – a gift. The general vibe is erm… relatively non-dynamic, maybe especially from Sciver. Weirdly.

Sciver responds to my barb with a four, swung to leg.  👊🏻

Shrubsole takes 7 off an over from Perry without looking entirely fluent before advancing-but-missing against Molineux. Good ball beats her and she is easily stumped, by Healy. No blame attached in terms of Shrubsole’s intent but for me she has not looked like a mid-order bat. Molineux now has four wickets and looks likely to claim a five-fer on debut. England 214 for 7.

Marsh has joined Sciver. They are looking to both survive and to score. Fair enough. Gardner is the first bowling change, for Perry.

Sciver charges and lifts elegantly, with power, over the bowler’s head: an emphatic four. Marsh follows that with a nice back-drive off a short ball from Molineux. Decent, now, from England. The bowler responds with a teaser that again spins and beats the outside edge. Some good, watchable cricket just now.

Gardner spins it and so does Molineux. Enjoying watching. England aware (of course) of that imperative to get to 271 pronto so some expansive shots punctuate the general Aussie-on-topness. Marsh (England’s last batter?) feasts on a rare full-toss from the right-handed bowler, ushering it confidently through the covers. 238 for 7.

Vlaeminck is back, from the River End. Good to see. She hustles then runs and lashes it through nice and quick. Second ball is a medium-intimidating bouncer, which Marsh steps away from. I’m guessing the batter is actually finding this a little scary. Good over.

The youngster’s next over – bowled largely around the wicket – again has Marsh hopping. She survives, having played more than one delivery with both feet off the ground and England are 242 for 7 at drinks. The lights flutter into action as clouds waft across.

Jonassen, who has bowled tidily but less threateningly (for me) than her spin partners, continues from the Pavilion End. It’s markedly cloudier but we are not expecting rain.

Vlaeminck errs to leg-stump and Sciver clips away nicely . Four to fine leg, taking the batter to 86. Sciver’s done well but has remained a notch down on that idealised Dynamism Quotient. But okaay, there is context here.

Sciver goes. Firstly she does that familiar, snatchy-wristy thing where she plays way across a straight one: on this occasion the leading edge loops high but straight beyond the bowler – Jonassen – to safety. Then, however, she misjudges and plays on, agonisingly. 252 for 8.

Vlaeminck at Marsh, then the incoming Ecclestone. Wow. A short of half-tracker! But harmless. The bowler does stray a little – that’s her reputation – and another one down leg is neatly dispatched, by Ecclestone. Four.

Swift word about Tayla Vlaeminck. And Fast Bowling. Great to see her racing in but did you know that she’s been through a whole series of operations? Find that rather depressing – the thought that everybody bowling quick finishes up significantly hurt by the process. Cricket must do this Looking After The Quicks thing so-o much better.

Three boundaries bring England to the brink of the follow-on total of 271. (Two to Marsh then a blow over the top, from Ecclestone). Soon we’ll know how England intend to erm, chase out a win, from here.

Drama drama. England go past that key figure but to general incredulity in the Media Centre, they do not immediately declare. Two mins later, however, Marsh is l.b.w. sweeping to Jonassen… and Knight calls them in! We’ll get a few overs in before lunch. (5, it turns out).

Really interestingly, Rachael Haynes is opening, with Healy. Ecclestone first, for England, from below us in the Pavilion End. Refreshingly tense first over: appeals, misses and scratchy-nervy batting.

Nice bit of swing for Brunt. She could be a threat. Healy is watchful.

When she breaks out, off a wide one, Beaumont cannot stop the square-drive. Should have. The frustration for England is compounded when Healy encourages the next delivery round the corner and Taylor’s dive to leg is beaten. Four more. 8 for 0 off 2.

You’ve got to love Brunt. (Well, maybe you haven’t but) she’s Fully Committed. She’s bowling full and well and *believing*. She’s even managing a pret-ty convincing glare, at Haynes. It may all well be fraudulent but I like it.

Notable that Ecclestone has led this ahem *charge*. Not bad for a young ‘un. Plainly Robinson recognises she is a prime threat – one to be trusted with a huge moment, even if it turns out to be a charade of a huge moment. Ecclestone ahead of Shrubsole, partly of course because she is ver-ry different (and because of conditions) but also because Ecclestone has landed, as a force. Australia go for their tuna salad at 13 for 0.

Extraordinary start, after lunch! Marsh claims both Healy and Haynes! Fabulous delivery, in particular to claim Healy – angled across but straightened sharply. Haynes l.b.w. to something a little less explosive.

Extraordinary (with all due respect) to find Marsh this unplayable but as she comes back for her second over – after a decent one from Ecclestone – she is feeling kindof thataway. It means a real spike, of course, in the intensity.

Ecclestone has a big shout. Knight lung-burstingly chases a lost cause. The crowd stir. Australia are genuinely finding it tough, amassing a ver-ry streaky 23 for 2 in the first ten overs.

Huge appeal – but one that built, suspiciously, I thought – as Ecclestone beats Lanning. Not given; correctly. Note again that England have THREE spinners plus Heather Knight in the side… for this moment, precisely? It’s tough, right now, for both Perry and Lanning – and they’re decent, right?

14.15 with Aus now at 43 for 2. We may be kidding ourselves but this feels like competitive cricket – meaningful cricket. Credit to both sides, on that.

Ecclestone going well enough but Marsh has been exceptional. And turning it more than I remember. An England appeal-fest in progress: Ecclestone is denied one that, on review, was on the money. Unfortunate.

Knight has been doing that Trescothick kneeling-at-second-slip routine. Almost looks comical – maybe especially with her exceedingly grubby-looking sweater. Australia are now 50 for 2 and their lead is 195 runs.

Slight sense that Ecclestone may just be tiring. Dragging down a couple and they are tending to get punished. Marsh will continue from the River End but do wonder if we may see a change (from underneath us) next over. As I say this – not before, I promise – Gordon is warming up.

Gordon to come, then. Mixed, from the Scot. At least three four-balls – one of which is dispatched. But also the wicket of Lanning, off possibly the worst pie of the century, slung loose and highish: Elwiss takes a decent catch at extra cover. Horror-show for the Australian skip, delight and some embarrassment, may-beee, for the bowler?

The visitors suddenly three down… but over 200 ahead. So this may all be a charade, yes? But here, at this moment,with the action in front of us, it feels like an entertaining day of Test Cricket – it really does. Mooney and Perry mean it… and so do England.

Elwiss replaces Marsh, the thinking surely being that her medium-pacers may grip in the surface a tad more than Shrubsole’s. (We haven’t seen Shrubsole yet, this innings). Perry has by this stage engineered her way to 37 and Mooney has 18.

Double-change, thereafter, as Ecclestone returns, starting with a loosener which Perry can scuff away to fine leg.

Sense that Australia are beginning to raise it; not remotely boomtastically yet… but a tad. Mooney we know can smash – and often does, in shorter format cricket. Against Ecclestone, she whips one to leg, only to see it stick in either Beaumont’s grateful hands, or her midriff, or both. Gone. Beaumont does three laps of Somerset in delight. 105 for 4.

So conditions have been relatively testing for batters. Even Perry has had to ‘work at this’: she even has a moment of concern, or two – the latest over a possible run-out, which she narrowly survives. Then she gets to fifty, again with a fluent cut off Brunt.

Many of my colleagues protest when this isn’t the cue for a declaration. At 132 for 4, with Australia 278 ahead – and with England needing about 7 an over through the remaining overs – why wouldn’t Lanning call them in? Because they want a handful more, before they try to make another statement, against an England batting line-up out in the middle… but hopeless. Plenty mind-games. Tea.

For me, plenty folks in the Press Corps and on telly (or both) are being overly bullish about the Playing To Win, Or Not thing. Think it’s interestingly macho – and yes, a fair few of them are women – but not sure they are allowing enough for a) human nature b) human frailty c) the needle in play, here d) that thing where you do the last thing your opponent (your enemy?) wants. I think Aus will declare, here. Soon.

Shrubsole and then Elwiss after tea. Jonassen – a more-than-decent bat – punishes the latter for four and move to 18. Shrubsole, who is of course not now bowling in Hoof-friendly conditions, seems out-of-sorts.  My hunch is we may go back to Marsh and Ecclestone, imminently.

We have a break, for an injury to Taylor,  affecting her shoulder or upper chest. But she will continue.

Shrubsole bowls a goodish yorker which Perry gets something on… but it squeezes past Taylor and on to the boundary. Perry has 64 and the lead goes to 300.

Presently – sorree but we are all drifting a wee smidge now – Knight comes in from the river for her first go. Her second ball is a foot down leg. Her third has Jonassen, plumb. 168 for 5, Jonassen made 37, tidily enough.

So The Change works again. Hilariously, Knight’s final ball surpasses the earlier contestant for Worst Ball of the Century and the incoming Molineux absolutely carts it to Cow Corner for four.

Shrubsole is still with us and follows. She’s persevered and she beats Perry outside off.

Wilson, on for Taylor, is nearly at the centre of the action – or phoney-action(?) Molineux, who has mistimed more than once, chips Knight towards her, at cover. Wilson reaches high but the movements seem off-kilter. She gets a hand to the ball but cannot hold on. Mildly amusing that the England skipper’s lack of zip, pace, spin and particularly bounce is creating issues, here.

Gordon is in from the Pavilion End. She continues, in short, to offer too many full-tosses and is punished again, by Molineux. Australia lead by 340, at 195 for 5.

Mostly, Perry and Molineux are both looking comfortable. The latter creams one through cover; she has 28. We *just don’t know* what’s been said in the Australian dressing-room but that declaration still ain’t a -comin’. Is Lanning really going to bat through? Find that difficult to believe.

