Beth Mooney made a solid 70 in a match-winning opening partnership with Nicole Bolton. (Reuters / Action Images: Peter Cziborra)
On paper, it looks like a thumping win for Australia, the perfect first step in a title defence. In person, what do you take away from something as shambolic as the West Indies’ performance in the first World Cup hit-out for both teams?
This is supposed to be the new big rivalry in women’s cricket. Last year, the World Twenty20 final was all about the irresistible energy of the challengers, Hayley Matthews and Stafanie Taylor rolling over the top of what should have been a winning total from a fancied opponent.
A muscular batting line-up and a varied bowling attack promised much from the Caribbean side at this World Cup. But as much as the Australians played well, their opponents’ suffering was self-inflicted.
Somehow, the shambles on the field even out-shambled the shambles going on around the game.
First the toss, where the West Indies chose to bat, then bowl, then were batting again. At the same time Australia was picking the wrong players on the team sheet.
Then two run-outs were not out, despite being very clearly out on the ICC’s own broadcast cameras.
But those cameras, we were told, were not the right type of camera to show whether someone was out. Even though that’s exactly what they did.
So, no third umpire despite the presence of a broadcast, no top-order bat Rachael Haynes bowling at nine for Australia, and no West Indies being able to bat and bowl in alternate overs. Glad that we’re clear.
What we did get was an ODI opener on debut, Felicia Walters, sputtering to 7 from 30 deliveries. The last 15 of those were scoreless, ending with a mistimed pull to square leg.
If that hadn’t undermined Matthews at the other end thoroughly enough, she was then given a first drop who took another 27 balls to move past that magical mark of 7 runs.
An anxious Nation awaits … and waits
Chedean Nation is an all-rounder who batted 10 times in ODIs in 2008 and 2009, and once in 2016. Those games returned an average of 7.6 at a strike rate of 38.
She was inserted at number three in a World Cup match, ahead of one of the best in the world in Taylor, and one of the most destructive in Deandra Dottin.
The first incorrect run-out call went in Nation’s favour, but in honesty benefited Australia: even with two fours and a six the batsman ended with 39 from 73 balls, 47 of them scoreless, having sucked the air from the team’s innings.
In the meantime, batting fluently to 46, Matthews was expected to tend the run rate on her own.
That mounting pressure saw her try an almighty windscreen-wipe against a modest left-arm orthodox ball — somehow the circular swing of the bat started out trying for mid on but ended up facing cover, neither of which helped with Jess Jonassen aiming at the stumps.
By the time Taylor came to the crease, 24 overs had been soaked up for 86 runs.
Stadium DJs this summer have been mad for Seven Nation Army, but seven Nations would have batted out a full ODI for 159.
There were flashes of ability, but against bowling that was steady rather than unplayable, it was all staggeringly wasteful.
Only Ellyse Perry’s return for the fourth wicket meant genuinely good bowling could be cited. Dottin had got things moving, spanking 29 from 20 balls in a partnership of 34.
She cracked a couple of fours from Perry’s over, but the last ball had inswing, then movement off the seam.
A length juicy enough to invite the power-hitter’s drive instead ducked through the gate it had opened, sending her off stump spinning backwards like a Russian floor gymnast.
Once Australia got the wicket of Deandra Dottin, the rest of the West Indies innings tailed away quickly. (Reuters: Peter Cziborra)
That’s all it took. One good ball, then surrender. Merissa Aguilleira, a former captain, skied a wide slower ball for 1.
Shanel Daley did the same to a full toss. The bottom six all made single figures. Taylor battled to 45 but was swamped.
Australian captain Meg Lanning didn’t think there was a great deal in the wicket.
“It was just being really consistent and not giving them any four balls. We kept our lines pretty tight and didn’t give them too much to hit,” she said.
As simple as that? The West Indies couldn’t match it.
Aussies never troubled for the win
Given the modest target, Nicole Bolton and Beth Mooney could take time to settle in, ticking along at 4.5 runs per over for the first 22, then lifting closer to 6 in an opening stand of 171.
There was little pressure from the bowling, and plenty of poor fielding when shots got away.
There was a hundred for Bolton, batting in her specs, and a welcome way to ease into World Cup cricket for Mooney, the more recent entrant at the top of the order.
But still, what have we learned? Lanning had the right things to say after the game about concentrating on her own team and going through processes, whatever they may be.
It’s just rare to come away from a game of cricket with so little understanding of what happened and why.
One of the supposedly best teams in the competition had better pray for answers. West Indies have a few days to clear a few heads before South Africa this Sunday.
Australia might get a few answers against Sri Lanka this Thursday, and certainly against the powerful New Zealanders on the Sunday to follow. On current trends, that should make for a far more rigorous examination.