Worcester; Part Two.

Posted this immediately after the South African innings. Go back one post to check out how the England knock went.

 

Opening salvoes. Brunt first, to Lee; bowls full and straight. England seem suitably bristly and busy in the field – need to be, immediately. They are noisy and bright, knowing they must make something happen. After two fairly uneventful overs the visitors are 2 for 0.

Then the breakthrough: Wolvaardt, ball that seamed in at her. Inevitably, it’s Brunt, who sends her off before leaping in that Proper Pumped Fast Bowler stylee.

Ayup. Next over the fabulous Taylor stumps Luus, standing up to Shrubsole – confirmed by a tightish review. We going to get a game, after all?

Lee responds with the first boundary, off Brunt. And the second. South Africa are 14 for 2, off 5.

Shrubsole now getting appreciable inswing, Brunt bowling with her customary passion. Love the way the Northerner demands a wicket from herself – from everybody –  at least three times an over. Proper ‘quick’.

They really are a good combination, these two. Energy in the field remains high. But have South Africa settled? Maybe.

Predictably, Gunn is in for Shrubsole after four good overs. Equally predictably, Gunn is targeted and the runs suddenly flow. Lee and Van Niekerk are on 19 and 18 respectively after Gunn’s rather concerning first over – the tenth.

Ecclestone comes in for Brunt, at 43 for 2. Importantly, she drops onto a decent line and length but there’s a sense that the batters will counter forcefully; both striking freely against anything unworthy.

Is Gunn removed promptly, in favour of Sciver? No. Knight banks on her experience and unflappability… and Gunn settles. Important phase, in which South Africa control things, as opposed to surge ahead. After 15, they are 64 for 2.

Sciver is in for the 16th: she owes us one. Van Niekerk and Lee endure, with increasing, building authority; there are boundaries – sixes, even – as well as skilled resistance.

Things ebb and flow but as South Africa seem to have a measure of control (at 80 for 2), so it may be natural and reasonable enough to consider England’s weaknesses. Not, you understand, out of malice or premature negativity, but because the individuals, the environment must be durable to challenge. It comes with the profile, with the money, the expectation.

England are, of course pretty strong, being World Champs, but as greater investment comes in and the squad grows numerically, so the competitive nature of selection bites more brutally – or should.

Two players from the World Cup Squad missed out here, because (I’m guessing) Robinson and Knight want yet more dynamism, or a shift in the balance. At 16.26 p.m. with the South Africans having cruised through the period of second/third change bowlers, this mix feels like an area to be looked at.

Gunn, tremendous servant though she has been, is on that vulnerable cusp. But Sciver, Marsh and Ecclestone as a group did not back up the work of Shrubsole and Brunt and they, too find themselves in the Must Do Better category.

Ecclestone has to bowl well, not being a great athlete; Sciver is a real talent but we need more from her with the ball; Marsh has to play really close to her maximum in all three disciplines; Gunn is coming to the end of an illustrious career. To complete the rant, Shrubsole’s fitness is a concern: the team needs a couple more stars.

All this arises because England barely challenged Lee and Van Niekerk until Brunt then Shrubsole began the charge again – Shrubsole bowling the opposition skipper for an excellent 58. But this is not just about today.

Batting-wise, the lineup seems goodish… but they had a poor, poor day. However I don’t foresee too many occasions when all of Beaumont, Taylor, Knight and Sciver will fail.

Folks will inevitably compare today’s sloppy dismissals with The Blokes: unwise but so were the wickets – gifted away. Credit Brunt with breathing life into a performance that seemed fatally poor at 61 for 5 and then 80 for 7.

So England, in my humble view, need bowling. The fielding was good, the batting is or should be competitive at this highest level but the team lacks an edge with the ball; or rather needs more, quality options.

As Ecclestone starts the 33rd, South Africa are at 133 for 3. Minutes later, it appears Brunt has emphasised that star quality factor by executing a stirring catch deep in the outfield. It’s the sort of effort that reflects how her desire and power and athleticism set her apart. Turns out – after a long review – she never quite got there. The relieved but deserving Lee returns to her crease.