Increasingly expansive now, Molineux, in swinging across to leg, is ultimately bowled off the pad, by Gordon. Gardner has a look at Gordon for one ball, then strikes her for the first six of the match, straight back over her head. Fabulous.

The scoreboard suggests 18 overs remain. Perry, on 76 has shown fascinatingly little inclination to charge towards her hundred – which again looked there for the taking. Gardner, meanwhile, is charging… and out, caught, by Beaumont, for 7. We look to the sidelines, as Perry twiddles her bat, mid-pitch. Lanning is apparently asking a question, or awaiting an answer.

The captains have agreed on the draw: Australia have retained the Ashes.

The circumstances are extraordinary but I am not as outraged as many in the Media Posse. Not sure what this says about my judgement but I’m generally comfortable being something of an outlier. I hope I’ve covered the thinking behind my thinking. Congratulations Australia – see you in Bristol.

Reflecting over a much-needed glass of red. (Cheers).

Still more at ease with the alleged Aussie cop-out than some and don’t support the idea that this has been damaging to Test Cricket for Women.

It may not have been as bold as some might have liked but maybe give the players, the captains, the coaches a little slack on that? Dynamically edgy cricket is of course desirable but how often are we actually going to see that, in Tests, realistically?

There’s an argument that the relative ‘slowness’ of Test Cricket is part of what makes it what it is.  (Again I stress that this may not be ideal, or what the game either ‘needs’ or should aspire towards but *maybe* neither Lanning nor Knight have entirely traduced the essence of all that, here?)

So. There has been in my view both some ver-ry astute and legitimate criticism… and some posturing around this. I’ve enjoyed – yes, enjoyed – a good deal of what I’ve seen. The obvious imperfections of the third and fourth days really haven’t turned me off: indeed, I hope Women’s Tests can grow, from this.

Day 3, Taunton. #WomensAshes.

 

Bright, refreshing and loo-king good as we approach start-time, in Taunton. Players out there, enjoying the breezy sunshine: what a bonus it would be, for all of us, to be able to enjoy long periods of play.

The forecast, which has been ‘evolving’ pretty constantly over the hours, is now suggesting – wait for it – a full day’s play! So we may get a match, a contest of some sort, even though we think we know which direction the honours will be heading.

Doom-mongers may possibly be juggling: might England be better slinking away after two more rain-affected days,  as opposed to enduring sustained cricket (and potentially a torrid time) against a roaring Australian attack? Meaning there is an argument that Psychological Damage is in play, here. But whether they stand and fight, as it were, or merely see out the next day or two (with or without meteorological interference), England may suffer a further knock to their collective belief.

My hunch is that rather than do the Sensible But Dangerous Thing – i.e. try from the outset to force the score, because they have to win – England will, when the time comes, inevitably look to settle in during a Trauma Avoidance Phase. (Even given that imperative to get big runs early, is it not human nature, when confronted with the very real possibility of a humiliation, to mitigate against that… a bit? ) 10.54am. We’ll soon find out.

It will be Marsh to Jonassen. We can safely assume it won’t be long before Australian batters *challenge* the England bowling, eh?

Brunt, from beneath us, at the Pavilion End. Quietish. Mooney and Jonassen ‘having a look’, for a bit. As soon as they feel comfortable they must surely launch. Then I might, on the fall of a wicket, throw Gardner in there with licence to go absolutely wild in the jungle – as it were – look to really stick it to England, whilst keeping them hanging on for that declaration.

Not knowing is kindof undermining, yes? All speculation and probably cod-psychology. Loyal followers will know I major in that. 👊🏻

Brunt slaps one in against Mooney. Leg stump. Hits Mooney in the ribs. Next ball is too full and the batter on-drives for four. 349 for 5 at the end of the over. Lots of cloud cover, again.

Imagine Brunt is a player that the opposition (any opposition) loves to hate. But I like her bullish, gruntaciousness – her Fast Bowler Attitude.

As I write this she draws a loose-ish shot, from Jonassen and Sciver takes a sharp catch – yes, a sharp catch! – at gully. Not an earth-shattering moment (repeat, already feels like the game is gone) but a good one, for England. End of the 138th and Australia are 356 for 6 – enter Molineux.

Half-decent runout opportunity – not taken. Marsh, the gatherer, is only ten yards away from the sticks as the batter scrambles. Would have been out. Missed.

Laura Marsh continues, in tandem with Brunt. Mostly tightish, the both of them. Shrubsole is the first change, for Brunt. When she goes full, full, Mooney again drives confidently through mid-on: four more. In bright sunshine, now, with a strongish cross-wind assisting any potential in-swing, for the bowler. 370 for 6.

Undignified miscue, from Molineux, off Shrubsole spirals up and over mid-on, having struck high on the bat. Landed safely. Then Mooney lifts one up and over Ecclestone, again finding the wide-open spaces.

Soon after, England concede four overthrows as Marsh, probably thinking the ball may hit the stumps, allows it to pass. More damagingly, Ecclestone has not backed-up. Have previously identified the young spinner as a relatively weak fielder, I will not revisit that issue again just now.

The debutant Molineux middles a beauty out behind point for four, from Shrubsole. Might that be the sign for her to go up a notch?

Marsh is still there, at the River End and getting a little dip and turn. She is offering a question or two rather than a threat, though, I’d say. Know Australia have a bunch of left-handers but find it notable that Marsh has bowled as many as 33 overs, *so far*.

Ecclestone replaces Shrubsole. Bowls a maiden, including one which although well left, by Molineux, pressured the off-stick. Despite the goodish, consistent work from Marsh, I fancy Ecclestone is a more likely wicket-taker, now. Go figure.

Drinks, at 388 for 6, with 148 overs bowled in the innings.

As we resume, Molineux dances down to Marsh, again slightly miscues the lofted drive but gets enough of it to clear the offside field.

The longer the game goes on, clearly the more urgency affixes to the England response. Think maybe Australia like the sound, the feel of that; it may open the door to the collapse they will be hoping to stir. So on Australia go, with Mooney clouting two successive fours off Ecclestone. We go through the 400 mark.

Fifty partnership is also up, after Molineux beats Knight in the covers. *Do wonder* if it was stoppable but another  nice shot from the young debutant – into her twenties, now.

But no further. Ecclestone beats her with the flight, rocking back, bowled, on 21. Encouraging knock, though, from Molineux. 408 for 7. This brings in Gardner, whom I like as a batter and bowler. She may, if she gets in, be *entertaining*.

Scivers slings an awful one substantially down leg. The breeze may have been a factor… but pretend it didn’t happen?

Mooney rushes then dives through for her fifty. Safe, despite the throw coming in from Brunt. Has played well – intelligently.

Then drama. The batters get the signal to really go. Mooney swings and edges, high, high behind the keeper and behind Amy Jones. But Jones races back intently and clutches on: best bit of fielding we’ve seen. With that excellent catch, Lanning calls her team in, one eye on the time – 12.35ish. Australia have declared on 420 for 8.

We look forward to an intense period… and to seeing the young quick, Vlaeminck, as well as wossername? Perry. And maybe Schutt. England will have a deeply, richly nervy 15 minutes to ‘survive’. Unsurprisingly, it’s going to be Perry, from the River End.

Jones looks tall. She raises that bat characteristically high in the ready position: she can leave the first one. The fourth she tries to clip off the hip, making no contact but offering the chance for a leg-stretch. Bye and England are off.

Fifth ball does for Beaumont, almost. Is full, swings away and the opening bat is lucky, arguably, to miss it. Final delivery is a sharpish bouncer – maybe to *ask questions* of that thumb?

Like Schutt a lot but mildly disappointed that she follows:  we’ll have to wait, for Vlaeminck. However when we see how much in-swing Schutt is getting, it all makes perfect sense. Going to be tough, this, for the locals.

Too right it is. An absolute worldie (from Perry, need I say?) does for the generally wonderful and watchful Beaumont. Swings and nips away, I think, off the pitch, a little. Byootiful ball. Given that Beaumont is often England’s most durable batter, this is a disaster. 1 for 1.

Rightly, maybe, Knight will come in at 3. She will see out that third over – the final one before a no-doubt shell-shocked England retreat to try to force down some fodder. I’ll do the same. We can only reflect on another moment of real quality from Ellyse Perry… and look forward to (or fear) the afternoon/evening sessions. Bon appetit?

Post-lunch, predictably, a quiet period. England’s charge to glory on hold 😉. No, what I mean is, no further wickets. However much Jones and Knight are conscious of that need to come over all over defiantly positive, they are going to sit a while. They do. Australia are persisting with Perry, from the River End and Schutt, with her trademark Adam Ant smear, from the pavilion.

Knight (actually) goes to 15 not out in decent time, off 23 balls and having taken two fours off Perry in the ninth over. Very different shots, too; straight on-drive and lovely easy cut behind point. Dare we say she looks well set? (*Fatal*).

First change is Molineux, for Schutt. She is left-arm, finger-spinning. Bit like Gordon’s action, kindofan eleven o’clock sling. She is followed by Vlaeminck.

She no-balls. Then slaps one ver-ry wide past Healy’s legside dive. She will be nervy and it’s showing. Another one is fired substantially down to leg.

Know what, I’d rather she keeps running in to her max and doesn’t stress too much about the rangefinder. Reckon Lanning and the rest will be encouraging her to do just that and keep believing. Even after Knight dispatches her through extra for four. Keep believing, you beautie.

At the other end, Molineux has just turned one almost twice as far as any of the England spinners. Which woke Jones right up. But no dramas. At the end of Vlaeminck’s next over – the thirteenth, a maiden to follow that wayward first effort – England are 40 for 1. The young quick is bowling around 71/2/3 mph.

