Alice Capsey, Pakistan’s Powerplays and Australia’s Comeback: Commonwealth Games Wrap
Jay looks at four takeaways from the first four days of the Commonwealth Games Cricket Competition
A teenage prodigy, a thrilling new ball spell, two dominant opening partnerships, and a dramatic come-from-behind chase: There’s been no shortage of action in the first half of the Commonwealth Games Cricket Competition.
Let’s take a look at four takeaways from the first four days.
When Muneeba Ali slogged Meghna Singh over cow corner in the eighth over of Pakistan’s clash against India, she brought up her first-ever six in T20I cricket. It took her 469 balls and 29 games to achieve this.
This is not what you want from a powerplay batter. For what it’s worth, I believe that Muneeba has the ability to develop into someone who can get through the new ball and anchor an innings while scoring at a healthy clip. Yet, the issue for Pakistan has been the other batters in their top four who also struggle to score quickly.
Make no mistake, out of all teams in the competition, Pakistan are the worst powerplay batting team. The last time they scored at over 7 runs per over in the first six overs of an innings was their opening game of the 2020 T20 World Cup against West Indies. In 16 innings since then, they’ve averaged 14.4 runs per wicket, scoring at a run rate of 4.66 runs in the first 6 overs of an innings.
Just for context, even after you exclude Sri Lanka’s numbers from the Commonwealth Games Qualifier, where three of their four games were against associate nations, they’ve still scored at 5.46 runs per over in the first six overs, averaging 32.78.
Pakistan’s powerplay statistics look much worse in comparison to other, stronger teams. India has scored at 7.11 runs per over, averaging 29.5. Australia have gone at 6.92 runs per over and averaged 31.6. England have averaged a shade above 30 going at 7.26 runs per over.
If Pakistan hopes to compete with the top teams, they need to change their personnel at the top of the order. Their over-reliance on Nida Dar, by far their best T20I batter over the years, has gone on for far too long and was exposed against India. After the fall of Bismah Maroof’s wicket, they lost 49 for 9 to collapse to 99 all out.
Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma then killed the game off in the six overs, where they pummeled 61 runs. It’s hard to imagine Pakistan being able to pull off something similar.
As someone who seems custom built for powerplay batting, Ayesha Naseem is certainly capable of playing a similar role to Shafali Verma. There is, of course, no guarantee that pushing her up to open will pay immediate dividends. Yet, if you’re David Hemp or Bismah Maroof, surely anything is better than the current default setting.
Renuka’s rhythm; Radha and Meghna’s struggles
Tahlia McGrath couldn’t believe it. She looked back at what remained of her stumps after Renuka Singh Thakur’s hooping late inswinger clattered into them.
Renuka’s spell was one of the finest new ball spells in recent memory and was the result of hard work and meticulous training.
In spite of her efforts in helping to reduce Australia to 49 for 5 in a chase of 155, the rest of India’s bowling attack — with the exception of Deepti Sharma — was unable to seal what should have been a comfortable victory for their team. This was a far cry from the Indian attack that comfortably defended 132 against the same opponents in the opening clash of the 2020 T20 World Cup. On that day, Shikha Pandey and Poonam Yadav combined to take 7 wickets.
In the absence of Pooja Vastrakar, India could have used Pandey’s consistency and Poonam Yadav’s bravery. Instead, they were forced to throw the ball to Meghna Singh — making her T20I debut — and Radha Yadav.
While it is hard to fathom why Radha was entrusted with crucial death overs ahead of Rajeshwari Gayakwad, India’s best spinner, she did find her lengths and bowled at the right speed against Pakistan. She bowled fuller, slower and got the purchase that was on offer from a hybrid surface that seems to be getting slower and dryer as the tournament progresses.
A big concern for India is being able to win games consistently against the best teams in the world. In this year’s 50-over World Cup, they missed out on the semi-finals, losing to England, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. While Radha’s spell against Pakistan was encouraging, whether she can replicate the same results against the world’s best teams is a different question altogether.
Gardner-Harris and Bates-Devine
How good were Grace Harris and Ash Gardner against India? It all started with Harris who began the counter attack by stepping down the track to deposit Radha Yadav over long on. After she was dismissed for 37 off 20, Ash Gardner took over to play a mature innings, where she took the game deep before targeting Meghna Singh and Radha Yadav. Gardner’s innings is a textbook example of how to pace a tricky run chase, and won’t be long forgotten.
Meanwhile, in Group B, Suzie Bates played a supporting role to Sophie Devine before exploding in the aftermath of her partner’s dismissal to finish on 91* off 64 balls. The most impressive aspects of her burst in the death overs was a pair of reverse scoops, which travelled for four, and how she moved across her crease to access the leg side, including a paddle scoop for six off Ayabonga Khaka.
Crucially, this was Bates’ first half-century in her last 17 T20I innings — a run that stretches back to 8th February 2019. She backed this up with a knock of 34 against Sri Lanka in New Zealand’s next game.
In spite of this, a big question looms for New Zealand:
What happens when their top three fail? Katey Martin opted to retire after the T20 World Cup, while Amy Satterthwaite was forced into the decision after being inexplicably snubbed for a contract. As New Zealand don’t have readymade replacements for either, Bates could not have picked a better time to run into form.
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It’s an Alice Capsey world…
Alice Capsey’s run of form has meant that England have barely missed skipper Heather Knight. The teenager’s knock of 44 against Sri Lanka in a small run chase was just a teaser for a more aggressive 50 off 37 against South Africa.
From the very beginning of her innings, she was not shy to use her feet to the seamers, charging down the track to smash Shabnim Ismail through the covers.
She did get lucky, being gifted four full tosses throughout her innings. Yet, she was clinical, putting each one away to the boundary or over the ropes.
And her off side game is nothing but sublime. Capsey’s iconic slaps through the off side were accompanied by a very sweet sound off her bat. With the way she takes guard and shapes up to play each delivery, often clearing her back leg, it seems like she’s practically tailor-made for white ball cricket. As you can see from the screenshot below, she has a very open bat face in her stance, which allows her to access the off side and makes her an awkward customer to bowl to.
She also judges length very quickly, which allows her to rock onto her back foot and pull away deliveries that are too short. Her quick reading of length also allows her to use her feet to spinners, who she sometimes hits over the leg side. In other instances, she opens up her body and goes inside out over extra cover or decides to pull out a reverse sweep, like the one she executed off Oshadi Ranasinghe’s bowling.
Capsey’s range is incredible for a teenager. She is the sort of batter who can play three or four different shots to the same delivery.
Moreover, as she demonstrated for the Oval Invincibles during The Hundred, she has the composure to ride out a storm. Against the London Spirit, she came in with the score on 3 for 29 and scored a match-winning half-century. In the Eliminator versus the Birmingham Phoenix, her 26 (20) propelled her team to 114 after being 36 for 3 on a tough surface.
Across The Hundred, she struck at 148.9 between balls 26 and 75 of an innings and has demonstrated the same proficiency in the middle overs in her short international career.
One of the most compelling narratives heading into the Commonwealth Games was how a young English squad would fare. England’s toughest games are yet to come, but Alice Capsey has clearly been the main protagonist in these opening chapters.
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