A Ramble on Women's Cricket
2012 Page 4 : Previous Page 3
Well, India have caught the plane home, and a happy team I imagine they must have been. But they lost the T20s and the ODI series you'll be telling me, and I can't deny it. However, this team has been transformed.
I don't expect they arrived expecting to conquer England in the T20 matches. Except for Goswami I don't recall any Indian player closing their eyes and swinging the bat as this format may demand. But this team, including quite a number of faces new to me, had learned how to field at least passably well. Not up to England's standard it's true! The Times of India and other Indian broadsheets had been carrying articles saying that much effort had gone in to fielding coaching before the team set out, but I'd seen this sort of article before and their predictions had not been fulfilled. But this was different. Not only did the majority of players seem on their toes, but their skill levels had increased to a degree I don't recall since I watched them in South Africa in 2005 when a poor (no make that dreadful, or perhaps even diabolical) umpiring decision had deprived them of a reasonable chance to topple Australia and take home the World Cup. This was India transformed in one department at least, although there's still work to do, especially in the catching department. Had four chances been taken at Chelmsford the series could well have ended 1-1. England will not get away with this against Australia or New Zealand!
One player in particular caught my eye. A new opening bowler had appeared in the shape of Niranjana. She was taller than most of her team mates, played with great enthusiasm, and employed the most basic skill of all bowlers in bowling straight. Her celebrations on taking a wicket were both amusing and a delight to behold. Here was someone really enjoying her cricket and she didn't care who knew it. Somehow I never seemed to be behind the arm when she was bowling but others reported that she generated some gentle swing. By the end of the tour I was convinced she would be around for some years to come.
And as for England, well it was disappointing that the new fast combo we had all been looking forward to, of Brunt and Shrubsole, did not materialise. I don't know of any England supporter who was not excited at this prospect. A minor injury had prevented Anya Shrubsole from playing - as it was expressed to me "only for three weeks but the wrong three weeks".
And so, after predicable results, if not a predictable sight on the field, at Canterbury and Chelmsford I looked forward to the one day games and some real cricket. As you will know a big surprise was in store.
A reasonable, but not large, crowd turned out at Lord's including many who vociferously supported the visitors. For the first (and almost the last) time the country's flags flew on the pavilion and all was set for England to right the embarrassment of the previous summer when they had chosen the home of cricket for their one loss of the summer. England won the toss and decided to bat. By my reckoning, as those of you who have read these pages before will know, this was their first mistake. I have never done an analysis of England's performances batting first and batting second. One cold, wet winter's day I must attempt it, but it is simply my gut instinct that says batting is so much easier when you know what you have to do. And then again there's always Mr Duckworth and Mr Lewis to consider, and in this summer they could have featured as prominently as any player on the pitch. For those of you from friendlier climes I can reveal this is the wettest summer since some date in the 1950s and some claim in the 1900s. To lose only 18 overs from the possible 580 in this tour has been a major, not a minor miracle!
My memories of Lord's - well Niranjana's bowling, Taylor's and Brindle's batting and the Indian's application in the field. Yes there were a few howlers but in general the tone was more like the England I knew than the India I had expected. There was also one other major change and I would be intrigued to know if the idea had come from the captain Mithali Raj or one of the coaching staff. While England tended throughout this series to sit back on the ring, India frequently kept a player on each side appreciably closer at a shorter mid-wicket and shorter extra cover. The drop and run became a much riskier proposition. Since the Indian batsmen rarely employed such a tactic England could afford to lay back, but they will have to re-consider this field setting against Australia or New Zealand or risk leaking runs during the power plays. Indeed it was employed occasionally later in this series. Raj's batting, and the enthusiasm with which the later Indian batsmen applied themselves to the task, showed they did have some fire in their bellies (and also the virtue of batting second).
