- By Callum Matthews
- BBC Sport
Women’s Ashes: England v Australia – first T20 international
Location: Edgbaston Date: 1 July Time: 18:35 BST
Scope: Live on BBC Two, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app from 18:00 BST. Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Sounds, BBC Radio 5 Live and on the website and app, where there will be live text commentary and in-play video clips (UK only)
England will enter the T20 series against Australia in the Women’s Ashes without a left-hander in their 16-player squad.
It’s a continuing trend, with a lack of options available to head coach Jon Lewis and captain Heather Knight.
This leaves a “huge gap” in England’s skillset, Lewis said, with a left- and right-handed combination often chosen so that bowlers can’t get into a rhythm and batters can take advantage of any short spells. border
BBC Sport teamed up with data analysts CricViz to crunch the numbers and work out whether the issue is isolated to England.
What do the numbers say?
According to research about 10% of the population is left-handed, with an article on BBC Newsround in 2022 saying the numbers are thought to be between 10-12%.
Therefore, you would assume that England would have about a percentage of lefties in their team at any given time, right?
Since April 1, 2016, and the retirement of multiple World Cup winner Lydia Greenway, who scored more than 4,000 runs in 225 internationals, England have had just two left-handed batters.
In Test matches, it’s none from 17, and then two from 29 and 31 in one-day internationals and T20s respectively – 6.9% and 6.45% if converted.
The average of non-England women each year over the same time period was 16.94%, with the following table showing how many lefties were chosen by the main countries.
Number of left-handers in each format as of April 1, 2016
While England have struggled to produce left-handers, they are by no means alone in the women’s game.
It’s a problem we can isolate to the women’s game in this country, where the men’s side has had 21 left-handed batters in the same period.
The stark differences begin to show themselves when you consider the roles of lefties on each women’s side.
The England pair of Freya Kemp and Tash Farrant are all-rounders and bowlers so generally have very little influence with the bat.
They also played just seven ODIs and 19 T20s between them during the period.
If we look at the following graphic, we can see that England’s left-handers have faced anywhere near as many balls in every format as any other country.
It’s a similar picture when you consider the runs scored by lefties during the same period, as shown in the graphic below.
As expected there is a clear correlation between balls faced and runs scored with similar numbers, and positional order, across the 10 teams included.
England’s left-handers have faced 84 balls in ODIs, scoring 58 of their 16,620 runs, with Bangladesh on 290 balls and 161 runs the next lowest.
It was a similar picture in the T20s where the England pair faced just 82 balls, scoring 79 of their 8,641 runs. The next lowest was the 272 balls Ireland faced and 207 runs scored.
Sri Lanka dominate both tables with left-handers scoring 73 times more ODI runs than England (4,281 of 7,080) by left-handers, and 38 times more T20 runs (2,992 of 5,928).
In the women’s game, we are starting to see the big three – England, Australia and India – dominate, and England are behind the same thing in balls faced and runs scored.
In ODIs, Australian left-handers have faced 6,197 deliveries (73 times more), with India coming in at 6,721 (80 times more). It’s a similar picture in T20s with 2,479 and 3,050 (30 and 37 times more) respectively.
Perhaps the best comparison is with New Zealand, who have only fielded two left-handers over the period, but both have recognized batters in Amy Satterthwaite and Brooke Halliday.
In ODIs, that pair faced more than 43 times more balls than the England pair (3,613 to 84), and scored almost 51 times more runs (2,945 to 58).
This was similar in T20s where the Kiwi pair faced 10.5 times as many balls (861 to 82), and scored nearly 12 times as many runs (941 to 79).
Although England are comparable to some countries in terms of the players involved, they do not produce top six batters, where most of the scoring is done, especially in white-ball formats. dominating the women’s game.
‘This is a real issue for us’
In white-ball cricket, left- and right-handed batting combinations are often discussed because they can take a bowler off their line and length.
One of the side boundaries can sometimes be shorter than the other, so having a different batting line-up allows you to target one.
Not having that option could hamper England.
“It’s definitely something I’ve noticed, 100%,” Lewis, who was nominated in November, told BBC Sport.
The former bowler, who played one Test and 15 white-ball games for England, also highlighted how the lack of options meant their bowlers were unable to practice against left-handers.
Australia have two left-handers Beth Mooney and Phoebe Litchfield at the top of the order and Lewis said it was a “real issue” for England, who used youth male players in the build-up to the series to help prepare. of their bowlers without disrupting the women’s game.
It’s a sentiment shared by England’s all-time leading wicket-taker Katherine Sciver-Brunt.
“Bowling with the left and right-hand combination is really irritating,” she said. “Putting it in the right place for a right-hander one ball and then a left-hander the next ball is very difficult and a skill in itself.
“It’s not just about running to every ball, everything is not the same. How you hold the ball in your hand will probably change, the angle you run from will probably change, the things you say to yourself – your key words – will change slightly.
“If you have to do that every ball it’s very difficult and it becomes very difficult to create pressure, because to know someone you have to have them at the crease for three or four balls and let them see the differences in your performance” and work it out from there.”
However, despite their concerns about bowling to left-handers, their bowlers’ dot-ball and boundary percentages are similar to those of Australia and India.
Dot-ball percentage in women’s international cricket
Boundary percentage in women’s international cricket
Do other teams see this as an advantage?
English men’s white-ball coach Matthew Mott previously coached Australia’s women, guiding them to 50-over World Cup success and two T20 titles.
Australia’s ability to field left-handers has always been a “huge advantage” according to Mott.
“We always pick the best team, and we’re lucky to have some left-handers there,” Mott told BBC Sport.
“With small boundaries a lot of the time, having the option to send in a left-hander to make the most of it is always a big bonus for us.
“In the World Cup final in 2022, we have taken a definite step to use Beth [Mooney] to go up against a bowler like Sophie Ecclestone, who has an incredible record. But we know that if there is a weakness, even a little, it is against lefties. Beth came out and changed the game and messed him up.”
Is there a reason for England’s lack of options?
One possible theory for England’s lack of options – and possibly general across the women’s game – is hockey.
It is a sport played only with right-handed sticks, which most left-handed players have switched to.
Cricket-playing nations also excelled in hockey with England, Australia and India winning medals at both the men’s and women’s 2022 Commonwealth Games, and New Zealand joining England and Australia on the podium in the 2018 edition.
“I do not know why [it is an issue],” said Lewis. “I really don’t have an answer as to why.
“I know a lot of golf coaches rotate young players from left to right because it’s easier to coach the way you play, so I wonder if it’s until the pathway moment, when the girls are being taught how to play cricket, they were rotated to play right-handed because it was easier for the coach.
“My suggestion to anyone out there doing pathway coaching at a young age is don’t spin people. If they want to go left-handed please let them go left-handed because it’s a big gap in our game.”
Can someone come in?
A possible left-handed option for England in the coming years is Grace Scrivens.
The 19-year-old led England to this year’s Under-19 World Cup and is set to captain England A in the ODI against their Australian counterparts.
“I’m a little weird,” Scrivens said. “I’m right-handed. I play golf left-handed but everything else – tennis, any racquet sport – right-handed.
“My dad always told me that I was sick when I was young and he would ‘take it on the right’, and I would say ‘no, I want to do it this way’ and keep taking it. the other way, maybe to frustrate Him, maybe because I wanted to do it my way.
“It’s useful for me 100%, but if it’s a huge help I’m not sure.”
Lewis and England hope that more kids will follow Scrivens’ stubborn left-handed bat and that the generational gap will begin to close, and help England, in the coming years.
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