Speaking to the media after England’s series win over New Zealand, Head Coach Lisa Keightley was in more of a reflective mood than you might expect, given England’s 200-run margin of victory in the final ODI.
“I think we learned a lot from the series,” she says. “It was nice to finish today and show the potential we have with the bat. It’s always good to get 300 – it gives us more chance when we go out to bat first, if we can put big runs on the board and make it hard for teams to chase.”
But Keightley was the first to concede that England have been far from perfect across the whole series.
“I wouldn’t say we were at our best throughout,” she admits.
The batting unit comes in for particular scrutiny, with Keightley suggesting they were struggling to adapt back to 50-over mode after playing a lot of short-form cricket this summer.
“I think some of the batters had pretty soft dismissals, and I think that was a little bit [to do with] ending the series against India in T20 form, then playing The Hundred. The transition into 50-over was too slow – we were playing high-risk shots too early in the innings and not hitting down the ground.”
“In our middle order at times we lost clusters of wickets, which we need to improve on. There were key moments where we had New Zealand on the ropes, and then we lost double wickets and we didn’t capitalise on the good work we did – we lost clusters of wickets and that stopped the momentum and put pressure on on us.”
Keightley accepts that this is in part because the players are tired.
“The girls need a break,” she says. “We’ve had two international series, and The Hundred in the middle. Where the girls are used to going back into domestic cricket, with The Hundred they are on telly all the time – you’ve got to perform and the games come really quickly – and then you roll straight over and into an international series. I think that’s new for the players and they’re not used to it.”
“We got through it, but I think at times the players have struggled with a bit of mental fatigue.”
Keightley accepts that this is the reality of the new world of professional women’s cricket, and she believes in her players ability to adapt.
“They’ve got to get used to it because it’s only gonna be like that moving forward; and I think we’ll learn and grow from the experience.”
But there was also a hint that the calendar may have to be looked at, promising in future to “make sure they [the players] get the break that they need” after going from an international series into The Hundred and then straight into another international series.
The long end to the summer has however offered the opportunity to experiment a little with both ends of the one-day lineup.
It looks like the 7-batters strategy is one Keightley feels England can take forwards in ODI cricket.
“We experimented this time with playing seven batters and taking five bowlers in, plus Heather which would give us six. I think if we’re going to put pressure on Australia and India, and South Africa and New Zealand, we need to get more runs. And to do that, if we go in with seven batters I think we can be really powerful at the back end of the innings, which we saw today.”
With the bowling it has been more about combinations and matchups.
“Our bowling unit we changed-up nearly every game. We want to make sure that we’ve got all our bases covered when we’re playing different teams, so we looked at different combinations; and it was really good to have five games to do that.”
England will obviously get a little break now, but they’ll be back in training very soon, and Keightley makes it clear that she is looking for determination and focus from the players.
“It will be ‘eyes on the prize’ – working really hard leading up through Christmas, and going out to Australia in January. We won’t get back until March at the end of the World Cup, so it’s game on!”