England’s bowling proved no match for Australia’s top-order batters, Tahlia McGrath hitting a remarkable 91* of just 49 deliveries.
It’s accepted policy that you bowl your best bowlers first, so Heather Knight asked Sophie Ecclestone to take the second over. The trouble is, it means she won’t be bowling when it really matters.
Of course Katherine Brunt opened proceedings, but England must ask themselves why it is necessary to rely on a 36-year-old to bear the heat of the day (mid-30s!). Is there no-one else in the country able to allow her to come on first change? By the end of the third over England had conceded 24 runs; Nat Sciver couldn’t find a length,
Not enough of England’s bowlers are on top of their game at present. We can blame the unsatisfactory build-up they have suffered, but neither Freya Davies nor Sarah Glenn have been in good enough form to raise hopes that they could save runs and take wickets. Sciver, Davies and Glenn went for a combined 99 runs off their nine overs.
Ecclestone had Alyssa Healy well caught by Sciver at mid-wicket (7), but that was the end of the good news for England. Meg Lanning was content to give McGrath the strike and watch her carve the ball all round the ground. Even so, she was good enough to stroke 64* herself and ensure an unbroken stand of 144 and a run-rate of 10.
England’s Promising Start
We must set those stats against what looked like being a thoroughly good start to the tour for the English. After a few hesitations Tammy Beaumont and especially Danni Wyatt set about the bowling with gusto.
The moment Jess Jonassen came on in the fifth over, Wyatt hit two sixes to get on top of one of the great limited-overs bowlers. By the end of the tenth the score had reached 82 without loss.
The second ten produced seven runs more than that, but on a fine pitch it was simply not enough. Sciver too took a while to find her touch, then played some fine shots (32), but the other leading batters, Heather Knight (10*), Amy Jones (4) and Sophia Dunkley (10*), couldn’t get away from the bowling as they had done against India and New Zealand last summer.
It’s an unwelcome thought for England that Australia were well short of full-strength, Lanning opening only because of Beth Mooney’s unfortunate accident. And they gained a huge psychological advantage in discarding the best player in the world, Elysse Perry, as T20 is seen as her weakest format. Hoho!
Then again, it was Australians who made big waves in the Hundred last summer, Amanda-Jade Wellington and Sammy-Jo Johnson. They are nowhere to be seen in this series.
To put this in perspective: the final total of 169-4 was the highest total conceded by Australia, but England had weighted their selection in favour of the batting, Maia Bouchier figuring at No 7 behind Dunkley. That at once threw pressure on the five bowlers. If any one of them was to prove expensive, Knight knew she would have to take her turn.
In the end three bowlers, Sciver, Glenn and Knight (17 in her one over when the game was up) all went for over 10 per over, and Davies for just under.
Of course Lisa Keightley chose her team exclusively from the first squad; no-one expected otherwise.
But the bowling really need looking at closely. Anya Shrubsole was injured, as she has been frequently in the last season or so. How much difference would her presence have made? The fear is, not enough.
Is it wise to make changes, even wholesale changes, this early in proceedings? Many would counsel calm and resolution, but England simply cannot afford to let another 2 points slip by as easily as here in Adelaide. Test matches end in draws, so the stats assure us. And the T20s have been a source of great strength for England recently.
So will Keightley be minded to exchange Davies and Glenn for say Tash Farrant and Charlie Dean? Farrant depends largely on lateral movement which she is unlikely to find in Australia, but her left-arm-over approach and changes of pace can ask questions. Dean has proved successful at the start of her career and doesn’t lack for confidence, but finger-spinners need to be in full control when facing the likes of Lanning, McGrath and Haynes.
Glenn has mislaid the great accuracy she showed two seasons ago, and she tends to roll the ball over rather than tweak it, so depends more on top-spin than finding the edge of the bat.
The A-team showed up well in the two knock-abouts England managed to stage in the highly disrupted tour preliminaries. They beat their big sisters twice, but it’s hard to imagine Keightley turning to them any time soon. Even so, we can wonder how Davies continues to be favoured when there are younger, faster bowlers around (Lauren Bell, Issy Wong) who are no less accurate.
The series has got off to precisely the start every English pessimist expected.
England 169-4 (Wyatt 70, McGrath 3-26)
Australia 171-1 (17 overs) (McGrath 91*, Lanning 64)
Australia win by 9 wickets and take 2 points.
Lanning (captain), Healy, McGrath, Haynes, Gardner, Harris, Carey, Jonassen, King, Vlaeminck, Schutt
Knight (captain), Beaumont, Wyatt, Sciver, Jones, Dunkley, Bouchier, Brunt, Ecclestone, Glenn, Davies