Observations | Super Smash M#2 | Wellington v Otago
Written By: Jeet Vachharajani
Picture Courtesy: Photosport NZ
I was eagerly waiting for the Super Smash to begin for quite a few months and the two games so far in the women's category have been sensational. In any game that I watch, I generally spot anywhere between 7 to 14 events that should be used during the team meetings for match reviews. Here, I have focussed on some of the key points from M#2 between Wellington and Otago, thus leaving the minor ones out.
1) Importance of fine leg for inswing bowlers: It's imperative to have a fine leg (in the circle) positioned in the PP and after the PP (anywhere) for a bowler whose stock delivery is to swing the ball back in to RHBs sharply. That fielding position becomes even more important when the WK is asked to stand up to the stumps. This is because the sharp swing could easily take the ball down the leg side and if the WK misses, then it would be free runs. Whether it is Emma Black, Jess Kerr, Claudia Green, Amberly Parr-Thomson, or any such bowler - you have got to have the fine leg region protected! That fielder will not only come in handy to stop those misguided deliveries, but could also act as a catching position if the batter flicks a leg-sidish delivery straight into the hands or is someone who has such unorthodox shots in their armory.
Otago didn't have one when Emma Black was operating and that could've proven costly as Polly Inglis was standing up to the stumps. They later rectified it during Black's 2nd over and the very first two balls she bowled drifted down the leg. However, this move was short-lived as the entire fine leg region was left vacant again. Rebecca Burns was quick to make use of it as she accumulated 6 runs in 2 balls in that vacant region. Compare that to the fields that Wellington had when Jess Kerr was operating. It's something for the Sparks to be mindful of as they could have easily used an extra fielder from the off and moved her to fine leg.
2) Curse of over #19.2: M#1 saw Marama Downes allowing a non-existent 2nd run which brought Amy Satterthwaite back on strike who then smashed 4-4-6-2 off the remaining balls. This was a clutch moment in the game if you see what score that mistake helped the Magicians to propel to and the eventual result as well. Had Downes been clinical, then Missy Banks would have been on strike and you'd prefer bowling to her at any time of the innings rather than Satterthwaite.
M#2 saw Kate Ebrahim fire in an unnecessary throw that deflected off the stumps and brought Maddy Green back on strike who went 0-4-2-4. Errors - just unnecessary errors with a massive cost to pay for them!
3) Suzie Bates vs. Xara Jetly: I have observed a common theme with most of the teams and for most of the bowlers where the third and fine leg regions are vacant. Jetly generates a lot of drift and is not really a big spinner of the ball. Her sharp away drift can easily catch the outside or the leading edge of the RHB if a wrong shot is played. Bates was smart, though. She knew it won't spin and the drift would take it away from her. So, she smartly started playing the reverse and accumulated handy runs. But, she did err on one of the balls when she decided to come down the track and flick it - a shot that should be avoided against Jetly! To no surprise, the ball caught the leading edge and just fell short of a charging backward point fielder. It's a template for the teams on how to negotiate Jetly - Play her like an outswinger and target the off by playing the cut or reverse, if you want to be funky.
4) Ultra-aggressive move of Olivia Gain over Polly Inglis: I really liked what Otago Sparks have done this year. I have been a fan of Olivia Gain since the very first time I saw her walk out to bat for Otago last year in the Super Smash. I know what she can do and I'd want to see the team back her as an opener irrespective of her returns. Polly Inglis has a bit of a loose technique and is suited down the order. They need to promote Bella James to #3.
5) Oldershaw struggles against Blaze again: When I did a player profile for Oldershaw, the very last line I had written was why she struggled against Wellington Blaze and it was on show today again. Wellington has some of the best players of spin in their side and Oldershaw gets taken attacked easily. Add Basin Reserve to it, and Oldershaw stood very less chances to succeed. She finished as the most expensive bowler in the entire game with 3-0-27-0.
She faces a threat from 4 batter sin particular every time she faces Blaze and here's why:
Oldershaw's stock delivery is that sharply in-drifting googly. Then she has:
1 - Sophie Devine -- Strong slog-sweeper
2 - Amelia Kerr -- All kinds of sweeps
3 - Maddy Green -- Leg side swatter
4 - Rebecca Burns -- Powerful hitter to the leg
Those inward googlies play into the hands of these 4 batters who can simply hit them powerfully with the spin/swing. Why are these things not talked about?
1) Fielding is not Rebecca Burns' strongest suit: Not once, but it happened thrice when Burns just looked to chase the ball and allowed an extra run or two each time. This is because she was not cutting the angle by running against the direction of the ball and saving time. She was just turning around and running straight to collect the ball when it slowed down. She needs to look at cutting the angle!
2) Amelia Kerr's smart bowling adjustment as a skipper: Blaze have a set plan when the ball swings. Either give 3-4 overs straight to Jess Kerr or 3-4 overs straight to Maneka Singh and finish off their spell before the swing disappears. I am sure that was their plan today as well, but Maneka was taken down by Suzie Bates in the very first over of the run chase. This basically forced an adjustment in the bowling utilization and Amelia adapted phenomenally well. She brought in Leigh Kasperek for the 3rd over and the move worked straightaway. She continued with Jess and closed out the PP with Maneka. It was all beautifully done after a costly 1st over. Despite conceding 11/0 after 1 over, they had Otago 31/2 after the PP. Top work by Melie!
3) Leigh Kasperek's artistry: Kasperek came in with Blaze requiring wickets and a tight over and she provided both by the time she was done bowling 2 overs in the PP. Watching her operate was incredible to watch because she slowed it up so much that Polly Inglis, who came down the track looking to smash the ball, had to defend because she had to wait for an eternity for the ball to arrive. Next ball - Kasperek bowled a quicker one that drifted away from a charging Inglis who got beaten for pace this time to get stumped. These pace variations were consistent throughout the game and that's just how she has succeeded a lot in her career.
1) Cow-corner: This is becoming a hot spot. Yesterday, Bernadine Bezuidenhout, Caitlin Gurrey, & Sam Barriball whacked one straight into the hands of the fielder at cow corner. Three of the best batters in the side were all dismissed there and it turned the game on its head when the latter two were dismissed. In M#2, the cow-corner was again the hot spot with multiple catches/opportunities coming there on a frequent basis.
2) Low career strike-rates: It's a problem and something I have discussed frequently with New Zealand women's cricket and why it will see them decline in the future in the T20Is. Suzie Bates averages 40+ in her Super Smash career with an SR of around 112. A strong hitter like Rebecca Burns does not even touch 100. This problem is common across the board with most of the players & there are multiple reasons behind them.
From what I have observed, there seems to be a common thought process of each team to get out there and look for 125-135 runs which should prove enough to defend. This mentality sees them play for such scores and adjust their game to a slow less-attacking one. Shockingly, it works too. 120-125 scored by the team batting 1st actually proves to be enough many times or at least keeps the defending team interested. The day teams let go of this mentality and start playing freely, you shall see the SRs go up and better scores being put on the board. The intent in the PP is just so bad for so many teams and there is a huge pattern I have observed here. I have a solution for the Women's Super Smash tournament that can be implemented from the next year. This solution shall see the quality improve across the 6 teams + the SRs, striking ability, & finishing skills getting better. It will also help these teams to develop designated finishers which would be a win-win for these 6 teams + White Ferns. But, that's for later!