Thompson and Tasmania

Emma Thompson has started her Kookaburra Cup campaign with consecutive centuries; the first in vain, the second not so. And when I say start what I really mean is that there is one such match (a 40-over match) left for the season, excluding the final.

It used to be worse. Last season, there was only a knockout tournament. The season before that, there was nothing. Twenty20 is the staple format for Women’s cricket in Tasmania, as it is around the world.

So, this isn’t a moan. Instead, I thought I might take this opportunity to highlight something that Thompson did well; prepare in such a way as to give herself the best chance of making a hundred in the first of the Kookaburra Cup matches. I’m not able to make such a judgement about her hundred in the second game, as I wasn’t there, but the first game I was.

Clarence batted second in that match, but the break was long enough to allow for proper preparation for those who prefer proper structure. Thompson is one such player. She knew precisely what she wanted: Front foot. Back foot. Drives. Pulls. Cuts. Not necessarily in that order.

The drills themselves would not have been anything unfamiliar to most club cricketers; they rarely tend to be. What separates the best from the rest is the ability to consistently apply their skills in matches. That doesn’t make them faultless, of course, or their decisions beyond reasonable debate.

For example, Thompson didn’t shield her number eleven, Natasha Murray, from the strike in an attempt to ensure New Town didn’t bowl Clarence out in their pursuit of 221. How best to bat with the tail will always be a disputed matter: Emily Misfud, the bowler who dismissed Murray, was New Town’s best bowler on the day and therefore represented the biggest danger to Murray’s wicket.

Murray, however, had arguably earned some trust by playing out previous overs with a straight defensive bat, to the extent that she had faced more balls than six of her teammates. It should not necessarily be extrapolated from her dismissal that Thompson’s strategy was wrong, for how is else is a cricketer supposed to improve their ability to consistently apply their skills without the chance to do so in matches. You can only improve your batting so much from the non-striker’s end.

Thompson has not faced such a challenge since that day at state level, and not just because she is yet to emulate her hundreds at grade level in state level: Tasmania have been winning, and winning comfortably enough to ensure that the number eleven is surplus to requirements. The first win against Queensland was Tasmania’s first win against that state in the history of the Women’s National Cricket League. The second win against South Australia was not only their second on the trot, but their third win of the season, and that has never been done by a Tasmanian team in the history of that competition either. A day to be recalled with happiness in the history of Tasmanian cricket.