Australia deservedly beat England by eight wickets in the World T20 Final in Antigua, and it was a defeat that brutally exposed the weaknesses in Heather Knight’s team.
These are the key reasons why England lost so heavily:
Knight blundered by electing to bat first
On the evidence of their last 32 matches (dating back to the start of the 2017 Ashes), England are far better at chasing a target than they are at setting one. They have won 11 of the 13 matches when they have batted second and only 8 of 19 when they have batted first.
That is a huge disparity and, if the England backroom staff are not aware of it, it is about time they had another look at the statistics so they can advise Knight accordingly.
Not that the captain should have needed the advice. Before the final, the Three Lions had successfully chased down a target three times in the tournament and they lost the only time they batted first.
England’s batters under-performed
England’s loss to the West Indies in their last group game foreshadowed what happened in the final. On that occasion, the Three Lions subsided to 50/6 in the 11th over, with five of their best six batters dismissed for single figure scores.
That is simply not good enough from the number two side in the world, and only Sophia Dunkley’s 35 and Anya Shrubsole’s 29 saved them from total humiliation.
In the final, England actually got off to a good start thanks to Danni Wyatt. The opener rode her luck a bit but she hit some excellent shots and scored quickly during her innings of 43 from 37 balls.
But unfortunately the warning signs were already visible as Wyatt had propelled the Three Lions to 41-2 after 6.4 overs with virtually no help from her teammates. Had Tammy Beaumont or Amy Jones contributed to the total, it might have given an impression of comfort. Instead, they looked like a one-woman team.
Things got worse when Natalie Sciver was adjudged lbw when she may have hit the ball (see discussion below) and then Wyatt herself was caught at extra cover by Meg Lanning to make it 64/4 after 11 overs.
Despite this, England still had hope as Knight was still at the crease and she could call on Lauren Winfield, Sophia Dunkley and Anya Shrubsole to help her out. To the dismay of everyone involved, all three women got out cheaply and, with the score at 84/7 after 15.4 overs, the match was effectively over.
So who is most to blame? Clearly Beaumont is culpable. She was England’s best batter during the summer but she scored just 54 runs in five innings at the World T20.
Wyatt also struggled for most of the tournament but she performed when it mattered most – even if should have gone onto a bigger score.
Jones enjoyed an excellent tournament. She scored her first-ever fifty in T20 Internationals in the semi-final and remained unbeaten every time England chased.
Sciver’s performance with the bat was mixed. She was out cheaply on three occasions but she made important contributions in both of her other innings. If luck had gone her way with her lbw in the final, perhaps she could have made another vital knock.
It is almost impossible to judge Knight’s performance. She failed once, came in twice to finish off chases that were almost over and ran out of suitable partners in the final.
Lauren Winfield only got an opportunity to bat in two matches, and both times she failed to reach double figures.
Numbers seven and eight (Dunkley and Shrubsole) also batted just twice in the tournament and, while they bailed out the top order to some extent on one occasion, they did not perform when they were needed most in the final.
However, it is not entirely their fault as both were batting a place too high in the order. When Head Coach Mark Robinson selected his 15-player squad for the World T20, he picked five batters, four all-rounders and six bowlers. It always seemed like the wrong balance and both of England’s losses suggested exactly that as looked like they were a batter short of an excellent team.
Admittedly, the lower order might not have struggled as much if Katherine Brunt had not been forced to withdraw with a back injury. The veteran fast bowler has scored lots of important runs in the past and she could have rescued the Three Lions again in the World T20 final.
However, once Brunt had been ruled out, Robinson should have taken the pragmatic approach and selected an extra batsman – at least against the strongest opposition. The coach called up Fran Wilson (who averages 21.71 in T20Is) to replace the fast bowler in the squad, and he should have put her in the team for the matches against West Indies, India and Australia.
Sciver was unlucky to be given out
It is still unclear exactly what happened on the fifth ball of the seventh over of England’s innings. What we do know is that Natalie Sciver was struck on the pad plumb in front of the stumps and she was given out by the on-field umpire. However, she immediately reviewed the decision and real-time snickometer showed a spike as the ball passed her bat.
The third umpire believed the spike was caused by her bat hitting her pad, so he ruled that there was no conclusive evidence to overturn the on-field decision. In doing so, he followed the correct protocol for the decision review system (DRS).
However, this is an area in which that system is flawed. When an umpire makes a decision, he or she is supposed to give the benefit of the doubt to the batter. And in this instance there was definitely doubt as Sciver’s bat was close enough to hit the ball at the time of the spike on the snickometer. That should have been enough to save her from dismissal, but it was not because of the way the referral system works.