WBBL thoughts (1) — what a final; what a wonderful advert for the game!

I have enjoyed watching the WBBL, on BT Sport, over the autumn. Mostly the highlights packages, but I did catch the 2nd semi-final live, and the final on Saturday.

What a fantastic game of cricket.

No, I don’t think the Stars batted especially badly, or that the pitch, or the ball, misbehaved.

Yes, the new ball did swing and bounce, but not excessively…I thought it was meant to do a bit. Or should we give the bowlers a bowling machine ball to bowl with, or a baseball, and have them learn to swerve and curve. (A discussion for another post.)

Most certainly not a “disappointment”, as I have seen the game described.

It’s good to see bowlers winning matches (IMO, and writing as a bowler myself). This just might inspire a youngster to want to be a quick bowler, or a spinner, or a cunning, calculating, pace-changing medium pacer.

Who’d put in the hard yards to be a bowler when you are only in the game to feed the batters’ more outrageous hitting?

So — WBBL a great advert for the women’s game; a great advert for the game of cricket.

I want to get back to bowling, after watching Shabnim Ismail!

Bowlers win matches

I had read and heard a lot about Shabnim Ismail — perhaps the premier quick in the women’s game, with a proper fast bowler’s attitude to back up the pace.

Until the final, I had only seen her bowl in highlights packages, and I was going to write that I had been a little disappointed. Ismail looked to be bowling to an unambitious plan, and only seemed to threaten the stumps when the batters started to take liberties later in the innings. She wasn’t bowling teams out, and she never bowled at the death.*

So seeing her bowl in Saturday’s final was a revelation, and a joy. Pace, control, movement in the air, maybe a little off the pitch. Not quite unplayable…but in the context of T20, as good as.

Top marks to skipper Rachael Haynes for bowling Ismail straight through.

And she was well supported by Sammy-Jo Johnson, transformed from off-pace cutters in mid-innings to seam-up, hitting the deck with the new ball, and making batters play and miss.

*Little did I realise that the Thunder had their death bowling settled, with an 18 year old, second-season, “veteran”.

Hannah Darlington was so good, so controlled, so level-headed, throughout the competition.

In the semi-final. A sky-er off her own bowling. Could have left it to (England captain) Heather Knight, coming in from extra cover, but claimed it herself. No worries!

One moment, towards the end of the final. Delivers a ball with what might have been a slightly funky grip; certainly seems to leave her hand slower than the arm speed would have suggested. Beats the stroke and hits the stumps. A look of quiet triumph — exactly to plan.

Off to finish her A levels (the Aus equivalent).

Where are the strike bowlers?

After waxing lyrical about the impact of the bowlers in the final, it is only fair to point out that I hadn’t seen much from them previously in the competition.

A few 3- and 4-fers, several “2 wickets in 2 balls” when an incoming batter just wasn’t properly set to play her first ball.

I know this is T20, and bowlers are almost immediately on the defensive, but (with the shining exception of Amelia Kerr, and Shabnim Ismail in the final) I can’t recall many batters being dismissed by a bowler, rather than getting out playing aggressive or ill-judged strokes.

Final thought — watching The Hundred in 2021

I did get to see quite a bit of WBBL6.

The COVID lockdown obviously made a difference, and I have not been coaching since March (schools not inviting in external coaches; prospect of commuting on the Tube not attractive), as did a long-standing (and discounted) subscription to BT Sport.

I don’t expect to see anywhere near as much of The Hundred when it debuts in 2021. I do hope to be back at work by the summer, and I fear that The (Women’s) Hundred won’t get the same broadcast coverage in England & Wales as the WBBL has.

I have seen suggestions that The Hundred might be staged as double-headers with the Men’s games next year, which could see the women relegated to inconvenient times, and highlights-only packages. Unless the BBC step up on the red button (please), it might mean a subscription to Sky Sports, which might be difficult to justify, financially, for just a few games.

I do hope to see more live Women’s cricket in 2021. I only saw one session of a County game this year, Essex vs. Surrey in the London Championship (will it be back in 2021?), but I’ll have to keep an eye out for the fixtures next summer. Certainly hoping to make a trip or two to see the Sunrisers.

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; All Stars Cricket Activator & Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire; ECB Coach Developer

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