Perhaps the abiding memory of the match should be the way the Indians batted towards the end of their innings. Mithali Raj speeded up at precisely the right moment and Harmanpreet Kaur's run a ball paced things to perfection. I rather patted myself on the back having told anyone who'd listen that Kaur was one to watch. It wasn't exactly a difficult prediction to make after her performances last time she was in the UK, especially that against Australia at Billericay. There was a lot of "we didn't play well" muttering from the England supporters but an expression I found myself uttering more than once before I left the ground was that India earned that win. Although an England supporter it seemed to me a wake-up would do England no harm. Das with 4-61 and Brindle with 3-30 were the pick of the bowlers.
And so to Taunton where the forecast suggested we'd be lucky to get any play at all. England won the toss again and decided this time to insert India. The quicks got into their stride and Katherine Brunt and Georgia Elwiss collected the first six wickets between them. At 34-6 India must have felt it was all over. The veteran Amita Sharma, with help from a number of the tail managed to creep the score to 129 before the last wicket fell and the Indian side had managed to use almost all their overs. As we took lunch it seemed England would be sure to get one back.
But we had reckoned without England's nervous approach and the veteran Jhulan Goswami. England simply stuttered their way with only Tammy Beaumont suggesting she had any idea of what was required until Danni Wyatt reached the wicket. Then it looked as if she would run out of partners until number eleven Georgia Elwiss arrived. For a while England supporters breathed nervously and hoped. Now I have watched Georgia bat at Sussex and found myself rather more confident than most that these two could do it. I had already been thinking it was odd she was that low in the order. Fourteen runs short of the Indian score a ball just crept under "G's" bat and it was all over. What was happening? England were two down and only three left to play. The only smile to be had in the day was the way the electronic scoreboard decided to render one of the Indian player's names. Krishnamurthy became "Kris murphy". Who was this Irishman we wondered?
Take a look at Niranjana's figures - 8 overs for just 12 runs and one of those was a wide. She may not have taken a wicket but it was a major contribution to the guest's win. One of the home side suggested to me later that if they'd been chasing 200 they would probably have got it. Could she have been right?
Once again, the following day, England managed to win the toss. The Indian openers went cheaply and then, unusually for her, Kaur seemed to get bogged down. Raj continued as she had already done in this series looking the class player we all know she is. It was not until Malhotra and Naik arrived relatively late in the day that she found some support. At 173 it didn't look as if they'd made enough but we all remembered the day before!
Niranjana proved her worth yet again and the England skipper departed quickly. The rest of the top order found some form and although there were only three wickets left in the locker at the end of the match, the victory for England felt fairly comfortable. With 3-26 Gouhar Sultana proved the best for India.
How would Truro pan out? What sort of wicket might we meet on a club ground that may, or may not, have adequate covering? With the weather forecasts dire, could we continue this lucky streak? News from the ground suggested the night before, that parking on a nearby field would not be available as it was waterlogged. A 'park and ride' had been organised but the thought of having to carry a seat (the ground could not provide) and the photo kit and lunch (would anything be available on the ground?) made the heart sink. Perhaps I should sit back, leave the camera behind and take a wider view of this game. In the end I need not have worried. managing to squeeze into a nearby car park left us just a short walk across that field the advance party had described as waterlogged. Well, they weren't wrong! The soles of my trainers disappeared at times under water - surely no play would be possible on the field next door.
But Truro club members and their helpers had worked miracles over the previous 48 hours. Despite a 75 minute delay at the start we were told the full 50 overs/side could be played if the weather allowed.
Yet again Charlotte Edwards won the toss. Mithali Raj can hardly have believed it. As India batted they became almost completely becalmed. Several times in this series the 10-over mark was reached with barely more than that number of runs on the board. Eventually class came to the rescue and Raj and Kaur showed they both possessed that virtue. With no one else coming to the party the side were lucky to get to the 170s, Arran Brindle taking their middle order apart. With the earlier matches in mind this was now anyone's for the taking.
