WBBL03 update – 31st December

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Women’s Ashes Preview – ODIs

In the past two years, women’s cricket has experienced a transformation that shows little sign of abating. There have been more matches played in 2016 & 2017 than at any time in ODI history.

At the same time, the first professional domestic T20 leagues have been launched (the WBBL in 2015-16 and the KSL in 2016). Improved contracts are allowing more players than ever to play and train full-time. These factors, coupled with a World Cup played on good surfaces in England, have set the stage for a revolution in ODI batting.

The 2017 Women’s World Cup smashed batting records across the board (everything from tournament run rate, highest partnerships centuries & fifties scored to sixes hit) and the ODI run rate in 2017 (4.38 RPO) is currently the highest ever for a calendar year.

From the end of the 2013 World Cup, until the conclusion of the 2015 Ashes (referred to as the 2013-15 seasons for the rest of this post), the ODI run rate was 3.87 RPO. Since the 2015 Ashes, that has risen to 4.33 RPO. The percentage of runs scored in boundaries has risen from 38.43% in the 2013-2015 seasons to 44.38% since the 2015 Ashes.

For England, this period of rapid change also coincided with the appointment of head coach Mark Robinson, who took over in the wake of their 2015 Ashes loss. He had some difficult decisions to make early in his tenure, but by all accounts, the changes Robinson has made were key to England’s triumph over India at Lord’s on 23rd July.

WODI teams post 2013WC-2015 Ashes

WODI teams since 2015 Ashes

During the 2013-2015 seasons, Australia were the dominant batting unit in world cricket. Their run-rate (4.91 RPO) equated to scoring on average 19 more runs per 50 overs than the next best side. Excluding 2nd placed England (4.52 RPO), Australia’s RR outstripped all others sides by at least 49 runs per 50 over innings.

This advantage has been eliminated since the 2015 Ashes. Australia are still one of the strongest batting units (5.21 RPO to England’s 5.27 and New Zealand’s 5.31)  but no longer an outlier.

Australia scored five of the eleven 250+ totals posted in the 2013-15 seasons, with no other side managing more than two.

WODI innings per 250+ 2013-2015

Since the 2015 Ashes, Australia remain the most consistent side in terms of reaching 250+ (13 times) but they don’t dominate the other teams to the previous extent, and have so far been unable to match the top end scoring displayed by other nations.

WODI innings per 250+ since 2015 Ashes

Australia last scored 300 in an ODI in March 2012. Since then, there have been twelve 300+ totals scored in women’s ODIs, by five different nations.

While England’s run rate (5.27 RPO) and propensity for massive totals have caught the eye (England have scored the four highest ODI totals since the 2015 Ashes), they’ve also dramatically improved as a bowling unit.

Despite the overall increase in ODI run rate, England have actually improved their bowling economy rate since the 2015 Ashes (3.96 RPO) compared with the 2013-2015 seasons (4.23).

This has been down to the successful introduction of new players such as Alex Hartley, but also because of a return to form of several senior players. Brunt, Hazell, Marsh and Shrubsole have all dramatically improved since Robinson took over as coach.

WODI England senior bowlers pre post 2015 Ashes

Australia haven’t managed a similar bowling improvement, so have been drawn back into the pack despite improving their run rate as a batting side.

12 of England’s 2017-18 Ashes squad were members of the defeated squad whose display was so lacklustre in 2015, but their confidence and approach to the game couldn’t be more different.

As the tables below indicate, during the 2013-2015 seasons English players were glaringly short of the other top nations in terms of six hitting.

English batters cleared the rope just six times, at a rate of one every 884 balls faced. The only nations with a worse rate of sixes hit and also fewer different individual six-hitters than England, were Bangladesh, Pakistan and Ireland.

Since the 2015 Ashes, England have been at the forefront of a significant increase in the rate of ODI six-hitting.

WODI sixes pre post 2015 ashes

Australia, like most other nations have massively improved, though not to the same extent as England. English players have gone from collectively hitting sixes at over 530 balls behind the average ODI rate during the 2013-2015 seasons, to hitting them at over 84 balls ahead of the average rate since the 2015 Ashes.

