The Canberra wicket didn’t have too many demons in it. The new and hard ball did a fair bit and there was a bit of everything which the bowlers got. Despite that, one can look back and question the application of the England batters on the second day. Lauren Winfield-Hill fell to a shot, which needed to be played with much softer hands while Tammy Beaumont and Natalie Sciver fell to some good incoming deliveries. Sophia Dunkley attempted to cut a delivery which was too close to her while Amy Jones fell to a short-pitch delivery which she was never in control of.
The dismissals such as these make fans want more from the batters. The more was provided by the England skipper who grinded her way to a quite magnificent century, which might go down as one of her best knocks, if not the best. Considering the fact that she already has a Test century (157 vs Australia in 2013), this century might rank lower than that one in terms of runs, but numbers haven’t always been the correct metric to measure a knock’s substance.
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For starters, this is Knight’s ninth Test in her career, which has been close to 12 years long. And, Test match batting is unlike batting in other formats. There are phases when the delivery does a bit too much for a batter’s liking, there are phases when everything from a bowler starts to skid on from the surface or seaming in making it difficult and there are phases when clouds essentially help the bowlers. As a batter, you have to get through these tough phases and wait for the bowlers to go to their backfoot. Knight managed to do that quite beautifully.
In her first 100 deliveries, Knight made only 30 runs. This was the phase where Sciver and Beaumont got out to the incoming deliveries, which swung back in sharply. She took 57 deliveries to get to her next 30 runs, accelerating almost with no risk. This was a phase during the middle session, where Australian batters had managed to score freely on day one.
For the next 40 runs, Knight took 56 deliveries. By this phase, Knight had grown into confidence and was fighting hard to get the follow on down. Along with Sophie Ecclestone, who surprisingly turned out to be the one who showed some solidity and support from the other end, Knight managed to get through the final hurdle of ensuring England didn’t have to follow-on.
The breakdown of Knight’s innings can be used to teach young batters how to hold onto their temperament in Test cricket. What is amazing is the fact that Knight has played more than one Test in a year only once in her career. What is even amazing is the fact that she is not someone who plays enough red-ball cricket in England or in Australia or anywhere else to maintain her temperament.
Following the year, when England’s (Men’s) Test match batting faced heavy criticism, to an extent where the whole county system was being put into question, Knight’s knock could just be a gold standard to follow for batters whenever they come to the Australian shores. And she did that, staying in bubbles, hardly having any match-practice leading into the Test and having not played proper red-ball cricket for an extended period, ever. Maybe, in a year’s or decade’s time, this knock will be fondly remembered for the control, solidity and persistence which the England captain showed at a venue, with which she shares a love-affair.