Cricket: Clouds of confusion hasten England exit

Pete Davies reports from Madras
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The Independent Online
Pete Davies

reports from Madras

New Zealand women 175-6

England women 155

NZ women won by 20 runs

When Megan Lear took over as the coach of the England women's cricket team in the spring of 1996, she told them that retaining their World Cup title would be like climbing Everest. In yesterday's semi-final, England fell off the mountain with the summit in their sights, and it was all too appropriate to this tournament that their fall took place amid farcical confusion.

In the morning, England bowled and fielded as well as they had all tournament. However, all that effort was wasted after a bizarre decision from the umpires. England had restricted New Zealand to 175 for 6, a target they felt was eminently achievable, but they were then advised that they would have only 49 overs to bat, as they had exceeded the allotted three hours in bowling their own 50.

Lear went to the umpires to point out that refreshment breaks should be excluded from that time, not to mention assorted delays as one mangy dog after another wandered onto the outfield. She returned to say that England would get their full 50 overs and that hands had been shaken on it. England proceeded to bat and then discovered, with a dozen overs remaining, that they only had 49 overs after all.

Heated tempers are no aid to calm batting but, in truth, when England's fourth wicket fell with the score on 100 in the 36th over, they had already started leaving themselves too much to do. They finished 155 all out in the 48th over, 20 runs short, and their World Cup odyssey thus came to a messy and bitterly disappointing end.

Lear said firmly: "We shouldn't have been docked any overs. But in the end it didn't make any difference, we've lost because we didn't bat well enough. But you just don't need that sort of confusion, and it's obviously disappointing because I still believe we're the better side."

England's problem in cricket terms was that this was only the second time in seven World Cup matches that they had batted second and only the first time they had had to do so with any sort of target to reach. On the day, they did not pace themselves properly and, as captain Karen Smithies readily admitted, they lost too many wickets too early along the way.

For all that, until the mist of confusion descended, they had looked New Zealand's equal. In fact, in this tournament only Australia have looked better. It is no consolation to say it but, in an exhausting and chaotic three weeks, these players have done themselves proud.

New Zealand Women's XI won toss

NEW ZEALAND WOMEN'S XI

D Hockley c Leng b Edwards 43

E Drumm lbw b Smithies 4

S Fruin run out 29

K Withers b Smithies 35

M Lewis b Reynard 13

K Ramel st Cassar b Smithies 19

C Nicholson not out 3

S McLauchlan not out 1

Extras (b2, lb8, w18) 28

Total (for 6, 50 overs) 175

Fall: 1-8, 2-92, 3-101, 4-128, 5-168, 6-172.

Did not bat: R Rolls, K Brown, C Campbell.

Bowling: Taylor 10-1-29-0; Smithies 10-2-40-3; Leng 10-0-26-0; Reynard 10-1-38-1; Connor 5-0-14-0; Edwards 5-1-18-1.

ENGLAND WOMEN'S XI

H Plimmer lbw b Withers 1

C Edwards b Campbell 25

B Daniels lbw b McLauchlan 30

S Metcalfe run out 9

J Cassar run out 6

*K Smithies c Lewis b Hockley 0

J Brittin st Rolls b Nicholson 32

M Reynard run out 12

K Leng c & b Nicholson 12

C Connor run out 3

C Taylor not out 3

Extras (lb5, w14, nb3) 22

Total (47.5 overs) 155

Fall: 1-3, 2-43, 3-78, 4-100, 5-116, 6-117, 7-124, 8-147, 9-147.

Bowling: Withers 7.5-2-22-1; Nicholson 10-3-29-2; Brown 6-0-21-0; Campbell 10-1-45-1; McLauchlan 9-2-16-1; Ramel 2-0-6-0; Hockley 3-0-11-1.

Umpires: P Venkatusan and N Murlidhram.

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