Since the 2015 Ashes, ten different English players have hit an ODI six. There’s clear evidence this improvement is down to mindset and playing environment, in that all ten of those players had played ODIs for England before this period. Only four of them however, (Brunt, Gunn, Shrubsole and Knight) had previously hit a six.

Comparing the list of top six-hitters in the 2013-15 period with the list since the 2015 Ashes illustrates this well. In 2013-15 Katherine Brunt was the highest ranked English player, in 11th place with three sixes.

WODI six hitting 2013-2015 and 2015 to present

Englishwomen now occupy three of the top 10 spots. Those three players had batted 48 (Knight), 16 (Beaumont) and 14 (Sciver) times for England before, but had just one ODI six between them. They now rank 1st, 2nd and 4th on England’s all-time list for ODI career sixes.

England have also had five different ODI centurions since the 2015 Ashes, compared with just two (Edwards and Taylor) during the 2013-2015 seasons. Only their World Cup final opponents, India (with six) have seen more different players bring up three figures in ODIs during that time.

Four Australians have scored centuries since the last Ashes, but they will come into the series without the most prolific of them all, Meg Lanning.

Lanning’s absence from the Ashes will be most keenly felt in the ODI series, particularly in run chases. Australia’s strong record batting 2nd (13 wins and 3 losses since the 2015 Ashes) is built on Lanning’s extraordinary prowess in ODI chases.

With eight centuries in just 35 career chases, Lanning has twice as many as the next woman on the list and has made an absurd 22.86% of all the 2nd innings centuries ever scored (35) in the 44 year history of women’s ODIs.

Australia have therefore been comfortable choosing to field in recent times (they have fielded first 8 out of 17 times when wining the toss since the 2015 Ashes) but that may change without Lanning.

England have chosen to bat first 9 out of 12 times when winning the toss since the last Ashes. That’s not a surprise given their extremely strong record batting first – 12 wins and one loss, plus the highest 1st innings average total (280.85) during that period.

Lanning isn’t the be-all and end-all. Australia have always had an exceptional record chasing, especially at home. That said, England’s capacity for chasing is one of the few unproven areas of their game since Robinson took charge. With an 8/3 win/loss record and a highest score of 246 batting 2nd (their loss to India in the opening match of the World Cup), they have yet to convince in the same manner as when they bat first.

WODI win loss since 2015 Ashes bat 1st

WODI win loss since 2015 Ashes field 1st

As well as missing Lanning’s individual runs and her captaincy, Australia will have to make do without her ultra-reliable partnership with Ellyse Perry (1,534 runs at 5.24 RPO and an average of 109.57).

Australia’s next most prolific pairing is Alex Blackwell & Perry (1,415 runs; 5.10 RPO; average 61.52). It would seem to make sense for Perry and Blackwell, also domestic teammates for NSW, to follow each other in the batting order, but that hasn’t been the case recently for Australia.

Among ODI partnerships that have faced 50+ overs since the 2015 Ashes, England’s Beaumont & Sciver (371 runs; 7.15 RPO; ave 74.00) have the 7th highest average and the highest run rate.

Beaumont and Lauren Winfield (913 runs; 4.76 RPO; ave 50.72) need 87 more runs together to be the first England opening pair to bring up 1,000 ODI runs since Sarah Taylor and Caroline Atkins in 2009.

A slight question mark hangs over the England batting line-up’s record in Australia. A number of key players either haven’t played an ODI in Australia (Beaumont, Winfield, Wilson) or don’t have particularly impressive records batting there in the past.

Heather Knight, Sarah Taylor and Natalie Sciver are the only members of the Ashes squad with ODI fifties in Australia. No Englishwoman has ever made an ODI hundred against the Australians in Australia.

Only Lanning has scored more ODI centuries in Australia (4) than Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell (3). During the 2013/14 Ashes series in Australia, Blackwell scored a half century in each ODI. In home ODIs against England over the course of her career, Blackwell averages 57.86 with one century and four fifties in ten innings.

