A Ramble on Women's Cricket
[April] As the season starts in the UK we still seem to have the perennial problem. A couple of days ago the Met. Office were predicting two glorious days of sunshine for the weekend. Well they were half right. On Saturday I watched my first match this year and praise goes to all and sundry for a very high scoring game on a very batsman friendly pitch. Not least among the plaudits should, therefore, go to the groundsman for seasons regularly start here on wickets where the ball struggles to get high enough to find the meat of the bat.
As the T20 approaches and the season starts in the UK I am wondering what the TV coverage might be like. Sky in the UK has covered the women's pretty well in recent times but will this continue?
[May] The first game of the WC T20 has already revealed a weakness in the rules of the competition. Is judging a men's match by the number of sixes hit giving a fair result? I guess you could be split on this one, but judging a women's game that way? It seems to me Australia had the luck here for if it goes to 'boundary hits' next (and does it - I have no idea?) then the match would have been awarded to the other side.
The result tends to confirm my prejudice that while T20 may be a lot of fun, it isn't 'cricket'.
Let's play another super over - and another - each time with three new batsmen (not batters) and a new bowler, until someone actually beats their opponents. I am used to watching American football in the cricket off-season and 'sudden death' is a concept that seems to work there if you want a situation where ties are not allowed (and I don't mean around your neck, although I'd support that too).
But the news of the day goes to the hosts. While Australia and England were having trouble making a century between them, Deandra Dottin showed what this form of the game can be all about. Pretty it probably wasn't, judging by the innings I saw her play against Australia in the summer of 2009, but it could hardly have been more effective. Just take a look at these numbers ...
Having seen her in action last summer and now looking at the power of these numbers, there can be no one in any doubt who is the world's most dangerous batsman at this format (in spite of the ducks in some recent innings)!
With the international season over you may be wondering why I have not typed earlier. When the T20 series was on I was confined to the sofa (back trouble) and grateful to Sky TV for covering the three matches. Continuing their T20 run, New Zealand won the series as you know, and looked the better side in this format. The jitters of the 2009 WC T20 final had disappeared and their win was deserved.
What the scorecards don't tell you - One player who gave a most positive impression was newcomer Danni Wyatt. During one of the matches (I forget which) England's out-fielding was poor and Sarah Taylor was scampering all over the place to take returns from the fielders. In the following game it improved dramatically (did someone have a word?) but one player who never gave Sarah a hard time was Danni Wyatt. On only one occasion, and she had plenty to do on the boundary, did I notice Sarah take more than one step away from the stumps. Danni is a boundary fielder with an arm that is both strong and accurate and if she can cement a place as a spinner then England have found a boundary rider par excellence!
In the 50-over games, which you may know I have argued is a better format to showcase the women's game, England came back into their own, but it was, as someone once remarked "a damn close run thing!". Since you all know what happened I'll only make some side remarks of impressions that came out of the five matches, all of which I was able to watch.
Perhaps the most lasting impression, the cricket aside, was of the poor quality of the umpiring! Many of these senior umpires appeared not to wish to be out there and on one occasion the ball was actually kicked and rolled under the feet of two of them when the innings in question had still to be completed. In the same match, all three kinds of no-ball (front foot, number of players in the circle, and balls over head height) were ignored and one wicket actually fell to the third ball over head height delivery in the same over. If the umpires in that game have any defense at all it would be what is purported to be the "Ian Hislop defense", namely that they were equally unfair to everyone! Now I don't believe their slackness resulted in the wrong result for any of the matches, but that is hardly the point. This is international cricket and it deserves respect. I consider we should return to the umpires of old like Alan Fox, or more recently Lorraine Elgar. I could name many more who I have watched over the years who could be relied on to do a better job. The one plus was the efforts made at Derby to ensure the match was completed without recourse to the DL method. That was worth a pat on the back!
The shot of the tournament to me was Maria Fahey's 6 off a free hit at Taunton. I wonder where it might have made landfall had the old pavilion not got in the way. Would it have gone as far as Stafanie Turner's remarkable shot at Drummoyne last year? It might well have done!
Maria Fahey batting at Taunton in 2010
And one question to finish off this rather short amble - why do England insist on batting first? It has not served them well in recent times and I am reminded of Oscar Wilde's comment about second marriage - "the triumph of hope over experience!" Pitches rarely alter much in the day and if weather looks doubtful then batting second has everything to recommend it. "Bat them out of the game" the saying goes but - hang on - if you've just made <whatever it is> then why can't they make <whatever it is + 1>? You have, after all, just shown them how to do it. My feeling is the reverse of the Test match philosophy. Win the toss and field or if the situation looks 'iffy' then think about it, and then field! If you're batting second you can, at least, go down fighting, rather than spending the interval asking yourself "Have we got enough?".