As the final of the Women’s World Twenty20 unfolded yesterday it was tempting to wonder if anybody in the country could play big-time cricket any more. Betrayed by nerves and a lack of power, England were utterly outclassed by Australia and lost by six wickets with 29 balls left.
The match could not have gone more right for one side or more wrong for the other. Australia were controlled with the ball and assertive with the bat, and if their fielding was not quite as impressive it hardly mattered. How England managed to win the two recent Ashes series must have left neutral observers in a state of confusion.
This was an old-fashioned hammering almost as extreme as those suffered recently by the team’s male counterparts. It brought the combined gender score in all matches between Australia and England this winter to 17-5.
If the occasion clearly affected England, the most glaring difference between the sides was that of sheer force. Australia struck four sixes (as well as 10 fours), England hit no sixes, or what are known in these parts as over-boundaries, leaving their total for the tournament at nought, and managed eight fours. Meg Lanning, Australia’s captain, was simply in a different category of batting.
England’s veteran captain, Charlotte Edwards, said: “When you’re chasing 105 you can come and play like that, 105 is never going to win you a World Cup final. Today was one of those days we didn’t turn up and Australia did.”
Dependent, probably overdependent, on Edwards and Sarah Taylor for a vibrant start, England were immediately disappointed. Taylor, especially, had trouble with timing and some of their more handsome strokes went straight to fielders. They looked tentative, and Australia’s body language told a different story.
After Edwards holed out to mid-on and Taylor was leg before missing a reverse sweep to a full length ball, England rallied a little. Heather Knight showed the only real purpose of an innings which never truly left the foothills.
The game was up at the break and when Jess Jonassen struck the seventh ball of the innings, the first from Danni Hazell, effortlessly for six it was only a matter of time, and not much of it. Lanning’s entrance merely exacerbated the difference and measured by no better yardstick than her striking Anya Shrubsole, the player of the tournament, for six and four in consecutive balls.
England dismissed Lanning as she tried to finish matters with another booming lofted drive and took a fourth wicket two balls later. But it was a heavier defeat even than the margin of six wickets makes it sound.
This was a thoroughly dispiriting end to the winter and while the professional world of English women’s cricket does not officially start until this summer, the team are operating now under far greater scrutiny. Any lingering sense that it is all a bit of lark for the gals has completely disappeared. It is hard-nosed, competitive stuff and yesterday England were found badly wanting.
Edwards was aware of the shortage of firepower but insistent after nine years and 188 matches as captain that she wanted to continue.
“We haven’t hit a six in the tournament and it’s something we’re going to have to improve on,” she said. “The other teams have a much more power aspect to their games. It will be something to address when we get home. I’m not going to be too downbeat, we’ve had a brilliant winter, this is a disappointing end to it but I am as motivated as ever.”
It was Australia’s third T20 triumph in succession and while the Ashes are not to be sniffed at, English cricket clearly has work to do.