Among women who have played 10+ ODI innings in Australia, Ellyse Perry has the 2nd highest batting average (58.10) behind only Lindsay Reeler (70.50). Reeler incidentally, was the fastest woman, in terms of innings batted (23) to bring up 1,000 ODI runs.

Even without Lanning (3rd highest average in Australia – 56.12), several members of Australia’s Ashes squad feature prominently: Nicole Bolton is ranked 7th (49.06); Blackwell 10th (44.57) and stand-in captain Rachael Haynes 11th (39.87).

Less happy reading for Australia are the home records of Beth Mooney (ave 17.00), Elyse Villani (13.44) and Alyssa Healy (11.86). The Ashes may be a final reckoning for Villani as an ODI player, with three half centuries in 25 innings, she has yet to show the form she does at domestic level.

WODI ODI runs scored in Australia

In truth, there’s not much to choose between the two batting units but the presence of Knight and Sciver in England’s top five is what gives their bowling attack much greater balance. England can take the field with a possible seven bowling options, mitigating against any one (or two) players having a bad day.

Australia have struggled to fill their 50 overs to such an extent that they’ve resorted to bowling Villani and even on one occasion, Nicole Bolton. This puts enormous pressure on their frontline quartet of Perry, Schutt, Jonassen and Beams.

Ashleigh Gardner has performed well with the ball since debuting earlier this year, but beyond her the options are either unproven or ineffective.

Among ODI bowlers who have bowled 25+ overs since the last Ashes, Villani has the 5th worst economy rate in world cricket (5.95 RPO). On the same scale, England’s Laura Marsh (3.41) and Katherine Brunt (3.45) have respectively been the 6th and 8th most economical bowlers. Hartley (3.90) has also been impressive.

While she didn’t feature in the 2013/14 Ashes, Marsh’s 25 ODI wickets in Australia (including 16 at the 2009 World Cup) make her the 2nd most successful overseas bowler on Australian soil, behind New Zealand’s Aimee Watkins.

WODI most wickets taken by overseas players in AUS

Among ODI bowlers with 20+ ODI wickets in Australia, Marsh has the 4th lowest bowling average (16.52) and is the only active player in the top 10.

WODI best bowling ave ODIs in AUS (20+ wkts taken)

Perry (21.77) is the first current Australian player on the list at 11th. Perry has taken more ODI wickets in Australia (74) than any other player. The next highest current internationals on the list are Jonassen (with 27) and Marsh (25).

WODI most wickets taken in AUS

With Australia the holders, the Ashes points system requires England to win at least one of the limited overs series if they are to regain the trophy. Australia have never lost a bilateral ODI series at home to England.

Two rained off warm-ups games have complicated England’s preparations but the World Champions deserve their favourites tag for the ODI series. Lanning’s injury, combined with other selection issues give the visitors the slight edge.


 

ODI runs since the 2015 Ashes:

Australia          England

ODI wickets since the 2015 Ashes: 

Australia          England

 

Women’s Ashes – Players to watch

Ellyse Perry – While Meg Lanning is out injured, Ellyse Perry takes up the mantle of “best batsman in the world”. Though both have outstanding ODI averages, they achieve them in very different ways. Lanning naturally scores at a rate that outstrips virtually all other top order players, while Perry is more measured but exceptionally difficult to dismiss.

WODI BpD since start 2014

Since cementing her place in the Australian top 5 at the start of 2014, Perry has faced more balls per dismissal (104.95) than any other player and averages an incredible 83.23. In home ODIs during that period, she has made 12 half-centuries in 14 innings, amassing 902 runs at an even more eye-popping 112.75. Perry’s career average of 95.00 in successful ODI chases also points to her cool head under pressure. Her strong technique and exceptional temperament make Perry the favourite to bring up a century in the Ashes Test.