Liking Molineux, coming around to the slightly becalmed Jones. The batter tries to break out and is fortunate to survive a medium-reckless thrash-drive to off. Falls out beyond the circle of fielders.

Vlaeminck cannot sustain the pressure, Knight glancing from the hip and finding Schutt at fine leg. A misfield goes to the rope. Fifty up in the over. Jones still not looking entirely in her flow but when Molineux offers a full-toss, she gratefully accepts. Four straight. We are 55 for 1, as the batters take a wee drink.

Jonassen, from the river. Pie, short, dispatched, by Jones, followed by a drive for four more, through mid-off. A third poor, short delivery is similarly dispatched. Thirteen, from the over and a significant if temporary lightening of English worries. The Trauma is being avoided. (For now).

Ah. Another peach, from Molineux. Flighted, dipped and turned past the outside edge. A reminder of how precarious things can be. Both batters looking largely settled… but that was a fabulous, challenging delivery. At 22 overs – and Proper Drinks – England are a now creditable 80 for 1.

Hah. We might argue that the drinks break, the break in concentration, does for Knight. And/or we might congratulate Molineux, who has the England skipper l.b.w. sweeping a full, straight ball. Certainly think that the young spinner has shown well – and therefore maybe has earned the wicket. 80 for 2.

England have to win this, somehow. Which means that Australia have to bat again. Much discussion around this, in the Media Centre.

So, for England to be proactive towards the possibility of a win, they will have to declare, early, because otherwise, there is no time. (Know we’re talking longshots here and that it’s probably more likely that England will be dismissed than force the issue through declaring. Up to Australia, of course, whether they then look to amble towards a draw or accept the challenge and chase a win). Time is everything – or time and the willingness or otherwise to offer or accept the gamble.

Amy Jones, who has had a difficult time, earlier in the series but who can, as they say ‘play’, hoists Molineux confidently straight, for four, to go to fifty. Then she clubs her through cow corner to take England to 95 for 2.

From the opposite end, it will be Gardner, for her first foray in Tests. She tends to spin it. Bold flight but nothing too alarming for the batters, first up.

Jonassen has switched to the Pavilion End. England get to 100, for 2, in the over.

Gardner, returning, does get meaningful spin. Elwis, now on 6, almost embarrassed.

Minutes later, that same batter is run out, following good work from Bolton. Tightish but she was out by a few inches on the bat-slide. Elwiss made 9 from 39, so her contribution was on the quiet side: the incoming Sciver will have to contend with the returning Perry. Could be a fascinating phase; arguably England’s most dynamic two batters in… and the Aussies ‘up and about’.

In fact Perry’s first over back is mixed; no-ball, straining for pace but also a shortish, sharp one that nips back and buries itself into Jones’s thigh. As we approach tea, the ‘goddess’ of yesterday (and yesterday’s blog) will follow Jonassen for a further over – her seventh. She comes around to Jones and offers width, with fielders in the third man through to extra cover sector. Bait not taken and we retire for further refreshment with the home side at 118 for 3.

Did I mention Kangaroo Man, yet? Nope.

Earlier, whilst perambulating with my new soul-sis’ Selina Steele (of Aus News Corp) we found ourselves in conversation with a young geezer in a shockingly yellow kangaroo suit. Asyado. Turns out he was on his ‘stag day’: he had asked for a Cricket Day Out but the forfeit – insisted upon by Best Man etc – was the costume. The groom-to-be is English. Weirdly, he appeared to be sober.

After the resumption, Jones advances to Molineux and drives uppishly, looking to ‘move things along’. She miscues a little and finds Haynes at mid-off. Easy, waist-high catch. 119 for 4.

Taylor – traditionally, the no. 3 bat, remember – may need to do something special. She gets a freebie from Molineux which she clatters on the full through midwicket. She cannot, however, go on.

Tucking the bat behind the front pad, she is plumb, to the off-spinner, who is having a good day. Plenty of bat on the ball but plainly after pad. Taylor has undone herself a little and may have exposed England, now: this on a pitch that is no minefield. Brunt is in and she is a fighter but this feels like a tipping point.

After 50 overs, England are 140 for 5 and the chatter may be turning more again to that Widening Gap Theory. The home team have looked comfortable enough on occasions but have again proved vulnerable to the test-over-time experience. Some good, solid cricket rather than absolutely inspired cricket is proving enough, for Australia.

Brunt is morally defeated twice in a row by Molineux but the ball finds a way to fine leg, bringing up the 150. It’s beautiful and bright, momentarily. Pity we Meedya Types have no sight of the iconic Church of St James’s which sits to our left – it must be looking splendiferous.

With Australia palpably, might we say terminally on top, Brunt and Sciver are seeing things through. Which means time disappears.

Because this suits nobody (really) Sciver goes after Molineux, smashing her rather unconvincingly and aerially towards Perry. Ver-ry tough to see (even with replay) whether that was a genuine chance. Whatever, Sciver endures.

Soon after, another pearler from Molineux draws an edge which falls narrowly short of Lanning at slip. We go to more drinks with England hanging on; 168 for 5 the score.

Vlaeminck is back for the 61st. Bowls a couple of genuine bouncers and is consistent; will settle her, you would think.  Minutes later, Brunt is the first to hook one at head height. She controls it well.

Sciver has played incredibly straight by her whip-wristed standards so I applaud her fifty, in the 65th over. Brunt, her partner, is on a princely (princessly?) 14 off 67 balls. This is not Brunt-like but can only reflect the state of the game, which is not exactly on pause but almost, despite the theoretical urgency.

Are England now seeing out today? On the basis of what? Is the main driver here (as I may have suggested earlier) Trauma Avoidance? It’s both a nonsense and a completely natural instinct. ‘We do not want a whitewash. We won’t let these buggers crush us. A worthless draw is *actually not worthless*’.

Gardner is back. Her first ball turns and ricochets off Brunt’s carefully applied bat… and pad… and dribbles through onto the stumps. 189 for 6.

Shrubsole is in. Not entirely confident that she’s in the kind of nick that will restore some English Pride but she has previous; she has shown a certain level of grit. Just not recently, from memory.

Gardner has her first Test Wicket, then. And now she can go on to enjoy and even luxuriate in Australia’s utter dominance. She can flight it, rip it with rare freedom. Look out – I think there may be more to come from that arm of hers. 192 for 6.

Ditto most of this, for Molineux. She can toss it up without issue. To Shrubsole she now has four fielders around the bat and we have already seen that she can spin it. Tellingly, Sciver has disappeared, whilst being not out.

New ball is due – not taken. I might have thrown it the other debutant, Vlaeminck, just for the craic. To our left on the the tellybox a lot of conversation about how disappointing England’s lack of ambition has been – as well as re- their inability to bat for more than a couple of  sessions. Get all that but would just note that some of those dissing the lack of dynamism were maybe not the most enterprising themselves when out there in the kit.

There are 11 Aussies glaring at Shrubsole from within about fifteen yards as she faces Molineux’s last delivery of the day. And it’s pret-ty similar as Gardner loops down the   ensuing and final over. Helmet and shin-pads are donned as yet another fielder hauls up ‘intimidatingly’ close. Dot ball. As anti-climaxes go, this was, erm, a worldie.

 

#WomensAshes. Taunton.

So a walk through Bristol is my warm-up. Fifty minutes, Ashley Down to Temple Meads. Past those hillside allotments, through those muggy, mural-tastic streets, past the Extinction Rebellion Posse. Then the train.

Taunton is also muggy, with cloud but the possibility of brightness… and bugger me, England and Australia are warming up, too!

In between presentations. New caps for Jones and Gordon, of Ingerland (Scotland) and Vlaeminck, Molineux and Gardener for Australia.

Have mixed feelings about the 86 people filming and posting these presentations – the transition into a Public Event. Like the idea of a deep, rich, private moment for these players to enjoy: not the same if The Presenter has to rehearse the bloody thing for six hours, knowing half the universe is going to give them marks out of ten. Miserablist? Maybe.

Aus win the toss and choose to bat. This because the expectation is that the strip – used some weeks ago in #CWC19 – is part-worn and likely to prove testing in the fourth knock. However, it does feel like England have an opportunity to make inroads this morning; weather feels designed to accommodate Shrubsole.

Brunt opens. Bouncy job, first up – comes through above the hip. Honestly great, sitting here, to see these women in their whites, *actually doing* the Test Cricket thing. Maiden over.

Healy gets the first runs off the bat. Drive through mid-off. Some encouragement – i.e. some swing, some bounce for both Brunt and Shrubsole – as England look to make a dent in the Aus higher order. They need to, you suspect. Australia are 6 for 0 off 4.

Brunt bowls a genuine bouncer, which Healy hooks in front of square for four. Not absolutely smashed but bold shot, nevertheless. Shrubsole beats her outside edge twice, consecutively, before over-pitching in search of that swing. Healy drives her through extra for another four. 19 for 0 after 6.

If Australian see out the first hour I foresee real trouble, for England, here.

Aha. Slightly from nowhere, Brunt castles Bolton. Peach. Ver-ry full; it’s length rather than any fireworks in the air or off the pitch that do for the left-hander. Great ball.

Healy looking a million dollars. Lanning has joined her. England have a field set for Healy to drill out towards point: she keeps doing it but piercing that cordon. 33 for 1 after 8. Predict 158 for Healy, this knock. (*Fatal*).

It’s not a summer’s day, in Taunton. Which might support what Shrubsole is trying to do. But actually, she’s not hugely troubling, for either batter, just now.

Big Moment as Ecclestone comes in for the 12th. First ball turns and beats the outside edge. Healy negotiates the over.

