Hayley Matthews' classy opening act helps West Indies begin in style
Hayley Matthews © Getty Images
12 runs, 5 innings: 1, 2, 4, 3, 2. These were the scores which Hayley Matthews got in her last five innings as an opener before the World Cup. After opening the innings for West Indies in ODIs right through her international career, she was demoted in the batting order in 2021 after a horror run, where she couldn’t literally buy a run. She was moved to no. 5, while Deandra Dottin was sent up the order to open the innings.
Dottin’s personal form opening the innings saw Matthews stay back in the middle order. In the very first innings after Dottin was moved back to the opening position, she scored a brilliant century in a foreign country (132 in Karachi). In the same match, Matthews scored a fifty and got herself back into form. And it seemed that was going to be her position for sometime.
In an interview with Women’s CricZone, Matthews spoke about her change in batting position. ‘It was really about finding a good balance to the team. We have Deandra Dottin, who is a really dangerous player and it was important to get her in the power play overs. I think it gave us a bit more structure as a team. At first, I was a bit hesitant to go down at number five. But, I trust the coaching staff around here. And if they believed that was the best thing for the team at the time, I had all the faith in them,” Matthews said.
Ahead of the opening match against New Zealand, Matthews got a call from Courtney Walsh, the head coach of the team. He told her that she has to open the innings as Rashada Williams had been ruled out due to concussion. Matthews sensed the opportunity and pounced on it.
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On Friday, when she arrived at the crease, she didn’t take too long to get going. While Dottin had struck three boundaries in the very first over, she fell to the first ball of the third over. The onus was now on Matthews to stitch together an innings which could help her side post a decent enough total against a side which had chased down 270+ scores twice in the last two weeks.
Despite Dottin’s dismissal, in the very same over, Matthews struck three boundaries. Having made her debut at only 16, Matthews made a career by predominantly scoring through the leg-side. But in Mount Maunganui on Friday, she managed to score quite freely on the off-side, cutting both the spinners and the pacers from time to time. Once West Indies were put under pressure, Matthews didn’t take undue risks and rotated the strike. She was good against the short ball as well and played some lovely punches off the backfoot. She even fought through a hamstring injury in both innings.
Her innings had a perfect progression and acceleration. She looked to build partnerships more than anything. “I think initially going out there to open, I probably thought I’ll try to take it a bit steady obviously – haven’t opened the batting in a couple of months. But yeah, I think when we got up there and saw how good the wicket was playing, I was able to capitalize without trying too much and yeah, I think that's pretty much how I just played my whole innings. Take it ball by ball. Set small targets with my partner and was looking for partnerships and yeah, that happened to work really well. And then we were able to push pretty hard at the end,” Matthews said in the press conference after the match.
Apart from her batting, Matthews has taken a lot more responsibility with the ball. Until the pandemic started, she had bowled a full quota of ten overs only nine times in 38 innings. Since then, she has done it seven times in 19 innings. On Friday, she did something similar when she bowled a full spell and conceded only 41 runs. That is an economy of 4.1 in a runchase which started with a required rate of 5.2. Not to forget she got the important wickets of Amelia Kerr and Brooke Halliday. She also bowled a brilliant 48th over, conceding only six runs.
She had spoken about her responsibility as a bowler in the team and how her batting in the middle order has complimented that earlier. “It has given me a good opportunity. Especially with the big role I have taken up as a bowler for the team. Bowling seven to eight overs everyday. Batting in the middle has given me a bit more time to rest early on in the innings. See what the bowlers and the wickets are doing,” Matthews had said earlier.
Matthews believes that she has developed her game in the last few years. “I feel like cricket is one of those sports where it's a really long journey. And you learn on the job every single time and I feel like that's what I've been doing over the last couple of years. Maybe some people might say that I haven't hit the expectations I've wanted to but I feel like at the same time over the last year or two I've really been able to improve and yeah, just show what I can – and yeah, hopefully I can continue doing that,” Matthews said.
With an ODI average of 27.50 after this game, Matthews has not yet fulfilled her true potential. This was only her ninth fifty-plus score in the format in 61 innings. Having made her debut in 2014, a time when West Indies were quite far from where it is now, Matthews has come quite a distance. As a cricket fan, what we should look out for is her improving day by day and becoming the best version of herself. Maybe in years to come, we might look back at 2022 and say, that is the year when Hayley Matthews truly arrived.