In Lanning’s absence, Perry may be required to score at a higher rate than she ordinarily does for Australia. While better known for clockwork consistency rather than lightning scoring, she has the ability to dramatically go up the gears when needed. In the Kia Super League for example, Perry has the highest strike rate (224.56) of any batsman to have faced over 10 balls during the death overs, hitting boundaries at a rate of one every 2.59 balls faced during that period of the innings.

Apart from her batting, Perry has taken more ODI wickets in Australia (74) than any other bowler. 2nd place Lisa Sthalekar has 61, no current international has more than 27. Three more will give Perry the T20I record as well.

WODI most wickets taken in AUS

In Test cricket, Perry has the 7th best bowling average (16.11) of all time (min. 1000 balls bowled), making her the highest ranked current player on the list.


Tammy Beaumont – The epitome of Mark Robinson’s revitalised England set-up, Tammy Beaumont has gone from a fringe player to arguably the most important member of the England batting line up.

Her 342 runs against Pakistan in 2016 were the most ever scored in a three match ODI series. 410 runs at the 2017 World Cup deservedly earned her Player of the Tournament, and equalled the late Jan Brittin’s England record for runs at a single tournament. Brittin scored 410 when England last hosted the World Cup in 1993.

During the World Cup, Beaumont also brought up her 1,000th ODI run. 32 innings batted made her the 4th fastest Englishwoman to reach the mark, but her career turnaround is best exemplified by the fact that she had scored just 207 runs in 16 innings when Robinson became coach.

Beaumont has the most centuries (3) of any ODI opener since the 2015 Ashes. In T20I cricket, Beaumont and Jenny Gunn are both just one shot behind Charlotte Edwards’ England record of 10 T20I career sixes. Edwards played 93 T20I innings, compared with Gunn’s 62 and Beaumont’s 30. Beaumont had just one six from 19 T20I innings (not to mention a batting average of 8.31) at the start of 2016.


Alex Blackwell – Only Meg Lanning has scored more ODI centuries in Australia (4) than Blackwell (3). Blackwell made half-centuries in all three ODIs during the 2013/14 Ashes and averages 57.87 in home ODIs against England.

Blackwell, who debuted in 2003, has shown a remarkable ability to adapt to and exceed the increasing ODI run rate of recent years. For the first half of her career (61 innings from 2003-2009), her SR was a modest 56.48. During this period, the average ODI run rate was 3.61 RPO, equivalent to a SR of 60.17 (Cricinfo’s statsguru doesn’t have full ODI balls faced data for individual players during this era so getting an accurate average batting SR isn’t possible. The overall ODI run rate will have to suffice as a point of comparison).

2010 was the first time Blackwell completed a calendar year with a SR over 70, and she’s become ever more expansive since then, particularly after the launch of the WBBL in 2015.

Since the 2015 Ashes, the ODI run rate has been 4.33 RPO and the average batting SR is 67.62. Blackwell’s ODI SR for this period is 91.43. Blackwell’s first significant score for Australia was 53 (95) back in 2005. Her most recent innings, almost the reverse – 90* (56) at the 2017 World Cup.

Her 907 combined runs in the WBBL and KSL make Blackwell the 7th highest scoring player in those professional domestic T20 leagues. Her versatility is such that she also holds distinction in the longest format, Blackwell (4) and Jess Jonassen (2) are the only players in either Ashes squad to have made more than one 50+ Test score.

Blackwell is also set to achieve numerous career landmarks during the Ashes series:

(deep breath) By playing in this series, Blackwell will equal Charlotte Edwards’ record of appearing in nine Ashes series. The first ODI will be Blackwell’s 142nd for Australia, which will break Karen Rolton’s Australian ODI appearance record. Blackwell will then equal Rolton’s Australian record of 11 Ashes Test caps, when she plays in the day/night Test at North Sydney Oval.

That match is set to be Blackwell’s 4th of the series, which would take her past Charlotte Edwards’ record for most Ashes match appearances (31). Finally, the first T20I will be Blackwell’s 96th T20I cap. She and England’s Jenny Gunn both currently share the T20I career appearance record of 95, with Charlotte Edwards (who else?).


