England ‘A’ v Australia ‘A’ – Third ODI
Teams: the two staffs agreed to include 12 each, but only 11 on the field at a time.
Tahlia Wilson, Maddie Darke, Heather Graham (captain), Charli Knott, Tess Flintoff, Courtney Webb, Nicole Faltum (wk), Maitlan Brown, Amanda-Jade Wellington, Courtney Sippel, Lauren Cheatle
Bryony Smith (vice-captain), Emma Lamb, Grace Scrivens (captain), Hollie Armitage, Paige Scholfield, Georgia Adams, Bess Heath (wk), Alice Davidson-Richards, Kirstie Gordon, Issy Wong, Linsey Smith, Ryana MacDonald-Gay
This second-level competition has been thoroughly topsy-turvy. England walked off with the T20 series 3-0 at Loughborough, but today at Guildford they completed a 0-3 turn-round. Who can understand cricket?
The English X!! Was a mixture of the New Generation, led by the 19-year-old captain, alongside some of maturer years. They simply couldn’t perform with the consistency needed to see off a talented Aussie group.
But importantly, Grace Scrivens took her chance to prove her worth as a player, not just captain. She top-scored with a patient 87, as three others in the top five failed to get off the mark. Bryony Smith started as if this was a T20, hitting the ball immensely hard on the pull and the square drive. But it was almost inevitable that that approach couldn’t last. She made 23 in 17 balls with no fewer than 5 fours. The trouble was that the rest of the top order didn’t do themselves justice.
Lamb, Armitage and Scholfield all fell for a total of six deliveries, all to the ever improving Lauren Cheatle with her left-arm over quicks.
From there on it was a case of rebuilding.
But the total of 292 the Australians had compiled demanded a good start, a sound development and a fruitful conclusion. England couldn’t manage all three.
Scrivens and Georgia Adams (40) put on a creditable 122 for the fifth wicket, but Adam’s share shows that even she found the going tough till its later stages. Bess Heath played an innings in the image of Bryony Smith, only longer (41/39). Her performance will have done her future chances no harm at all. Alice Davidson-Richards (26) is full of amusing histrionics, managing to damage her foot early on, but she stuck to her task and hit some fine shots to keep the innings moving.
But the required run-rate never reduced to gettable margins. Cheatle completed an outstanding return of 8-1-28-5 to ensure victory by 34 runs. Only her captain, Heather Graham, could match her for economy of under 4 per over.
Against that, none of the English, not even Linsey Smith, who was again the pick, could maintain their consistency under a barrage from flailing bats.
In those opening overs the English bowling was a big disappointment. The much vaunted Issy Wong started with two wides in three balls, and none of the quicker bowlers found a length and line to contain well organised batters.
Once Wong had disposed of Maddie Darke (9), Tahlia Wilson (81) and Graham (54, 3 x 6) added 107 at a rate. From there, the hosts couldn’t find a way of forcing a collapse. The score mounted past 200 with Courtney Webb adding 51, and the innings finally halted in the 50th over, with the scoreboards nearly reaching 300.
It would be interesting to know how far Jon Batty determined the captain’s bowling choices pre- match. For example, neither Georgia Adams nor Scrivens turned their arm, though Adams has proved a useful partnership-breaker.
Equally, a youngster like Ryana MacDonald-Gay was employed exclusively as a bowler, though she has some justified pretensions as a batter.
And how often has Adams appeared in the batting order after Scholfield (here, 6 and 5 respectively)? If she had come in earlier, England might well not have suffered that crippling early tumble of wickets (30-4 in 5 overs). Scholfield has been used as an all-rounder anyway.
Australia 292 (Wilson 81 Graham 54)
England 258 (Scrivens 87, Cheatle 5-28) Australia win by 34 runs to take the series 3-0
A fascinating background
The new structures set up by Clare Connor are still throwing up novelties. As the A team was facing the Aussies once again, four RHF Trophy games were taking place across the country.
This led to all sorts of unexpectable team-lists.
Lauren Winfield-Hill appeared for Northern Diamonds, while South-East Stars were scratching around to compose an Eleven (I exaggerate ever so slightly). Dane van Niekerk captained Sunrisers to victory over Southern Vipers (though she scored only 8 herself).
Fortunately, the number of overseas players was limited to a very few.
This gives golden chances to many young players who would not have found a place if the full England and England A sides had not been occupied with weightier matters. Good may well come from this competition, but it will take the staffs a lot of video watching and note-exchanging to assess relative form.