ICC commentator and former New Zealand seamer Iain O’Brien knows the Fischer County Ground well, having spent a season at Leicestershire. He knows how to bowl here too, having taken 20 wickets at an average of 19.5 for the club on this ground. On Sunday he saw South African fast bowler Marizanne Kapp take 4-9 against the West Indies, and witnessed a very different Grace Road surface than he was used to.
“When I played here, it was typically a really flat surface, with not a lot of return for the quicks,” says O’Brien, who played 22 Tests for New Zealand. “They’ve actually changed how the wicket looks a lot recently. They’ve left a lot more grass on it, a little more live leaf, which helps the quicks get the ball to kiss and skid off the surface.”
Even with a helpful surface however, you’ve still got to be able to bowl well enough to extract that help, and it is in this regard that Kapp excelled. “She found a length that was short enough so that it did kick a little bit, but full enough that she got a little bit of away swing,” O’Brien says. “She’s got a lovely wrist action when she lets go of the ball, she gets a lot of backspin that helps the ball kick and grip on the pitch.”
Perhaps the dismissal which exemplified Kapp’s method was that of debutant Reniece Boyce. The West Indian batter, surprised by a ball that bounced more than she expected, could only manage a leading edge, which was accepted by the bowler after a juggle.
However, while the South African seamer enjoyed extraordinary success, claiming career-best figures, O’Brien thinks other bowlers should be wary of trying to ape her method when they play here later on in the tournament.
“Marizanne Kapp is a bit taller than most women’s cricketers so she can afford to be a bit shorter so she can get that extra bounce,” O’Brien adds. “Whereas you see others rely a lot more on swing, so they have to be much fuller to do the business.”
And while Kapp did bowl excellently, she was helped by the approach the West Indies took.
“They had a gameplan to be aggressive early doors, and Plan B didn’t kick in fast enough,” O’Brien says. “They got to 16-5 without Plan B kicking in. When it did they got through eight overs without losing a wicket.”
The West Indies have now lost their first three matches of the Women’s World Cup, and face an uphill struggle if they are to equal or better their second-place finish at the 2013 event. O’Brien thinks a more cautious strategy might be the key to a resurgence.
“You’ve got to wait for bowlers to have a bad day, because someone is – they’d only seen two bowlers at 16-5,” he says. “You’ve got to work out which bowler is going to have a bad day and capitalise on that.”