Natalie Sciver – When she’s not rewriting the coaching manual, Natalie Sciver is a scorer of breathtaking innings that take the match out of the opposition’s reach.

Her 80 (33) vs Pakistan at Worcester in 2016 holds the record for the highest SR (242.42) for an ODI innings of 25+ balls. That innings contained six sixes, the most ever hit in an ODI innings by an Englishwoman. Unsurprisingly, Sciver also holds the England record for ODI career sixes (15).

Big hitting, combined with excellent running between the wickets means Sciver maintains an exceptional strike rate, and so can achieve previously unheard of batting feats for a middle order ODI batsman. Her 129 vs New Zealand during the World Cup is the highest score ever by an ODI #5. She and India’s Harmanpreet Kaur are the only players to have made more than one ODI century batting at #4 or lower.

England have played so little T20I cricket (just 3 matches) since their disappointing 2016 World T20 campaign, and Sciver has been so extraordinary in ODIs in the intervening period (864 runs at 50.82 with a SR of 110.20), that her ODI career strike rate (103.78) is now higher than her T20I strike rate (96.31).

Sciver’s presence in the lineup also provides England with enormous balance as a bowling side. With two international standard bowlers batting in the top 5 (Sciver and captain Heather Knight), England take the field in ODIs with seven bowling options. A stark contrast to Australia, who have so struggled to fill their fifty overs they’ve resorted to using Elyse Villani and even Nicole Bolton as bowlers in recent times.

During the 2017 World Cup, Sciver became the first woman to bring up 1,000 ODI runs from fewer than 1,000 deliveries. Her 943 balls faced broke Lanning’s record of 1,011.


Ashleigh Gardner – 20 year old Ashleigh Gardner is perhaps the only current player who has the potential to challenge Sciver’s 1,000 run record. Her current international stats may not suggest it, but Gardner is one of the most exciting batters in world cricket. A clean-hitting all-rounder with devastating power, she was the 5th highest runscorer in WBBL02 (414 runs) and hit the joint most sixes (13) that season.

Gardner will probably bat in the middle order in the T20Is but has yet to be given much responsibility with the bat in ODIs. Since the 2015 Ashes, Australia have only lost 6 or more wickets in 14 of their 26 ODI innings. Gardner, who debuted earlier this year, has never batted higher than #8 in ODIs so has had few opportunities. She has so far batted just five times in her ten ODI appearances.

A place or two higher in the order would make better use of Gardner’s talents and might get Australia close to 300, a total they haven’t reached in ODIs since 2012.

While she hasn’t had much of a look-in with the bat, Gardner has bowled 94 overs of tidy offspin in ODIs. Among Australians to have bowled in more than one ODI this year, she has the best economy rate (4.27 RPO).


Katherine Brunt – Ten wickets during this Ashes series, to add to the 44 she has already, would make Katherine Brunt the highest wicket taker in Ashes history.

Most women;s Ashes career wickets

Brunt’s 38 Test career wickets put her 5th on England’s all-time list and she is one of just four members of England’s Ashes squad with a Test fifty to her name.

In a tournament that smashed batting records, Brunt was among the most economical bowlers at the 2017 World Cup (3.77 RPO), and is the 3rd most economical ODI bowler (3.45 RPO) since the 2015 Ashes (100+ overs bowled).

Since the inauguration of professional T20 leagues in 2015, Brunt has also become an increasingly effective middle-lower order batter.

At the 2017 World Cup she made her ODI career high score (45* against Australia) as she and Jenny Gunn combined for the highest 7th wicket partnership at a World Cup (85 runs). In the final against India, Brunt’s vital 34 run contribution was the 2nd highest score of her career.

While England haven’t played enough T20Is recently to prove it, in the shortest format Brunt must now be considered a genuine all-rounder.

Over the course of two Kia Super League seasons, Brunt is the 9th highest run scorer, has the 2nd highest batting SR (140.40, the tournament average is 102.15) and has bowled the 2nd highest percentage of dot balls (60.2%). The only players with more KSL runs than Brunt are top order international batsmen, several of whom will feature in the Ashes.