Lanning is watchful – 0 off 13 balls – but then glides Brunt beautifully behind point to get off the mark. Four. Middled. Sweet.

Ecclestone dives after a near-chance. Can’t quite get there. Personal suspicion is that Wyatt (for example) *might have*.

Game continues and Australia proceed to 60 for 1. Sadly, Ecclestone retreats from the pitch at this point – mid-over. Huge shame for her as she looks upset… and in pain as she departs. Huge for Kirstie Gordon, who may be one of very few debutants to enter Test Cricket to complete somebody else’s over.

Healy gets to a stunningly good 50, dispatching a poorish full-toss from Gordon. Eleven fours.

Later in the over the left-arm finger-spinner gifts her a shocker of a ‘beamer’ which she also carts to the horizon. Bit worrying for the bowler… and for England. Predict 500 and-odd, for the visitors and another potential massacre, *if England aren’t ver-ry careful, now*.

Hah. The Perverse Universe. Immediately after that shocker of a prediction, Gordon bowls the two best balls of the day, to Lanning, absolutely bewildering the outside edge. No joy but immense comeback from the bowler.

Welcome news. Ecclestone is back on the park.

Gordon is still serving up a rather mixed bag. Some killer-balls but full-tosses, too. And when she tries to vary the flight from that fullish, loopyish staple, Lanning clatters the shorter, flatter one to the cover boundary. Marsh will come in to bowl the 25th over, with Australia cruising, pretty much, on 80-something for 1.

Wow. Healy just misses one, on leg stump, from Gordon. Momentary lapse and gone. She was trying to swat it away behind square: ball did very little. First Test Wicket for the Scottish spinner and Australia are 91 for 2. Enter the magnificent Perry. Farewell to my predictions – you know I didn’t *actually mean them*, right? Healy made 58 (not 158).

Aargh. Knight drops a medium-simple catch after Lanning  prods, rather, to short extra. Could be huge; the captain will rightly be furious with herself. The skies are opening up and Perry and Lanning might punish England. 100 comes up in Marsh’s over – the 28th.

From the other end, Gordon again offers a biggish full-toss. Lanning says “cheers, mate” and it’s four more. 106 for 2 at lunch. Perry has 10, Lanning has 27. I will have that lasagne, please.

Brunt will re-open proceedings. Followed by Ecclestone, which is a relief, after what looked to be an upsetting injury earlier. No drama though, yet.

Brunt is bowling with intent; short, short, sometimes. Ecclestone, mercifully, seems to be bowling with decent flow, suggesting she’s not suffering too much.

Spin twins. Ecclestone from the Pavilion, Gordon from the River End. Ball turning a touch, slowly, rather than really ragging. Have wondered aloud if Gardener, for Australia, might turn it more than anyone – thereby uncoupling the alleged advantage to Ingerland. Fielders round the bat, for Perry, just now.

Bit concerned for the safety of those close fielders, to be honest. Gordon, whilst bowling some good stuff, has also served up some slightly scary full-tosses. Beaumont, at short-leg, may need to stay vigilant. 136 for 2, after 43.

Longish, quietish spell in which Gordon and Ecclestone keep a lid on Aussie progress. But in the 50th over, the Southern Stars do get to 150… & Lanning goes to her personal 50. She’s been goodish rather than sparkling but simply enduring is powerful enough, for now. Drinks.

Marsh is next up, from the River End, inevitably. 😉 Starts with a pearler but then offers a gift down leg – four.  Charlotte Edwards on comms wondering where Shrubsole is. Decent point.

It’s maybe not ‘suddenly’ but suddenly Lanning is gone – bowled Ecclestone. Fabulous, flighted ball which carried on straight; Lanning skittled, retreating, the ball somehow beneath the swishing bat. Both a good delivery and an error, you might say. 57 for the outgoing batter: in comes Haynes, at 160 for 3.

Oof. Another near-ouch as Ecclestone drops one in and Beaumont nearly gets decapitated by Haynes. Four through midwicket. Generous cloud, now, but the horizon is bright: decent breeze will blow these tufts away soon enough.

Apropos naff all, it feels, in the context of a lot of background noise, like the match needs scores of 300 plus, to ‘legitimise’ Women’s Tests. As we enter the 60th over with the returning Shrubsole, the visitors appear to be headed for that target… or beyond… particularly if these two persist. 180 for 3 as Shrubsole hands over to Marsh.

Marsh offers a legside ball then a wide one – both boundary balls, for Haynes, who goes to 21 off 27.

When Gordon follows Marsh at that River End, she starts with another full-toss, which Perry ushers with some ease to the mid-off rope. Frustrating. Shortly after, Perry goes to another 50, untroubled. Australia 200 up, for 3 down. At tea, that becomes 203 for 3, with Perry on 51 and Haynes on 26.

The left-handed bat is dancing down, to Gordon and booming her for four. Notable in that it’s the first time that we might attribute the word ‘lusty’ or maybe ‘violent’ to the act of batting.

Healy played through, rather than clubbed or boomed, I reckon. Lanning and Perry have been relatively circumspect. That, from Haynes was a wallop.

After 73 overs, Australia have 212 for 3. With that, we are informed that today’s attendance is 2,040. For Somerset, I think that’s a significant disappointment.

Elwiss will bowl the 76th – her first. She comes around, to Haynes, with her medium-pacers. She is straight, trying for little leg-cutters, I think – and bowls a maiden.

An observation. I know these bowlers know what they’re doing but I’m wondering if two or three of them might try getting in closer to the sticks. Marsh and now Elwiss bowling from markedly wide positions. Understand they will have their reasons/preferences/plans but clearly you have to shift the ball less from a straighter delivery position to inconvenience the batter. Generally.

81st over and Shrubsole takes the new ball from the Pavilion End. Needs to make something happen. Lovely to see that cherry gleam in the sunshine… but no obvious encouragement for the England seamer, other than a tad more bounce, perhaps. 228 for 3.

Brunt has made a couple of errors in the field. Hope this has made her angry. She’s in, now. First impressions? Didn’t come through with any pace.

Apropos bugger all, (revisited), I’m sitting next to Selina Steele, from (Aus) News Corps, Izzie Westbury and Adam Collins. Know Adam *reasonably well* but only just met the two women today. Said hello to Geoff Lemon earlier. Slightly bigger media representation here than on my previous visits: that Test Thing, I suppose.

At drinks, on 86 overs, Australian are 238 for 3. There is the sense that Shrubsole is labouring a little. As are England. The visitors look well capable of seeing the day out.

Given the weather for the next day or two, things are not looking that hopeful for a strong and sustained response from Knight and co. (Hunch being that Beaumont might conceivably get a big lump of runs if the weather stayed fine but a) it won’t so b) the fear is England may get battered if they have to bat through challenging, showery conditions. Bit pessimistic but – yaknow – *recent experiences*. Plus right now a dynamic bit of fielding and/or a cockup from the batters feels implausible. This is drifting.

Ah. In addition to the doom-mongering above, hearing Beaumont has gone for an x-ray following an injury to her left thumb. Honestly, seeing her field at short-leg for hour after hour today, she’s gotten off fairly lightly.

Could be really huge, that, in terms of England’s reply. Beaumont is a fine player, she’s tough and you would have to have her playing a key role if England were to go well, here. But batting with a sore thumb… ain’t good.

95 overs. Haynes gets to 50. Australia have 259 for 3. They are bossing it. Tomorrow’s weather may yet precipitate a batting collapse (geddit?) but clearly it may also usher a second batting horror-show over the ensuing hours.

England are in some trouble. It’s also true that their ground-fielding has been average – so on most counts, they are behind. The 100 partnership between Perry and Haynes comes up.

100 overs done. 6 p.m. prompt. Australia 265 for 3, with Perry on 84 and Haynes on 54.

Unquestionably Australia’s day but with disruption likely (and therefore implosions possible) who knows what that actually means? The thinking may be that England are up against it – that their batting may be simply unable to resist an Aussie attack buoyed by a worn pitch and muggy, streaky skies. But who knows? Besides, more pertinent than any theories about whether England can hang on in there are the questions around how they might win this; for win it they must.

#CWC19. Also known as The World Cup Final. Blimey.

#CWC19. Also known as The World Cup Final. Blimey.

Rain, apparently, at Lord’s but gloriously rosy here. And if there’s a delayed start then I’ll just do another wash, or take another meander to the clifftop – yaknow, to settle the dog’s nerves. But if they do start on time… I’ll be ready.

Flying solo due to family jaunt abroad: muggins stayed to work a bit and look after aminals. Food is cooked, alcohol available but thinking may hold fire on that for a celebroglass tonight, maybe; before snoozing, exhausted.

Anger is an energy and I hope not to be too angry. Writing is energy-sapping, in fact – not that I’d be so dumb and haughty as to court sympathy for that. It’s just that I know I’m gonna be knackered, later. Especially starting now – before 9 a.m. Another schoolboy error.

So a very few words before kick-off.

Look, England have stormed into this final and they should win it. The sense is that they have irresistible quality – particularly in the case of Roy, Bairstow, Archer and Woakes. In other words when they start.

Then they have All The Other Guys – Stokes, Buttler, Morgan, Rashid – it surely adds up to too much? Even allowing for the statesmanlike brilliance of Williamson and the genuine excellence of Boult and his co-seamers?

There is of course some hope – some real hope – for New Zealand. They are tough, they compete, they find a way, to a remarkable extent; it’s pretty much a national characteristic to defy the odds, the numbers, the demographic and the Way Things Really Should Be.

Today it may be their best hope is that the dampness around and the greyness forecast facilitates something outrageous from those seamers; England at 30 for 4, followed up or preceded by another uber-gritty kiwi knock, clawing their way to another ludicrous victory. Good luck to them.