She is still there, on 77, into the 41st, as Brunt returns for her final fling at this. South Africa require just 27, with seven wickets left intact. The afternoon is now still and lovely, so if nothing changes in the next few minutes we’ll be applying the ‘s’ word to the visitors victory – serene.

Marsh is now firing them in flattish, from the New Road End but England are being quietly picked off. Occasional, incongruous music meets the boundaries that prick the calm.

Brunt is in for her last, the 43rd. She wills herself towards raising once more the contest… but it’s done.

Gunn must bowl the 45th. Her slower ball is just too slow,  too easily read and is carted to extra cover for four, leaving three needed.

Next over Lee kabooms Marsh for six to finish it. A deserved win for South Africa, who have emphatically outbowled and outbatted England. Lee is undefeated on 92 and Du Preez on 36. Whilst plainly England’s batting cost them the game, I’m left with more concerns about the bowling. Wonder if Mr Robinson feels the same?

Worcester.

8.40 a.m at Temple Meads and the train is rumbling agreeably in the sunshine. Cloud, yes, but the day is erring towards generous, cricket-appropriate offerings. I have a virgin century of minutes between me and New Road, in which to enjoy what I imagine will be mostly delightful-but-posh England.

It was green and buttercup full. It was chestnut-horsey. It was Yatey and Cam, rather serenely, malvernaciously lush; I liked it. Even when it turned greyer, four foot three from Worcester.

Brisk yomp to the ground, now equipped with the information that England are batting first. Smallish crowd have bundled through that hibernation-void-thing where womens’ cricket has laid up, these last few months, to stand and cheer, as the players stride out. Amy Jones faces the first ball, from Ismail. It’s full and it beats her.

I’m just querying Jones’s deep sit into her stance when she  uncoils a dynamic drive through extra cover for the first runs; four. She follows this up with a pull through midwicket, picking up the short ball encouragingly early; four more.

Beaumont gets off the mark with a streaky single to fine leg, off Kapp. Jones – in danger already of being affectionately labelled Jones the Bat – majestically clonks Kapp for another four through off. Outstanding start from her.

*Diverts briefly*. You may know me as an alarmingly positive geezer – I think I am. However I am again disappointed by the lack of support for this game. Sounds naff but the feeling has to be that these women simply deserve better. 13 for 0 off three, Jones has twelve of them. Really like her calm.

Beaumont is quality – we’ve seen that over the last year – but she’s mistiming here. No slips already though, for Kapp and then likewise for Ismail. Interesting.

In the fifth, Ismail gets one past the previously excellent Jones: scoots through her defences, bowled. The batter will be gutted with her swiftish 19; she’d looked in and confident. Enter Taylor.

Nice variety of length from the South African quick; certainly not afraid to go very full. Incoveniences Taylor but she squeaks a single to fine leg . Big Moment as shortly afterwards, Taylor is caught in front: killer length. England are 25 for 2 in the seventh over.

The incoming Knight gets off the mark with a half-volley past extra but is then also lbw, this time off a visibly pumped Kapp. Blimey. Trouble. Maybe particularly because Beaumont has hardly put a foot right yet. Some very strong players back in the pavilion; palpable sense that Sciver has to take up residence.

Did I say, by the way, that sitting out it’s coolish? Have my All Stars jacket on – mind you, did arrive in optimistically summery shorts and polo.

Sciver gets going with a twiddle down wide of fine leg before a flukey under-edge beats the keeper. Fielding been blighted by two or three fairly crass errors, already, in fact – later it generally rallies.

Hey. Maybe they don’t need the fielders, anyway?Beaumont skittled off another inside edge by the newly arrived Khaka.

All change on the bowling front as the slightish, smallish Ntozakhe offers the first spin. Sciver and Wyatt set about rebuilding, after 11.53, in sunshine – or at least brighter conditions.

Disaster – or maybe ‘disaster?’ – as Scivers mistimes one coming across her from Khaka, spooning it to midwicket. (On reflection it may be that Sciver made it look like it was coming across her, by doing that characteristic swing-across-the-line thing. Whatever. Horrible dismissal at a cruel time). England have bombed to 61 for 5 in the 17th. We’ve all gone quiet.