Most KSL career runs

With 205 runs at a SR of 132.51 and 10 wickets, Brunt was also a key member of the Perth Scorchers squad that reached the final of WBBL02.

Women’s Test Cricket at North Sydney Oval

Four matches in 48 years may not seem like much, but it will make North Sydney Oval the joint most commonly used women’s Test venue in Australia. Adelaide Oval is the only other Australian ground to have hosted four women’s Tests.

The historic day/night Ashes Test beginning on 9th November will in fact be the fifth scheduled women’s Test at the ground. In 1958 North Sydney Oval was set to host the 1st Test of the Ashes, but heavy rain meant the game was abandoned without a ball being bowled.

1969 would be the year when Test cricket graced the pitch for the first time, as it played host to the 3rd & final Test of the Ashes.

Lorraine Kutcher’s 5/49 for Australia are still the best Test bowling figures at the ground. Similarly, in the two subsequent Tests at North Sydney, no away batsmen have bettered Rachel Heyhoe-Flint and June Moorhouse’s respective scores of 59 & 59* for England in 1969. Heyhoe-Flint’s half-century was her fourth of the series, an Ashes record that stands to this day (Denise Emerson equalled the feat in 1984-5, as did Jan Brittin in 1998).

The match ended as a draw (the third of the series) and ensured England would retain the trophy (figuratively, there was no physical trophy until 1998). The 1968/69 series began a run of seven drawn Ashes Tests in a row that didn’t end until the unbelievable 2nd Test at Adelaide in December 1984.

It would be 22 years until Test cricket returned to North Sydney. The visitors on that occasion were India, playing the 1st Test of a three-match series. India’s 1990/91 tour was the last time a team other than England would play more than a single Test when visiting Australia.

The match saw the Test debut of Australian all-time-great Belinda Clark, who made 104 in her first innings as Australia posted 301/4 declared (Australia would only lose 17 wickets all series). That innings gave Australia control of the game but India came away with a draw, largely thanks to Sandhya Agarwal.

Agarwal’s 452-minute 51 is the longest Test innings played in Australia and the 13th longest recorded in Test history. Her 398 balls faced are 11th most recorded in a Test match innings and the most faced for a score of less than 100 (Agarwal also holds the outright record for her 523-ball 190 at Worcester in 1986). The 1991 North Sydney Test remains the only time India have avoided defeat in a Test in Australia.

A year later, the ground saw the only Test of the 1991/92 Ashes, the first time the contest would be decided by a “series” of fewer than three matches (the Ashes returned to being a multi-Test series in 1998, but has contained no more than one Test match since 2008).

Isabelle Tsakiris in her only Test, and Charmaine Mason also on debut, restricted England to 146 all out in the 1st innings, before Denise Annetts outscored England on her own with 148* in the 2nd.

That score remains the highest Test score made in Australia. Annetts and Lyn Larsen’s 222 run stand for the 4th wicket is still the highest Test partnership ever made in Australia and the 7th highest in all Tests. Australia posted 346/4 declared, the 2nd highest Test total on Australian soil and the last time any side has made over 300 in a Test in Australia.

England reached 51 without loss, but once Australia got the breakthrough they crumbled in slow motion to 115 all out in the course of 102.2 overs. Australia’s crushing margin of victory, an innings and 85 runs, is the 2nd widest for an Ashes Test.

Tsakiris (50.0-30-45-7) and Mason (46.1-17-79-7) finished the match with seven wickets apiece, respectively the 3rd and 4th best debut figures in an Ashes Test. Only Anne Palmer (7-27) and Myrtle Maclagan (7-41), both playing in the very first women’s Test at Brisbane in 1934, have recorded better debut match figure in an Ashes Test.

A quarter of a century on, it remains to be seen what sort of match the conditions at North Sydney will allow. For a variety of reasons (everything from the visibility of the game to the long-term the viability of the format), the day/night Test is unquestionably the most important of the four women’s Test matches to be staged at the ground. The least the game deserves is a playing surface fit for the occasion.