Good luck to them but I think they’ll get beat. I think they won’t get all of Roy and Bairstow and Root and Morgan and Buttler early enough, or shockingly enough, to throw this England off-course. England are the best at this format and I expect them to come through.

If the day was brighter I might be more bullish on this; the imperious Roy might be both predictably violent and un-get-outtable, too – ditto Bairstow. England might ‘do another Australia’ and smash their opposition. Feels possible but less likely, looking at skies, social media and tv. Still. Surely it’s got to be England? (Ahem, *fatal*) and it may just be a question of how big the margin is.

Toss delayed 15 mins… Kiwis win and decide to bat. Boldish.

Minor-or-possibly major that Wardy (who we know is excellent) does that Forgetting The Women thing, saying all-too-blithely “of course England have never won the World Cup”. Ah. But some brilliant stuff on the tellybox – with Will Greenwood notably, inspiringly honest.

Now the pre-amble does feel a bit of an amble. When the body really wants to sprint from the starting-blocks. Bring ’em out, you umpires!

Reckon that is a bold call, to bat, from Williamson. Must know that Woakes and Archer should be pret-ty tasty in the first ten overs: that the match could be over, as that Australia game was, in the first 40 minutes. Gamble, certainly.

Anthems. Wow. Forgot Curry was in the England squad; decent player to have on the sidelines. Another reminder of the depth of the home side?

Guptil will face Woakes. Swung a mile. Wide. Then he bowls conservatively – holding back that same outswinger. Guptil slashes at him, gets bottom edge. Then four through gully – aerial.

Interesting over. Woakes plainly bowled within himself after that first, outrageous delivery. Guptil proactive or outright aggressive, in manner. Gambling. Now Archer.

Understated start from Archer but then drama as Guptil is beaten… but without the edge that England claimed. Wisely, Morgan opts not to review – great call from umpire Erasmus.

Woakes has Nicholls… not. Height saves him: beauty of a delivery that comes back through the gate but review saying it’s over those stumps. Moral victory for Woakes. 10 for 0 after 3 and you would say that New Zealand are ahead on points, by virtue of surviving the early moments. Does feel like England are looking for control rather than racing in.

Guptil guides Archer over third man for six, then booms him back over his head. He’s suddenly 17 off 15 and the start really is made, now, for the kiwis. Archer a tad short and a tad below-par. Could be nerves, of course.

Woakes in for his third, is looking better without threatening. 24 for 0 after 5 and maybe this is just want the contest needs – a contest?

Archer in again and bowling at 90mph, then 92. But still not entirely discomfiting Nicholls. Reckon the visitors will be ver-ry content with 26 for 0 after 6.

Woakes bowls fuller than Archer. Guptil, looking to go across the line, somewhat, misses and is out lbw after a confirmatory review. Important – and tribute to Woakes’s ability to stay cool, stay disciplined when others might be straining harder for the magic ball. Williamson is in at 29 for 1. Fine over finishes with an absolute peach that Williamson follows but does not touch – quite.

After 8 overs New Zealand are 30 for 1, with the runrate understandably lowish but having avoided the kind of carnage that might have killed off the game – what with England’s batting, the Barmy Army, thirty years of hurt and all that. They’re in it but Nicholls is having to graft – not entirely convincingly – for his 10 runs (off 26). There is still some swing, for Woakes, as well as a bit of nip off the surface.

33 for 1 off 10 leaves things fairly even, you would think. England will expect more than that from their openers but Williamson, well, he’s him, eh? If the game turns tight and tactical there may be no-one better.

A rare gift from Woakes is clubbed away to point, by a no-doubt relieved Nicholls. Looking at the batting to come (which lacks the heft of the opposition line-up, yes?) he may have an important role to play. Taylor and Neesham may bring something but somebody is going to need to stay, for New Zealand, you suspect.

In comes Plunkett, from the Pavilion End. Nicholls pulls him, safely, forward of square, for two. Six, in total, from a fairly mixed over. Score predictor is 295, interestingly enough. That would be a challenge.

Woakes finishes with another good over – just the one from it and New Zealand 47 for 1 after 13. It’s a rather low-key game, at the moment. That may be to the credit of the men-in-black and it is surely to their advantage as we start. But is it enough?

Plunkett’s second over goes for 7. Wood will come in. As he did against the Aussies, he bowls an extravagant outswinger – again uncontrollably – for an encouraging(?) wide. Next two balls are also leaving the batsman, Williamson. Wood is running in with real vim, here and the ball is hooping for him: must find a touch more control.

On balance you would say this is a decent bowling performance from England, so far, rather than a great one. Given the visible encouragement here, for the seamers, the thought does arise that Henry and Boult really could out-bowl their oppo’s and therefore make something extraordinary happen.

Plunkett concedes another four, to Nicholls, who now has 31 off 45. Williamson, meanwhile, has 9 from 30.

Good over from Wood. New Zealand are 70 for 1 after 17. Williamson predictably looking quietly determined.

Rashid. First sign of aggression – albeit classically executed – as Williamson dances down to the leggie. The skipper then chips one up and over midwicket; seven from the over.

Nicholls guides one beautifully through backward square off Wood, who is banging it in. Now the opening bat looks to be finding his flow. Wood responds with a great bouncer under the chin. His last ball flies through at 93 mph; the lad’s really trying.

Williamson won’t let Rashid settle. First ball middled over mid-on for four. 91 for 1 after the first 20. Poised.

Poised in the sense that New Zealand have gotten to 100 one-down. And therefore might go on. Unknowable of course, how many England might be but the pitch is now looking relatively benign. So if Roy & Bairstow did fail, you do wonder if somebody like Stokes or Buttler – remember him? – might prosper, to telling effect. In fact my hunch (for now, this moment*) is that Buttler is gonna win this thing…

Plunkett back in, for a mini-spell, I’m guessing.

HUGE MOMENT. Plunkett beats Williamson and Morgan is convinced. Reviews instantly. Williamson is out, off a goodish length ball. 133 for 2 with the Main Man gone. A charge goes round the ground – round the country. Second look confirms it was a great ball; killer length, little bit of bounce, hits medium-highish on the bat. 103 for 2, off 23.

More from Rashid. And Plunkett. Good, quietish spell, for England.

Nicholls gets to 50 off 71 balls. Excellent, determined effort. However, Plunkett is asking more and better questions, now.

Nicholls is watchful but not watchful enough, apparently. Plunkett finds the killer length again and bowls him off the inside edge. 118 for 3. If you read the fine piece by Vitushan Ehantharajah the other day you will also know that Our Liam kinda deserves his moment. Delighted for him. 122 for 3 off 28 and the game has swung back towards England. Morgan has the field in saving ones and the energy is up – on and off the park.

Plunkett is staying beautifully full and straight to the newcomer, Latham. His bowling is freeing up Rashid, now. The spinner seems more confident, has more tricks. Three from his over and a subtle tightening continues.

In comes Stokes – which I can live with – but he may gift a few runs, for all his Bothamesque threat. Four singles from the over.

Another drama vacuum – mostly, again, in a good way, for England. As Stoakes finishes his second we sit at 141 for 3, from 33. New Zealand will know that a significant gear-change will be necessary – but when?

Wood puts that question on the back-burner, claiming Taylor lbw. Erasmus took a looooong look, as there is always a query re height, with Wood but right or wrong, the decision will stand. No reviews remaining.

Enter Neesham. Wood is enjoying this, now.

Major, for England that both Plunkett and Wood have joined the proverbial party. Both can provide the right batsman with ammunition – what with all that pace an bounce – but latterly they have bowled consistently well.

Stokes continues. Neesham is not intimidated and 11 come from the over. 152 for 4 from 35.

Wood concedes just the one then Plunkett replaces Stokes. Latham picks one up and almost claims six. He then creams Wood through extra-cover in the next over. New Zealand need some of this. Wood responds again, with a bouncer.

Latham is fortunate to survive an ugly hoik to leg against Plunkett: no contact. The Black Caps must be looking to go on the offensive, partly because conditions appear to be favouring batsmen more than earlier. Neesham strikes for four. Can they get nearer to 280 than 250?

Ah. With ‘soft wickets’, maybe not – maybe neither. Neesham has lofted Plunkett straight to the grateful Root, at mid-off. Miscue; absolute gift. The fella de Grandhomme can hit. He may have to. Plunkett now has three; his contribution, in a World Cup Final, may be critical.

In his next over, Plunkett starts with a pearler, beating de Grandhomme all-ends-up outside the off-stick before bouncing him, advancing. It’s a great over; he finishes 3 for 42 from 10. Outstanding.

Archer is back. To no great effect, in truth. Then Wood. 196 for 5, off 43. Latham and de Grandhomme have now both had a decent look at this; can they engineer say eight an over to raise that challenge beyond 250-260? 200 up with six and a half overs remaining.

Disappointingly, Archer bowls three wides in the over. He’s been ordinary, by his standards, today.

Wood is in for his final over. Again it’s goodish and quick but Latham does clout one, for six. 10 overs 1 for 49 for the northern quick; honourable effort.

Archer then does find his groove. Bowls an over to make most of us smile. Sharp, slower, loopy, bouncy, crafty, delicious. Just the three from it – the 45th over.

In comes his strike partner. A slow, slower ball suckers de Grandhomme, who dinks off a leading edge to mid-off. Six down, now, with Woakes having claimed his second. 220 for 6 with just 3 overs remaining. Santner will join Latham.

Woakes reviews one around leg-stump, against Latham. A long-shot; the third umpire confirms it was pitching outside leg. However, the squeeze is still applied… until, with the bowler trying to do something tricksy, he slams one down leg, Buttler can’t stop it and five go to the score.

