Forgive the hyperbole (this is a blog, after all, not the BBC), but how good was that? It may have been a fairly low scoring game, but I can’t think of a much better advert for test cricket, let alone women’s test cricket, than that game.
The best sporting contests are always the ones that ebb and flow, with one team seeming to gain control, before either giving it up or having it wrenched out of their hands. At the end of day 1 I felt England were marginally ahead; their score of 201 seemed light, but this was always going to be a pitch that favoured the bowlers and sure enough, by the end of play Australia had lost both their opening batsmen to Anya Shrubsole and England’s bowlers had their tails up.
Day two saw more damage, with test match debutant, Kate Cross getting two key wickets, before the Australian middle order finally got some traction with Ellyse Perry scoring a potentially match saving 71, helped along by Jodie Fields and Erin Osbourne. They were eventually all out for 207, a lead of just 6 runs. England’s second innings followed a very similar pattern to Australia’s first innings, as once again the pace bowling of Perry and Farrell destroyed their top order as England reached stumps at 18/3.
The pattern continued the following day as England’s gutsy middle order rallied, including a very impressive 56 from their captain, Charlotte Edwards, who was batting at 7 having been struggling with a knee injury. England were eventually all out for 190, setting Australia a target of 185 to win the match. It really could have gone either way, but, as Australia went in to bat late on day 3 it was the bowlers who once again ruled, with Brunt and Cross reducing Australia to 57/5 by the close. On day 4 Australia needed their middle order to save them once again, but it wasn’t to be, as Shrubsole and Gunn made relatively quick work of finishing the match off.
England now have a commanding 6-0 lead in the series, meaning that Australia will have to win 5 of the 6 one day matches to win the series. In hindsight, perhaps the scoring system does need looking at, with the number of points available for the test reduced or the points available for the other matches increased (maybe 3 for the ODIs and 2 for the T20s), but it’s too late to worry about that now. Australia have a huge uphill battle, but they are now into their comfort zone, being ODI and T20 world champions, this series may still have some twists and turn left to come.
- Both teams will need to look hard at the performance of their top order batting, neither of which performed well. We are likely to see some changes for the upcoming limited overs matches anyway, but this may encourage both teams to revisit their tactics.
- Though they now have a commanding lead, Charlotte Edwards’ struggle with a knee injury is still a concern as not only is her batting key, she is also the most experienced player in the team, particularly in Australian conditions.
- Kate Cross was a huge success on her test debut, giving England’s bowling a real boost, with wickets coming from all their fast bowlers. Australia’s seamers fared well, but they were more reliant on just Farrell and Perry, the latter also having to do more than her fair share with the bat.
- As predicted, spin played little part in the game, but this could be more influential in the one day games to come.
- The media coverage has been encouraging, with reports on major UK news outlets and lots of buzz on twitter, but the stadium was almost empty, which I found disappointing after good crowds attended the games in England last summer. Hopefully this will improve for the shorter format games to come.
- One other positive point was the live video stream on the Cricket Australia website. Whilst it’s a shame there was no live TV coverage, this was a definite step in the right direction and could provide a model for coverage of minority sports.