The England captain went cheaply yet again and by now this run of poor form must have been playing on her mind. There would be no doubt in the England supporters' minds though that 'Lottie' would be back. The top order played as England hoped they would and Sarah Taylor and Jenny Gunn added some real impetus to the proceedings. It became 2-2 and all to play for. The weather could, of course, ensure we had a tied series. Hats off to those who made it possible to have a game here. I learned later of members working through the night, blankets on the pitch and all sorts of efforts being made. The day was only marred for me by the rudeness of a club official to my wife. When so many of their number had made such great efforts to get this match under way in difficult circumstances, his conduct was somewhat disappointing.
Wormsley is arguably the most attractive ground in England. Perhaps, as a Sussex man I should vote for Arundel on which the layout at Wormsley was based. Apparently Arundel was one of Sir Paul Getty's favourite grounds. To this point the weather had made a considerable difference to the matches. Never in my memory of home series had it been so easy to know you insert the opposition in the damp and sometimes clammy conditions. The fast bowlers must have licked their lips on crossing that boundary rope at every match.
England won the toss yet again and Mithali Raj must have been wondering what she had done to upset the gods. (Comments on this matter later). Both she and the openers departed early and this necessitated a change of tactics from India. Until now Raj had played the anchor and very successfully too! Now Kaur decided she had to settle in and do this job. When she departed for 40 it looked like the score might indeed by a low one. The weather continued to threaten and at times the light was so poor I was continually increasing the sensitivity in the camera. The middle order, especially in the form of veteran Reema Malhotra played their part however and the score was respectable in the conditions but not threatening.
Edwards poor form continued but the top order coolly went about their business, ensuring in the gathering gloom that England were always ahead of the D/L. When the rain arrived the result of the match and series was settled. The presentations had to be performed in the marquee as the rain poured down outside and while an ex-international batsman had told me that the Player of the Series always goes to a batsman, I was not so sure. I had my own ideas and was somewhat surprised to find that whoever makes this choice had the same idea as me. Had anyone noticed I wondered that Georgia Elwiss had the best economy figures for both sides in every match bar one when she was still the best for England!
So to some thoughts that occurred to me during and after the series.
I recently came across a 'blog' entitled womenscricket.com. Now this isn't a web site address so it's no use typing this into your browser, although you can try when you will be presented with an advertising site that has nothing to do with cricket let alone women's cricket. The domain name has simply been purchased by someone (or some company) who hopes to sell it at a profit. I can only hope they don't succeed, not because I worry about competition - let's have as many sites as we can out there promoting the game - but this kind of entrepreneur is the kind I feel the 'Net could well do without. And now I have given him (or them) publicity... what can I be thinking of? I started this site at a time (1997) when the altruistic nature of the Internet was still well in evidence. Indeed you could argue it is today with such ventures as Wikipedia, and the superb sites run by museums, archeological groups, sports groups - in fact almost any type of group you care to mention. Perhaps I shouldn't grumble. To a large degree the spirit of the originators of this huge resource does live on. It's just they've been joined for those looking for a 'fast buck'. I have to hope they don't, in the main, succeed.
Your riposte might well be that advertising is everywhere. If neatly tucked away, or in some way highlighted, so that it is obvious what is information and what is advert (e.g. on a Google search) then I have no problem with this. This site is almost completely free of advertising (yes, there is one, and it's provided free!) and it has stayed that way only because the offers I have had have been from gambling sites and it's something I would have an ethical problem with. However, if you wish to part with cash to advertise your brand of cricket bat I am sure I can find a spot for you somewhere. Meantime I am happy to fund this site myself. What does it cost (in cash that is rather than time and effort)? Well you may be surprised to hear not much over £2 per week.
And what of the guy who has started the blog I mentioned above? I wish him luck, but he has been foolish enough to suggest it will be a 'one-stop shop' for everything you need to know about the sport. No site can do that - not even ESPN with all their resources and we all know how poor the news can be on the international teams web sites sometimes. No, lets have as many sites as possible, each with their own flavour or speciality, and go browsing. There's plenty of room for all. No one man, or even large organisation, can do everything.
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