Short-lived respite. Next ball another miscue brings another dolly for the sub fielder Vince. Latham gone. Henry defiantly clubs one to cow corner for a rare breakout: four.  238 for 7 as Archer steps up to bowl the last.

A marginal wide, for height, is backed up by a straight one. Beamer-full, actually, but legal and straight enough to account for Henry; bowled. 240 for 8 as Boult strides out – no doubt nervously, Archer having been brilliant for the last four overs. 241 (for 8) is the total for England to chase.

Boult has ‘something to bowl at’ but England have done enough there, you’d think. They have time, as they did against Australia, to settle and then build. They need less than five an over. So start in Test Match Mode… and then build.

I understand that pressure can accumulate but 240 is not a huge target – not when you have Root and Stokes to dig in, if necessary and Morgan and Buttler to blast you home. I repeat my (*fatal*) prediction that England will win and that they can probably choose how to do it – by bringing the boom, or with discipline and maybe even some restraint.

WOW. Decent appeal first ball. Williamson reviews. Given not out. Stays with umpire’s call. Roy incredibly fortunate but the rules say he’s in. But that is a MASSIVE MOMENT right there. Fabulous, testing over from Boult – predictably.

Henry looking hungry for it, too. Absolutely crucifying Roy, early on. Roy responds with a beautifully blocked straight drive. Four. 5 for 0 after 2; England could easily be 2 down. Great sport.

Bairstow scuffs one back behind himself to get off the mark. Boult beats Roy but the England star then drills him out through cover and then plays a classical forward-defensive for a single. Proper Contest.

Henry at Roy. Again a real test; maybe we should note that already this final is, refreshingly, patently a real contest between bat and ball. Maybe that’s a legacy we might want to hold onto?

Bairstow’s quick hands are being made to look snatchy and nervy. He does get a boundary but he’s nowhere near being into his rhythm. Boult errs, though, offering a full-toss with enough width for Bairstow to push through extra-cover. It’s middled – maybe the first one. Another four.

Roy follows suit, driving Henry for a further boundary. England don’t have much control but their gambol is paying off, so far.

But then not. Roy goes at another full one from Henry and is caught, low, behind. No less than the bowler’s start has deserved. Leg-cutter does for the batsman. 28 for 1. In comes Root, sees out the over – the sixth.

So it’s the Yorkshiremen. Bairstow still bit twitchy, Root ab-so-lutely the bloke you’d want to call on, for nearly every eventuality.

Bairstow on-drives nicely for another four. Might he find a way towards some form? Might Root’s presence help – the characteristic turnover, the energy, the robustness? Important phase as we approach bowling changes.

Staggering delivery from Henry. Utterly unplayable away-swinger, draws no contact. Ball still hooping.

Short one from Boult offers a chance to Bairstow – taken. He pulls emphatically to square leg for four. Root seems in decent nick but Henry does him with that leg-cutter en route to an impressive maiden. 39 for 1 after 10.

Next it’s de Grandhomme. Bairstow misjudges the pace and lofts short of mid-off, slightly disconcertingly. Bairstow doesn’t learn. Last ball of the over he dinks it straight back to the bowler. Shockingly, he can’t hold on to a relatively simple catch.

Three consecutive maidens but no joy, for Williamson and co. England under the cosh, make no mistake. Root – who always gets to thirty before you’ve noticed he’s in, is 2 off 20. Bairstow is on a scratchy 19 from 34. 42 for 1, off 13.

A typical over. Bairstow beaten twice but then clips one brilliantly off his toes, for four. Then an awful-looking slash draws another inside edge past his own stumps. Fortunate again. New Zealand have bowled better than England, thus far.

Finally, some Rooooott, from Root. Lovely drive through off, for two, then a deft wee chop towards third man. Encouraging.

Ferguson. He draws less bounce than Bairstow expects and almost finds an under-edge. Ferguson hits 93 mph – as Wood had. Root takes on the short one – well fielded at backward square.

You don’t very often see Root discombobulated but here come two such moments. First he charges de Grandhomme rather wildly and misses: second immediately subsequently he’s out caught behind. We really are game on, now, at 59 for 2. England really need this drinks break!

Morgan joins Bairstow. What a challenge for the England captain. If he gets his aggressive head on, you fear it might be trouble: he might say “it’s the only way I know”.

Morgan dances down to de Grandhomme and the bowler slings it wide – so wide that the England man can hardly reach it. He still levers it up and over mid-off but not without risk.

Tellingly, Bairstow is unable to accept a gift from de Grandhomme; a loopy full-toss that most of us woud have dispatched – at the club, maybe not here – to the boundary. Then a precious boundary comes, drilled, emphatic.

It can’t last. Bairstow plays on. Made a ver-ry mixed 36 in difficult circumstances. England are in some trouble, at 71 for 3. What was my hunch about Buttler, again?

Stokes has made a virtue of patience, for the last year or more. He has been watchful and mature. England need that now, surely? Otherwise the dream is gone.

Stokes, too, looks nervy. Charges and misses. Stays and misses. And this is against de Grandhomme (with all due respect). So the scrambled minds in the moment and the ascending run-rate are beginning to conspire against the home side. Pressure.

Morgan is hit on the helmet, by Ferguson, who is still bowing quickly but without the control of either Henry or Boult. A bouncer lauches over the ‘keeper and away.

Great point, on commentary. England are “charging and hitting” (and missing too much) rather than say charging and picking the gap. Agree. There’s insufficient craft from the batters, against admittedly good bowling. Pressure. 86 for 3 after 23.

Neesham is in. First ball and Morgan has hoisted it unconvincingly out over cover. He’s out caught, by Ferguson, diving superbly forward. In comes a bloke name of Buttler. England 86 for 4.

Crazy-early but Buttler looks good. Much work to be done.

Lord’s is quiet: just think back at how Edgbaston sounded, the other day! Lord’s is quiet.

Neesham is going well enough. The required rate is up to a run a ball. We may have heard this before in some other context but New Zealand – the minnows, the underdogs, the unfancied – are bossing a world final. Fabulous.

De Grandhomme, absurdly, is still bowling maidens. It’s 98 for 4 after the 27. There is no sign of any counter-attack from Stokes and Buttler; they clearly hope to persist over time and gather hopes incrementally.

The hundred comes up with a defiant thrash from Stokes, off Neesham. Clubbed straight for four. 106 for 4 off 28. It may be important that Buttler seems unruffled, able to pick his shots, roll those handsome wrists. Something special may be necessary, here; he will know that.

In his final over, de Grandhomme’s off-cutter befuddles Buttler, who is almost bowled, almost caught behind. Extraordinary spell from the medium-pacer. Nobody, in fact, has got after him in the whole tournament.

Boult is back. With a softer, less responsive ball, what can he do? As we enter the last 120 balls, England need 127 more runs. Santner will partner Boult. The batsmen ‘have a little look’.

Buttler cuts loose a little. Slices Boult out over point, where Guptil is groping at the air. Four. Santner’s flattish, shortish fingerspin is unthreatening but tidy eough. His second over only yields two to the England cause. When will the batsmen raise their level? As Henry returns, it feels like Stokes is looking to hit harder.

On this pitch, I’m not sure I agree with the sky caller’s assertion that 8 an over is no problem for England, over the last ten overs. Could be right – could be wrong. (Clearly, mostly, you’d back Stokes and Buttler to make that… but Biggish Call, on this pitch, in a World Cup Final).

The maths mean little compared to the minds. Buttler has middled most everything, whilst being conservative. Stokes has been steady-in-a-good-way. Can they fix their focus and play expansively as squeaky bum-time approaches? Win predictor has England 62% New Zealand 38%. Feels tad generous to the home side.

Review for lb against Buttler. Looks down leg. Is. The batsman is safe. Just two, from Henry’s over, mind. 143 for 4 after 36.

In comes Ferguson. Bowls wide and Buttler, reaching, crunches to the boundary. One big over might change the feel of this, dramatically – either way.

Neesham. Draws an error of timing, from Stokes, who nearly chops on. Noting – without irony – that there have been no sixes in this England knock. It’s tense.

Buttler lifts the crowd with a straight drive for four. 156 for 4 off 38. Meaning 86 needed off 72 balls.

Stokes hauls one through leg for another four – again not truly timed – but precious. If England do win this, we’ll be calling him ‘mature’ and ‘heroic’, you watch. (Some turnaround). Partnership now 76.

Henry has Stokes hopping, or arching rather, to avoid being reckless off the short one. Buttler, meanwhile, is inching closer to a kind of ease waaay beyond anyone else in the game. Undemonstrative, today, but none-the-less class.

Finally, some extravagance. Buttler dances away then flips high over his left shoulder for another boundary. Nerveless and exquisite.

Into the last ten overs. Seven-plus per over required. The batsmen are in control… but clearly must find boundaries with real regularity. Ferguson still bending his back.

69 from 54 needed. Neesham in again. Stokes finds a two. Then a great yorker nearly unseats him, almost comically. Just four from the over.

The tension can only grow; who can handle it best?

Ferguson concedes singles either side of a dot ball bouncer. Then Buttler shimmies again and flips it passed the vacant leg-slip area. Four. Off middle stump. Remarkable. 59 off 42.

Boult, from the Nursery End. Buttler blazes him over extra cover for four and goes to fifty. (And I take personal credit for this, yes?) The bowler is searching for the blockhole and finding it but there’s some good batting going on here. Stokes goes to 50, too, in the over.

Stokes is pulling Ferguson with extreme care. One. Buttler frees himself and booms over mid-off. Four. Slashes the next wide and third mannish… eventually confirmed as two. Then an attempted ‘stand and deliver job’ – misses.

