Road to Glory – Part 2 & the start to WNCL (sorry for the delay, joys of coming back to a full-time job)

Unlike the Semi Final, my nerves were intact and I was actually quite calm about the Final of a T20 World Cup.

 

The night before, Pez and I went for the third time to the Gallery Café and I can highly recommend it if ever in Colombo! We both had a pleasant night despite the restaurant being jam packed with English commentators wishing us good luck through their teeth.

 

Even on the morning of the game, everyone seemed relaxed and just looking forward to the contest. Again another team meeting managed to remind us of what a massive occasion it was, but again at the end of the meeting Sunny, our IT man from India, put together a highlights clip and by the end we were all relaxed again and looking forward to what was a head of us.

 

I have neglected to tell you all about the multicultural support staff that we seem to have collected this trip, hence why when they panned to the group during the anthems they weren’t singing. We managed to pick a Pom as our physio, Scot as our Doctor, Kiwi as our Media Manager, plus there are suspicions that our Strength and Conditioner has some Middle Eastern background, only because he tans really well as we both fight to be the darkest by the end of the tour.

 

There was a quiet confidence amongst the group and when Meg and Midge started by hitting to all parts of the ground, that only strengthened our belief. It is unheard of with Katherine Brunt going for 20 off her two overs and even after we lost our openers, the momentum continued.

 

Jess Cameron and I came into the middle and I was lucky enough to witness the talent that she has to burn. She scored a match winning 45 and took 17 off one over, including the shot of the tournament where she scooped the ball over the keeper’s head for 4. Despite losing her the next over, Alex and I were able to get a run a ball until the end to post 4/142, 2 runs less than what we scored in the round match where we lost.

 

The difference between the round match and today was the fact it was a Final and runs on the board meant a hell of a lot. We started well in the field, then Charlotte Edwards struck a 6 and 4 to change the momentum. I was able to combine with Pez to pick her up and then it was Pez’s turn to take the vital wicket of Taylor 20 runs later. From there we were able to pick up consistent wickets and stem the flow of runs at the same time.

 

Like a Hollywood drama, there was to be a slight twist to the end of the story. A drop catch followed by some lusty hitting from Jenny Gunn saw the runs required and balls remaining edge closer and closer. The nervous energy that hadn’t reared its ugly head at all this match suddenly started to build.

 

There was uncertainty about the field and where we were going to bowl with certain players now executing shots that we didn’t think they were going to play. With 2 overs to go and England requiring 23 runs, Pez came in to try and put the game out of reach, only going for 7 runs.

 

The final over was given to the young prodigy, Erin Osborne, with16 runs to play with. I tried to make her smile, but there was no smile back. Instead she was focused – but maybe on the fear of failure!

 

Another dropped catch, misfield and a full toss no-ball brought the equation down rapidly and off the last ball, England needed 6 runs.

 

Oz managed to bowl a full toss on leg-side and as I watched Hazell connect with bat, I noticed that she didn’t have the elevation that she needed. The ball went out to Pez who threw it in to spark the celebrations. It was such an amazing feeling, something that I have only been lucky enough to experience two other times.

 

The Lap of Honour was amazing as the local crowd had streamed in to cheer on their team Sri Lanka, who were playing straight after us. They were happy to clap and give us a standing ovation. Once we were back in the change rooms we had to ice-bath and do proper recovery as we had to fly out that night.

 

Even though we won there wasn’t the amount of celebration that was had in 2010, as we only had a few hours back at the hotel to pack and check-out. The evening got worse as we were stuck in a VIP room at the airport, with all of us tired, hungry and in dismay that we had to fly out the night of our victory, yet the Poms had 2 more days in Colombo before they left!

 

Our return trip also seemed to be the longest route possible as we had to fly back via Dubai, Singapore, Melbourne and finally home to Sydney. It took 48 hours with a few of us only managing only 3-5 hours sleep.

 

We all said our good-byes at Melbourne airport where we actually had media and James Sutherland greeting us. Some of the girls had to back-up for their State teams 3 days later but thankfully Cricket NSW moved our first match to the following week, allowing for extra rest from the tournament.

