Women’s Cricket World Cup – The Final Review

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And so, in the end, the final result that the tournament deserved.  Despite a shock loss to their final opponents in the final match of the Super 6 stages, an Australia side hurt desperately by their home failings in the last World Cup return home with the trophy safely in tow.  And the right runners up too, as a West Indian side that has thrilled, astonished, bludgeoned and finally fallen just short announces that international women’s cricket is no longer the reserve of the few, but the proving ground of the many.  This is not the last time that we will see a West Indian women’s cricket team contend one of the sport’s top prizes and nor is it the last time that a country will make their debut at the final reckoning.  Women’s cricket is a field that is levelling out rapidly as more than one result in this tournament proved.

But this isn’t an article reviewing the tournament as a whole, nor is it a roundup of the final.  Those articles have been written elsewhere and by individuals with a stronger grasp of the cricketing galaxy than the Sportist possesses.  This is an article about a team that limped home in third place.  This is an article about an England side who will be under no illusions that missing out on a spot in the final is their greatest underachievement in a number of years.

Going into the tournament all looked more than rosy.  Despite defeat in the T20 World Cup Final against Australia last year, this is an England team who had built towards this World Cup, prepared to within an inch of their lives.  Possessing talent throughout the ranks and barely a weak link within the squad, the blueprint for success was well set and firmly established.  It took all of one match to be torn into shreds.

A lack of preparation could hardly be blamed, but in running out to bat for their first innings of the tournament against Sri Lanka, perhaps a lack of due respect could.  This was, after all, a team that had never before beaten England.  Truth be told, they’d never even run them close.  Yet a final ball victory against the holders was no more than the Sri Lankans deserved, having restricted England superbly with the ball and seen off the holders’ bowling attack with worrying disdain.

England’s response for the remainder of the group stages was comfortable enough, but under the tournament’s qualification rules, nothing less than a perfect Super 6 stage could guarantee England a place in the final.  And when the top order crumbled against Australia in what was always going to be a crucial match, no amount of tail end batting heroics could save matters.  On reflection, leaving qualification for the final in the hands of an Australian side which had already made it was probably fool’s hope.  England (and New Zealand, for that matter) may have been knocked out by a final result that was out of their hands, but the team had laid its own foundations of failure and a place in the 3rd/4th place play off was ample reward for an ultimately disappointing tournament.

The team failed.  But so did individual players.

What of Sarah Taylor, England’s cause celebre, and the woman widely recognised as the country’s most devastating player, the slowish wickets of the subcontinent ideally set for her powerful hitting and astute timing? To say the opportunity escaped her would be overly generous.

That she missed England’s worst performance of the tournament is to say little in her favour, yet perhaps offers a glimmer of insight into her desperate under performance. One road of conjecture suggests that the minor knock that kept her out of the shock defeat to Sri Lanka may have been not quite so minor, the impact of that defeat precipitating a recall before she was fully match fit and adjusted. Such an explanation is generous in the extreme, yet the scratching uncertainty of a fluid, first rate batswoman struggling desperately to her first ever consecutive ducks (ultimately losing her wicket three times in 4 balls against West Indies, Australia and South Africa) suggests someone not entirely at ease with her timing and (lack of) footwork. Less generously,  one might reflect on a player whose pre-tournament hype overcame her ability to deliver in the final reckoning.

Some in the England camp emerge with credit. Anya Shrubsole, whose elegant medium-fast paced bowling action snared 13 wickets in just 5 matches, Holly Colvin whose left arm spin was controlled and consistent and whose desperate batting efforts against Australia in the Super 6, so reminiscent of Michael Kasprowicz in the 2005 Ashes test at Edgbaston, almost saw England home against the odds and Lydia Greenway whose class in the field continued unabated and whose performances with the bat grew in stature throughout the tournament all return home with reputations intact or enhanced.

Missing from that list, though not on the merits of her own performances, is captain Charlotte Edwards. Despite two giant innings and taking the all time record for women’s one day cricket runs, Edwards’ single goal as captain was to guide England to the final, at the very least. Failure to do so cannot, of course, be laid singularly at her feet, yet some decisions in the tournament’s critical matches fell short of the required standard. That she fell cheaply in both of England’s defeats also hurts her standing, though at least against Australia a desperately poor umpiring decision can be held partially accountable.

If there is hope to be found for English cricket – and there truly is, the players who under performed here genuinely did under perform – it might be seen in the model set out by new World Champions, Australia.  4 years ago, the team were a bruised unit, humiliated on home soil and forced to watch perhaps their two greatest rivals, England and New Zealand, fight it out in the final in Sydney.  4 years ago, they were a side facing the same uncomfortable questions that England will have to answer now.  Their response?  Unforgiving.  Both T20 and One Day World Cups now resting comfortably in Australian hands.  Can England respond?  They may not feel it right now, but they must believe that they can.  4 years is a lot of time to hurt in international sport; you can bet that England will be desperate to wrest control back come 2017, but first comes an Ashes series on English soil.  Now, that’s not a bad chance for revenge.

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A quick word on two of the tournament’s outstanding players.  For the West Indies, batswoman extrordinaire Stafanie Taylor was utterly brutal, amassing 314 runs across the tournament despite falling to a duck in the West Indies’ defeat against England.  A huge part of this can be accounted for in her 137 ball 171 scored against a Sri Lankan team high on belief after their defeat of England in the opening match and, though she fell cheaply in both matches against Australia, her measured 49 against New Zealand in their penultimate Super Six match helped to put her team in a position where victory over Australia would earn them a place in the final.  Alongside Deandra Dottin, the surprise finalists’ start turn.

For Australia, a young woman who, at just 17 years of age, has every tool in her locker to dominate fast bowling in the same way Glenn McGrath once did for the Australian male counterparts.  Holly Ferling’s 9 tournament wickets may have been four fewer than compatriot Megan Schutt, yet Schutt’s were amassed in seven matches against Ferling’s four and came at an economy of 4.12 compared to a brutal 3.65.  Her performances against England (10-0-35-3) and West Indies in the final (7-1-27-3) were displays of pure bowling brutality.  And, again, she’s 17.  The tournament’s real breakthrough star.

CS

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