Then… a miscue to the fielder in the deep. Caught. 196 for 5 and the twist this drama needed. Woakes must play a further part. 46 needed off 30. England have to deal in boundaries.

Woakes goes nuclear – understandably – but simply heaves it skywards. The keeper nearly fluffs it, in truth, but does hold on. Wow. Plunkett may have to smite a blow or two. He does hit four, off Ferguson.

34 needed off 18 balls now and the momentum firmly with New Zealand. Boult must deliver in every sense: so too Stokes, who smashes a four through midwicket. Plunkett is heaving manfully but failing to middle. Then missing. Then a full-toss is smashed for two, straight. Great yorker to finish. 24 needed off the last two overs. It’s a lot.

It will be Neesham. Plunkett gets one. One, from Stokes. Plunkett gone, driving high to mid-off. Dot ball but Stokes gets the strike. He must hit a six, you feel – rapidly. New Zealand must win this now.

Incredibly, Boult ‘catches’ Stokes but has one foot on the boundary – so 6! But Archer’s castled next ball!! With still 15 required from the last over. New Zealand must win this now!

Boult bowls two beauties- cramping Stokes. Third ball – six! Then a moment that will live forever. Stokes strikes out into the deep, then races back. On the way back the incoming ball hits the entirely innocent batsman… and goes for four – meaning six to the score. 3 needed from 2 deliveries. Unreal does not cover it.

Rashid is sacrificed in the run for two. Stokes remains on strike, for the last ball, with 2 required to win the World Cup.

AND WE GO TO A SUPER OVER!!

Wonderful madness. Maybe we should accept the wonderful madness of it, re-write the rules and share the trophy?

Let me share something with you, friends. If this was football – and penalties – I’d be walking. It just feels too much of a lottery. But this, although similar… this, I’m staying for.

Stokes and Buttler will bat for England. Boult to bowl. Wildish slice for three from Stokes. Single from Buttler. Four, through midwicket, from Stokes. Single. (Archer is warming up). A superb, wristy flick through midwicket by Buttler and England have a tasty 15 runs in their Super Over. Over to you, Mr Archer…

Our Joffra was magnificent in his later overs; tricksy as well as quicksy. Come on, my son!!

Need the loo, dog needs a walk but maybeee we’ll just hang on in there, eh? Through the interminable ads, asitappens..

Guptil and Neesham, for the Black Caps. They may be thinking England scored no sixes. They may just be shitting themselves. They will almost certainly want this done.

Archer, around, to Neesham. Bowls a wide. Two scrambled off the next. Neesham smashes the next ball into the crowd. Only 7 needed from 4, now. Roy misfields and they run 2. England throw to the wrong end, scrambled, on the next. 3 needed off 2. A single. 2 needed off the very last.

Guptil is run out!!! UNBEBLOODEEBeeeLIEVABLE. Staggering, staggering sport. Tremendous, powerful resolve and artistry, at times from New Zealand. Magnificent heart from England. Both cruel and deliriously beautiful. Ridiculous. Ridiculous.

What a contribution New Zealand have made! What a preposterous, soaring, mind-scrambling game. At the end of this, probably the Best Team in the World have won the trophy; maybe this is good? But even in their moment of utter, flabbergasting joy, England will surely be raising a glass to the guys from the other side.

Bravo, gentlemen, to all.

It’s not the Ashes (it’s a whole lot more serious than that). Maybe?

7.45 am. You – we, I – check the weather. For Edgbaston. Even though we’re not actually going (unfortunately), just because you have to, because it’s Oz… and a semi.

Met Office inconclusive; because Ingerland, because 20/30/40% chance of showers at various times.

Expectations? Mixed, in a stomach-churntastic kindofaway, again partly because this is Oz and that is especially spicy but also because us England and Wales fans know that our lot really have been outstanding for a period of time. And maybe we hold onto to those delusions about brilliance deserving reward, laughable though that is.

*Walks dog*. Begins to dwell on the Real Life Things which may inconvenience the ideal, seamless scorch-to-glory for Our Eoin and co – or rather my viewing of said phenomenon. Walk back, in truth, more than a tad concerned that I may MISS THE BLOO-DEE DENOUEMENT on account of the Cricket-in-the-Castles event I now have to attend, later! Cue additional stomach-churn…

Let’s start with a boldish one: I reckon most neutrals would have England down as a marginally better side. Better quality – ‘deeper’. However I also think it likely that most neutrals might have Australia as favourites because a) they just find a bladdy waay, mate b) Starc/Warner/maybe Finch, maybe Smith. They have worldies who seem like they just won’t fail; like they just won’t fail against England; today. 

Could be that Starc isn’t even Australia’s best bowler but he may be the one to grab hold of this thing, irresistibly. You could see him ripping out England’s Finest, especially if the conditions favour early swing – maybe if they don’t.

Starc is fearsome. I don’t personally buy his occasional slightly tawdry tough-man thing but he is fearsome and it feels like he loves the limelight, relishes and grows into the killer moment; owns it.

(Incidentally, this morning my Australian Cricket Family(!) email me some ‘semi-final prep’ which includes an interview with Starc, on his ‘Toughest Opponents’. He names AB, Steve Smith and Ricky Ponting and Virat Kohli. No brits, two Aussies. Co-incidence?)

*OK, porridge. And some down-time. In danger of peaking too early, here…*

TMS. Bayliss’s blandishments. Dull: Farbrace joking afterwards about his ‘calm’. All figures but does his extraordinary non-animation work? 

Generally, you’d have to say the white-ball culture and results are – to use that cruelly over-used word – ‘positive’. Credit the man, too, for removing any Bayliss ego from the whole coaching process: that takes some doing and it’s healthy. Whatever the broader achievements, Bayliss will know that it’s the next few days that will inevitably define him. So no pressure.

Cricket. Aus win the toss and choose to bat first. Obviously this means England will be working pret-ty heavily against the grain of the tournament.

Anthems. Awful – both. Can we not be proud of our families, friends, communities, countries without all that? Or am I just wondering because those two anthems are so duff?

Swift thought intrudes. What a stage for Joffre Archer, what an opportunity for him!

For all of them, of course: Woakes, first up. Warner drives him for four. Woakes – on his home ground, remember – settles, thereafter. Nothing else, for Warner, in the over: nothing much happening in the air, mind.

Archer bowls full and straight at Finch. HUGE LB SHOUT!! OUT!! G.D. for Finch.

This brings in Smith. Archer peppers him then draws an inside edge. Fabulous tension around; Smith and Warner in, together, with England (well, most of Edgbaston) roaring. Great, great sport. 6 for 1 at the end of the over.

Woakes bowling those disciplined lines but Warner clouts him defiantly for four. Woakes’s response is a pearler. Quicker, bouncier – Warner can only fend to slip! 10 for 2.

Huge appeal against Handscomb, first ball. Erasmus says not out… and the review stays with that umpire’s call. Wow. Such is the rawness of the excitement, half the crowd think there’s a dropped catch at point next up; in fact Handscomb has drilled the ball into the turf. Breathless, intimidating stuff and a huge, intimidating start, from England.

Archer is loving it. He is both hostile and beautifully calm – and quick. Just the one run from his second over.

Woakes in again and appealing again. Nothing given and they opt not to review;correctly, as there was an inside edge. These are tough times for the two batsmen. Movement off the pitch, some bounce and a whole lot of braying brits.

Early days – maybe too early to be thinking about how Starc and co might be on this pitch – but England could hardly have wished for anything better from a) their start b) the bowling. Both Woakes and Archer have absolutely risen to this. Handscomb absolutely guessing against Archer. 14 for 2 after 6.

He may be guessing against Archer but now he is comprehensively bowled, by Woakes. Beauty, alright but the fella looked scrambled. (Personal view but I’ve never rated him; looks really unconvincing so-o often). Aus 3 down for bugger all. Carey is in, already. Carey. Moments later and Smith is 2, off 19 balls.

Archer bounces Carey. Rather scarily, his helmet is buffeted off in the collision and he catches it. Funeee-but-scareee. The guy needs a little attention: checking the replays, he does incredibly well to catch that helmet; which may have been rolling wicketward.

Resuming, Woakes, in the ninth, is teasing Carey, slanting across and leaving him. Eventually, the batsman *actually hits one*, driving through the covers for four. But there is substantial lateral movement, now, for England’s opening bowler. How long will Morgan keep him at it?

Archer is in again for the tenth. Double-change, after this, or persist and try to crack this innings wide, wide open? Boldly, after another testing over from Archer, Morgan opts to stay with Woakes. The relative thin-ness of that Australian batting order clearly in his mind. 28 for 3 after 11.

Stokes, however, will follow at ‘Archer’s End’. Big Moment, you feel, in the game and for Ben Stokes the international bowler. He is also finding some bounce. Good over – just the one from it.

Now Wood, from the Birmingham End. He gets a ludicrous amount of swing, first up – wide. Going across Carey, with width, he beats him. Then a further wide, marginally down leg. Then one on leg stump, clipped fine, drawing an incredible stop at the boundary, by Woakes, followed by a fabulous parry by Stokes, at backward point. Proper contests all-round, here. Weird, mixed over from Wood, mind. Three wides, coupla pearlers.

Just that sense that the game is quietening, as Smith and Carey find a little comfort. (Although the latter may well be in some discomfort, following that blow to the head. He has strapping supporting that jaw, now: brave fella).

Morgan is a philosophical geezer but he will want to drive the advantage forward rather than just contain, you suspect. Imagine him silently cursing as Stokes and Wood make no further inroads. 47 for 3 after 15 and here comes Plunkett.

Smith drives him straight for four. Without being remotely dominant, it does seem like the Aussie Genius is bedding in. Wood returns and Smith slashes him to the boundary. Momentum change – a gentle one, admittedly but the visitors are re-building. Smith is ‘picking off’ Plunkett, rather. 66 for 3 after 18.