 

It is always a great feeling when you come back to your State teams. This is the group that you spend the most time with. You get to see them week in, week out and challenge each other to get better.

 

 To be part of a winning Australian team in special, but to put on the Lend Lease Breakers’ uniform is just as special and when we all formed together for our first match against ACT last weekend it meant a lot to us.

 

It was a solid weekend with the usual suspects scoring runs, taking wickets and basically out playing our former teammates.

 

Most of the ACT girls have come through the NSW junior pathway so it is a typical grudge match.  With three comfortable wins, our attention now turns to Queensland tomorrow. With our coach Jo, spending a number of years coaching them, I am sure that those girls will want to prove a point to Jo and they have a number of very talented players.

 

Nothing is left in the change rooms when we play Queensland and I would assume this coming weekend will be exactly the same.

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Road to Glory Part One – Nerves

The build-up to a Semi Final and Final of a World Cup is something completely different to any other sporting tournament. The emotions that you experience before the matches, and after, are heightened to the ‘nth’ degree and you become acutely aware of everything that is going on in your surroundings.

We qualified second in our Pool which meant a Semi against the dangerous West Indies three days later in Colombo. Those three days were long and painful as at this stage of the tournament, you just want to play and you certainly don’t need time to stew over what is approaching.

The weather in Colombo was definitely hotter than what we had gotten use to in Galle. When preparing for a Semi Final you feel like you should be training even more when probably you should be taking it easy.

I decided not to watch the first Semi between England and New Zealand. Instead I used the rare free time to actually have a nana nap as the tour and heat was getting to me. Others chose to watch the game to see how the wicket and both teams played. The other reason I didn’t want to watch the game was the fact that we needed to win against West Indies in order to play the winner of the other Semi, and there was no need to get ahead of ourselves. Focus on the job at hand, don’t get too caught up in the future I say. 

Our Semi Final was scheduled to start at 2.30pm so everyone had the morning off. It is interesting to observe how people cope with nerves. The majority stayed in their rooms on their computers, tweeting and Facebooking. Others went through the notes that they had taken on the West Indian players, whereas I tried to just keep myself busy.

I replied to some work emails and managed to find a movie that was just what I needed, Aladdin. I hadn’t seen the movie in ages, but why not reminisce  your childhood when the only pressure you faced was not to be the last chosen at school sport? I wasn’t immune to the nerves which is something that I hadn’t felt since the 2009 World T20 when we played against England. I think it was the fact that we wanted to get into the Final and were expected to beat the West Indies purely based on consistency at this level. This didn’t detract from the simple truth that there were players within the team that could win them the game, which was shown in the preliminary games when they beat New Zealand.

The team meeting prior to our departure only increased everyone’s nerves, but thankfully Fitzy had ensured that we finished off the meeting with some highlights of squad bonding camp where we had to get into a soft boxing ring and punch each other with massive soft Mits that were bloody heavy…that certainly lightened the mood and we were off.

During the trip to the ground I had a strange sensation of pins and needles in my legs and I was thinking to myself how I was going to be able to perform. Thankfully, once we arrived, I realised it was just another game and noticed that everyone else started to relax into it.

As a group and as individuals, we had prepared for this match extremely well and I put my faith in that and tried to control what I could instead of letting my mind wonder to the plenty of negative, and sometimes positive thoughts.

The match wasn’t our best in the batting department as the West Indies bowled  and fielded extremely well. We had lost a few quick wickets and were in a little trouble. Alex and I went about rebuilding the innings by just getting up and down the wicket. When I went trying to find the boundary, the next few batters continued the flow of runs with Rach hitting over the boundary to give us a reasonable total to defend.

Surprisingly, our fielding and bowling has been letting us down this tournament but the batting department was gelling quite nicely. Therefore, we were going to have to fight for this win as the West Indies weren’t going to roll over and give it to us on a platter.

