Cricket is the game for sharp changes of fortune. Heather Knight’s test innings of 168* was called one of the greatest ever seen in women’s tests. Was it inevitable that she should be dismissed first ball next time round?
England’s selection told its own story. Once more Lisa Keightley included an extra batter at the expense of a bowler. That didn’t show great confidence in the top six. Danni Wyatt came in, but down at No 7; Lauren Winfield-Hill kept her place as opener. At least she outstayed Tammy Beaumont (3) and Knight, but her 13 (out of 39) failed to improve her career record.
The rest of the batting performance proved Keightley’s concerns correct. Nat Sciver was top scorer with 45, but that proved far short of what was needed.
English revolutionaries would have brought Alice Capsey and Lauren Bell into the mix, but the management – and presumably the captain – prefer the tried and trusted.
The trouble is, for several series now they haven’t provided the necessary against the best side in the world.
The major cause of England’s demise was Darcie Brown, a mere 18-years-old, who finished with 4-34, including the valued prizes of Beaumont and Knight. Compare her inclusion in the Australian line-up with that absence of young talent in the opposition.
Australian batting wasn’t all powerful. They were indebted once more to Beth Mooney (73), who was at the crease as her side advanced from an iffy 61-3 to a challenging 205-9. England’s five bowlers returned relatively similar analyses, Kate Cross finishing with 3-33, Katherine Brunt 3-40. Sciver, Knight’s only fifth bowling option, went wicketless.
At no time during England’s reply was the asking rate out of reach. The pity was, no batter could stay long enough at the crease. Brunt did her darndest, reaching 32* in a defiant partnership of 34 with Kate Cross for the last wicket. Cross (17) offered some brave entertainment. She successfully reviewed an lbw decision, then watched Ellyse Perry drop a sitter. Batters up the order could only look on and wonder what might have been.
The pitch must face criticism. Far too often the ball help up in the pitch, causing strokes to be played too early. Knight took the understandable option of batting second, in the expectation of a road to bat on. Instead, timing grew more and more difficult for batters.
So England lose two Ashes series in short order. Neither the men nor the women have yet found a means of wresting control from the all-conquering Aussies.
The two remaining games will now be seen more as a testing-ground for next month’s world cup. Can players in the A squad retain any hopes of selection?
England: 178 (45 overs)
Australia win by 27 runs
Points: Australia 8; England 4)