Rain is possible today but hard to predict. There is a reserve day – tomorrow – but let’s hope that DLS/weather issues just aren’t a factor. The Aus runrate is inevitably currently lowish (below 4) due to that spectacularly challenging start but who knows how Roy, Root and Bairstow may go?

Rashid is in… and Carey seems onto him, playing with growing confidence, now.

Plunkett follows… and now we are into a containment phase. Good over. Rashid will need to back that up. Minor errors in the field don’t help that suspicion that England are struggling to maintain their intensity and focus. Morgan might want a word. 87 for 3 after 22. More Plunkett.

On TMS, the excellent Farbrace noting that Carey has looked the pick of the Australian batsmen. Agree – and the bloke may have a broken jaw (which he may have to ‘keep with). Top effort.

Aus reach their 100 with no significant dramas, in the 25th over. So what might they post? 260? Weird how conditions seem so benign, suddenly. For all the flak about #CWC19 pitches it seems we are likely to get another fascinating test of skills, here. Hope so.

Rashid is getting a little turn but Carey again picks his googly and sweeps hard for four. If Smith and Carey’s concentration and patience can last, you wouldn’t rule out a genuinely BIG partnership. Their 100 hundred partnership comes up.

*Real World Interlude* . Walk the beloved pooch. Come back.

Rashid, finding his flow, his arc, his confidence, by the looks, has taken two wickets. Carey gone. Stoinis gone. 130 for 5 after 30. And Archer is back, as England look to mop this up.

Stoinis was lbw and Carey (maybe predictably?) was caught in the deep, by Vince, the sub fielder. So are we looking at Aus around 260… or all out nearer 200? Game poised.

Maxwell strikes Rashid straightish for six. Great question, though from Nasser on Sky comms. “Can he play the innings of the day, as opposed to just the shot of the day?”

150 up. Rashid still whirling away, asking those proverbial questions pointedly enough but when short clubbed away by Maxwell.

Archer draws a streaky edge from Smith… and smiles, broadly. He goes to the bouncer – too short. Huge moment as Maxwell mistimes him to cover; the ball may have stuck somewhat in the pitch, lobbing gently to a grateful Morgan. Six down. Cummins in. 157 on the board.

What a privilege, really for England to be able to field a Rashid/Archer combo. How lucky they are. As we enter the last 15 overs, neither are in completely unplayable mode… but both are throwing down some beauties and the range of questions being asked is extraordinary.

Archer has Cummins – who is no mug – befuddled. Slower balls/knuckle balls. Tough to read.

Rashid, meanwhile is into his last over. He ‘gets’ Smith with a ground-catch. Then he has Cummins (caught behind, brilliantly, by Root), before bewildering the incoming Starc for no reward.  Finishes with 3 for 54, does Rashid: got better as he went on, playing a crucial part in getting England to a situation where 200 all out is on. As did Archer, who finishes with 2 for 32. Chapeau.

Wood will bowl the 40th. He’s cranking it up and mixing it up: some at 90mph. Four from the over 175 for 7. Aus would settle for 230 or 40 now, alright. Then Plunkett: tidy. Just the one single.

Australia – and we don’t say this too often – look like they daren’t be aggressive. It’s all about nurdles and nudges, Smith and Starc intent on persisting and racing those singles. There may be no ‘charge’ because it would be sinful in the extreme not to use almost (if not every) available ball. Score predictor is saying 222 but they will be wanting 240.

186 for 7 after 43 and Wood continues, around the wicket to Starc. Second ball driven sweetly past mid-off’s left hand – a rare four. Wood responds with a great, quick bouncer. Infuriatingly, he follows that with another legside wide – typical of his day, which has been disappointing.

Plunkett has been rather similar. He concedes a six and a wide (for height) in the 45th. Sky comms: it seems questionable that Woakes hasn’t been in a little earlier. (He has four overs remaining). 14 from Plunkett’s over, relatively risk-free runs, too.

A touch belatedly then, Woakes, with Aus at 206 for 7. Smith plays the Ugliest Shot Ever across into leg, for one. Starc, now, is trying to hit. Misses, pretty much.

Appeal against Smith, last ball of the over. Reviewed. Highish. Stays with umpire’s call – not out.

Wood again. Good ball at Smith, inside-edged onto pad. Close. Some good work from Starc, in truth, and the partnership reaches 50 runs. And they have accelerated somewhat.

Wow. Stunning bit of work as Buttler collects then throws down the wicket at the bowler’s end, towards which Smith is scampering. He’s out.

Double-wow as Woakes, again finding that killer length, draws an edge from Starc. Buttler takes a regulation catch. Suddenly we have Behrendorff and Lyons facing and Aus are nine down.

And finally, some joy from Wood. He castles Behrendorff with a beauty of a yorker. Classic, uplifting finish for the locals. Australia all out for 223, with 7 balls left unused.

Surely a great start for England? Now over to Bairstow and Roy and Root – who are blessed with the knowledge that they can play no-risk cricket for 30 overs or more. (Like the first two actually will, though). That alone must make them favourites…and yet. And yet the whole history of sport.

The reply. (How nervous are we?)

Fascinating to see how well-behaved, as it were, Roy and Bairstow are. They surely just need to sit, play some Test-like Cricket and let the runs happen around that? Except this goes absolutely against everything Morgan’s been driving for four years. So we can’t know. The policy is rubbing crazily, deliciously against the reality.

Behrendorff opens then Roy is magnificently straight-batted against Starc and England are 6-0 after 2. Ditto Bairstow (who creamed one through the covers first ball) against Starc’s lesser-known partner. Two airshots from Bairstow and a maiden for the ‘other’ gangly left-arm quick.

Special, special hands from Roy as he lasers Starc out through extra-cover for four. Then the openers dart for two. Good mix of stout defence and skilled breaking-out so far, from England. Roy again drives Starc through extra-cover majestically and England are 16 for 0 after 4.

When Starc gives Bairstow a little width, the Yorkshireman clatters him to the point boundary – timed, powerful. Wow. Then Roy dismisses – and I do mean dismisses – Starc to backward square  with an absurdly sweet flick. Suddenly England 31 for 0 off 6. Danger already, for Australia. They opt for Cummins.

Four dot balls, including a good bouncer, not too high. Two from the over.

I’m wondering how Carey’s feeling? In pain, I would think? Fancy ‘keeping to Starc, with a raging headache? Behrendorff has switched ends, interestingly. Bairstow clips him for two to leg then drives past him – slightly aerially – straight for four. Almost a return catch. 40 for 0, now, after 8. England significantly ahead.

Astonshingly, Roy is almost making this look easy. (Know that’s *fatal*). He is rolling the ball wherever he wants. The fifty comes up, for no loss. Can Lyons change anything?

No. Not immediately. Because immediately, Roy smashes him for 6.

It’s going to sound provocative if I relate that England’s most profound challenge is not currently the Australian bowling…but the injury sustained to Bairstow’s groin(!) With the score having moved on to 71 for 0, the poor lad needs several minutes of (ahem) medium-personal massage. But he does resume.

The nature of what he does may be different, however. Bairstow, in his relative infirmity, may engage slog mode. He even does it to Starc – over mid-off. Roy does it, straight after, even better. We really are nearly entitled to use the word ‘romp’ here. Roy goes to 50 with another four and England are 95 for 0 at drinks. Remarkable stuff.

But there’s more. Smith thinks he’ll try and make something happen, so has ‘a little bowl’. Roy smites him for THREE CONSECUTIVE SIXES. As I walk out the door, Roy is 75 off 57 balls and England are 119 for 0.

Guess what. I’m not joking. I have to go. There’s a Cricket-in-the-Castles event, in Pembroke, I have to attend. And no, I didn’t schedule it. Back later with some gloating – I mean reflections…

I’ve been away five hours. I’ve been busy – I’ve *actually been* a star. (Fancy-dress stylee. Was ‘entertaining’ young children at the event and also being mugged by the little darlings –  mostly, amazingly, while their parents looked on). Let me grab a brew and try to make some sense of all this.

You will probably know by now that England have absolutely crushed Australia, by 8 eight wickets and that their excellence with the ball (generally) has been more than matched by their superlative batting, from Roy and Bairstow in particular. The captain and his trusty placer-and-deflector (Root) finished things off in fine style, after Roy found another level against Starc and Cummins. Australia were never in it.

Edgbaston, the place, the icon, the cauldron unquestionably played a part but the century-plus stand (again) from the opening bats decimated any hopes Australia might have had.

It was not just the runs but the how of those runs: Roy smiting and somehow flicking and carting all at the same time. Bairstow – after a watchful phase – was belligerent and brilliant as so often. Yes it was The Partnership, The Platform that made this happen but Poms will be dreaming mainly tonight about how Roy swung those deliveries away as if immune to the alleged pressures of the moment. It was utterly exceptional… and it was against Oz, and for the final.

I note, at 9.35pm, that there are highlights on Channel Four at 10pm. Maybe I’ll watch Roy’s cruel dismissal – clearly a travesty – and savour the cruise home after he and his fellow demi-god walked from the scene. Maybe I don’t need to. I saw enough and have heard enough now, to confirm this as one of the great days for British sport. Let’s hope that Sunday brings more of the same.

We can’t argue that this was a vindication for Morgan’s Way, for this batting performance once again spoke of utter fearlessness and the expression of dominance not patience. However Roy and Bairstow were sagacious enough to get themselves in before beginning to unpick, or indeed dismember the Australian attack. Once at ease on a track that only Smith and Carey amongst their opponents seemed able to read, their quality and that rare, rare confidence shone.