There is no doubt it has been a dream start to Heather Knight’s reign as captain, with two stonking victories over Pakistan this week. In the 1st ODI, Knight took command, with a Player of the Match performance; whilst in the 2nd, Winfield, Beaumont and Sciver finally started to look like the players on the pitch that they have always been on paper.
But while England’s much-lauded new “six appeal” (© Vish Ehantharajah) has been a whole heap of fun to watch, let’s not get carried away. Pakistan’s bowling and fielding has been serving runs up on a plate to England’s batsmen; so is there an argument for playing a different batsman to allow them to join the feast? Coach Mark Robinson thinks not, it seems – Fran Wilson has been released to play for Middlesex on Sunday, suggesting we won’t be seeing her on Monday. And while this is hard on Wilson, who probably deserves to play in her preferred format, it is understandable – why interfere with a batting order which is just coming together?
But cricket is a game of two halves – bat and ball; and if England’s batsmen have finally found their je ne sais quoi, the bowlers still appear to be turning out the drawers in the spare room looking for theirs. So it is time to add some hart [sic!] to that six appeal, and bring in Alex Hartley. Not only is she the best spinner in the country right now, but as a left-armer, she offers something different to really challenge the batsmen – something that neither Cross nor Marsh, who have been workmanlike but nothing more in this series, have quite done.
Interestingly, unlike Wilson, Hartley has not been released to Middlesex, so is Robbo thinking what we’re thinking? I guess we’ll find out at around half past 10 on Monday!
I think some of the reason the bowling has not looked as special as the batting is that Pakistan have not really tried to go after it. I’ve been quite impressed with Brunt and Shrubsole. But Cross has generally looked harmless and Elwiss served up too many half-volleys. On Monday I’d like to see a bowling change or two including Hartley and mixing up the order of business even more. It would also be nice to see more from the lower order with the bat, and Jones, especially. I know it must be tough to bat having just kept wicket, but if we bat first I’d rather see her at three than Elwiss who is best at around 6. Looking forward to Monday, weather looks like it might hold out.