Almost unbelievably, Wyatt then cracks one straight at cover; again Khaka is the bowler. This is close to embarrassing, now; embarrassingly irresponsible. Please god the current, experienced pairing will play with some circumspection for ten overs. Otherwise England may be 100 all out.

Come the end of the 19th, Khaka is 3 for 13. On the plus side, more folks have joined us in the crowd.

Kapp changes ends, for the 23rd, with the score at 67 for 6. She generates good, slingy power, hurrying and then beating Brunt off a ten pace run. Ntozakhe continues, for her seventh. The game has gone to sleep, in a good way, for England.

Ismail returns after the one over from Kapp, with Brunt and Gunn exuding or projecting calm. Brunt just about keeps the lid on her predilection towards violence, as Ntozakhe wheels away at her.

Tryon becomes the game’s fifth bowler in the 26th, bundling in, rather, to offer left arm medium pace (plus?) Our first musically-enhanced boundary for aeons comes from the other end, mind, as Brunt sweeps the spinner forward of square leg.

Next over Gunn chips Tryon to backward point and England sink further. 80 for 7. England’s opening bowlers (Shrubsole has joined us) now need to bat for twenty overs, near enough, to give us a match. Ouch. Ntozakhe has walked through her potentially vulnerable ten overs of offspin for 21 runs.

Van Niekerk bowls the 34th and the changes continue as Ismail returns to partner her. But England’s miseries are compounded by a runout; Shrubsole departing for 7. (It was tightish but why the risk? We need something remarkable to happen, now, for this to be any kind of contest. Don’t we?) 97 for 8.

Ismail – fine, fine athlete – scents blood and is racing in to slap it in there. Brunt cops a bouncer.

To (theoretically) finish this sharpish, Kapp is back, too. However no immediate dramas. There is some irony in the cheers for the England 100. Feels like South Africa have been good but England somewhere between mediocre and bloody foolish.

Tryon and Khaka return, to mix this up. I wonder though, if the Ismail/Kapp combo *might actually* have closed this out but this is admittedly a hunch, given that Khaka’s figures seem to suggest she too, is a singular threat.

Marsh nearly offers another friendly leading edge to the onside field, off Tryon but it falls short. Brunt is going well, on 31, at this point.

England get to 148 in the 45th, as Brunt skilfully guides Ismail to third man. A slightly laboured ver-ry much slower ball then deceives Marsh, who is bowled for 15. Big question is… can Brunt get to a heroic 50?

150 up in the next, from Van Niekirk. Ismail returns to try to bounce out Ecclestone – nearly succeeding, as the England number 11 (/71) edges one highish behind. Fortunately Brunt gets back on strike and charges Kapp to drive straight for four and a well-appreciated fifty: she goes on to claim 13 runs from the over.

The day has brightened, or re-brightened as innings closes at a creditable 189 for 9. Brunt is undefeated on her highest score in any format – 72. Don’t expect this to be enough but given where England were… this is Bruntastic.

The break. So some other stuff…

The improved and expanded contracts for England Women announced yesterday are, of course, welcome. They represent meaningful lumps of money that may be the difference between living reasonably comfortably (as an elite athlete) and not. The notion that an increased number of our leading players will be on professional contracts is a) an important, further step forward and b) maybe more palatable than the idea that parity with The Men is some distance away.

The rather fascinating context to all this remains utterly framed by the (in this instance) magnificently prescient Australian authorities, who – despite the recent developments in England – have about four times as many women players on pro contracts as the ECB do. And be on better contracts.

In short things are better than they were but… yaknow.

The Big improved Picture suggests that we still lack a total commitment to broadening and deepening a substantial ‘viable’ pool of women professionals. This is achievable but implies funding a further hike in activity in the levels below, as well as paying more professionals a living wage – a wage commensurate to their level.

The money is surely there; the Aussies are kinda doing it; it’s right. Let’s join in.