Our start couldn’t of been any better as we really restricted their scoring shots and had plenty of dots balls on them. I opened at one end and managed to bowl the same ball for three overs. They found it difficult to get away so I stuck with that and only went for six runs off my four overs. At the other end, Pez came steaming in and picked up the wicket of Taylor then a few overs later set up Dottin brilliantly. Dottin, one of the cleanest striker of the ball, has struggled with Pez’s bouncer so her first delivery she waited on the back foot, instead her off stump was knocked out of the ground – you little beauty!

From there we applied even more pressure and at the end Jules picked up five wickets as the West Indies were bowled out for 87. When the last wicket fell everyone was excited about that meant. We had just booked a spot to play England in the World T20 Final and that feeling doesn’t get any better, or does it?

Goodbye Galle, hello Semi Final!

We are now into our last few hours here in Galle before we head back to Colombo today. Our time here has been good – the ground is very picturesque with the Dutch Fort situated behind it. Stuart Law, our Assistant Coach, has mentioned during the Test matches it gets absolutely packed up there and I can understand why because the view is spectacular!

The cricket ground at Galle

We had an opportunity to walk along the Fort the other day after our match against Pakistan, and apart from the gorgeous view there is a man who runs at full pelt and jumps off the fort, then lands precariously between the rocks in the ocean. The show isn’t over as he then becomes Spiderman and climbs back up the rock face….not a bad trick at all!

Our other little outing has been the family/friends dinner at Unawatuna beach. It was a gold one compared to where we have been staying. Some of the staff have called our hotel Faulty Towers….enough said!

Unawatuna seems to be the tourist hub with plenty of little shops and just a relaxed vibe. Due to having such an enjoyable team dinner, a big group of us ventured out to the same place in search of another great eatery. Unfortunately our luck ran out as the food took over an hour to come and when it did arrive, I had the chewiest fish that I have ever eaten. To keep us amused take our minds off the lack of food, we started to play games and learnt some interesting things about our teammates. Sorry I can’t share but what goes on tour stays on tour!

Apart from those small adventures, the days have been full of cricket with either training or playing. I am pleased to report that we have qualified for the Semi Final against the West Indies on Friday after winning two of our three Pool matches.

The first game was against India, a team that has caused us a little bit of pain in this type of competition. Thankfully our spinners came into the mix with Erin picking up three wickets and Player of the Match. With only a 105 on the board there was no rush in our batting innings with the top three doing the job easily.

Next game was against the unknown Pakistanis. Jodie won the toss and elected to bat. Again a good start by Meg (16) and Midge (36) but when they both fell in the same over, Jess (Cameron) and I went about posting a good total. It actually reminded me of batting with Karen Rolton, as I would get the single and Jess would hit the fours and sixers – it was the perfect partnership! Jess finished with a Player of the Match performance of 41 and I chipped in with 29. With a good total of 148 we went into the field with confidence.

Unfortunately rain cut our match short as we only managed to get in nine overs, but Pez was able to pick up two good wickets and we won via the Duckworth/Lewis method by 25 runs.

Our final round match was against the Poms to see who would come first in our Pool. On a steamer of a day, we won the toss and went about putting on a defendable total. Today it was Meg’s (39) turn to find the boundaries at the start as we reached  1/45 off six overs. When Alex and I met in the middle we were able to put on a 50 run partnership with Alex scoring a valuable 27 and myself 38. In the end we finished with a competitive 144 but we all knew that this was going to be a tight match.

We began well in the field, keeping them under the required rate and by the 10th over we were in the box seat have gotten out Marsh and Edwards. For England, though, they still had Sarah Taylor (the number one batter in T20 cricket) and she began to show her class, finding the boundary at will. There was some massive overs that went against us and before we knew it was a run a ball for the last few overs.

Unfortunately we missed a few vital chances and with that, England passed our total in the 19th over with Taylor finishing with an impressive 60+. It was a disappointing end to our time here at Galle, but it certainly was a game that we can take a lot positives from. Plus we have a second bite of the cherry as we play the West Indies. That will be shown live on Fox sports so please cheer for the green and gold!

Hopefully the next blog will be just before we play our Final!!!