1st ODI, Leicester: Operation Collaboration

There was a resounding cheer at Leicester today when Heather Knight hit the single that would take her to 50, in her debut match as England captain.

There was also a moment, 3 balls earlier, when Knight – on 49 and poised to take any chance of the elusive single that would put her into the record books as the first woman ever to take 5 wickets and score 50 in an ODI – was so eager to dash out of her crease having made contact with the ball that she slipped and fell.

For some reason that moment didn’t get cheered quite so loudly. Yet somehow it symbolised the ineffable quality that is Heather Knight-ness: graceful, no; gets the job done, yes.

It may have been Tammy Beaumont (70) and Natalie Sciver (27*) who hit the pretty strokes today – the cuts through point and the straight drives that will live on in the memory – but it was Knight who always looked like she would be there until the end. Some captains are born; some are made; some have captaincy thrust upon them. While Knight may fall into the latter category, it does not stop her already looking like she is quite happy just to get on with the job of winning, thank you very much.

One senses that even Knight’s eagerness to run that single when on 49* was more about seeing her team to victory than anything else. “Nat [Sciver] tried to bring it up [that I was close to my half-century] and I was like, ’don’t even think about it, you finish the game, don’t worry about me’,” she said after close of play. “It was a nice thing to get the 50, but the win was the main thing.”

Did today feel entirely convincing? No. Against better teams the fumbles by England in the field – of which there were too many – would have proved costlier; Beaumont might well have been run out earlier in her innings by a more experienced fielder. And there is still a feeling of scepticism about Mark Robinson’s New Order hanging in the air. If this series is a chance to blood new players, why does this team look suspiciously like it did 12 months ago when it lost the Ashes? Why no Fran Wilson, no Alex Hartley?

Yet the one aspect of the New Order that is both new and convincing is the wonderfully collaborative style of captaincy which it looks like we will be seeing more of over the coming months. When someone captains a team for a decade it becomes difficult to question their thought processes. Why, players might ask themselves, would I bother? The captain knows what they are doing. Today, it was very apparent while England were in the field that when decisions were being made, all of their bowlers were involved. Kate Cross at mid-on giving guidance to Katherine Brunt; Knight and Anya Shrubsole, the new vice-captain, heads bent together over the ball. Even Amy Jones could be seen deep in conversation with Nat Sciver after she had conceded 8 off her first over.

“We want to work as a team,” Knight said, tellingly, in the post-match press conference. “That’s something that’s going to be really big going forward: having that bowling attack together and getting them communicating and talking it through.”

It begs the question: should Knight really still be fielding at slip? Yes, she is the best England have in the position; but Lauren Winfield snaffled a good catch there today. If captaincy is to be ever more collaborative, requiring Knight to run all the way up and down the pitch just to exchange a few words with her bowler is going to be a tall order. It contributed to a slow over rate today; and in any case, doesn’t she have enough weight on her shoulders already?

Perhaps even Heather Knight – Wonder Woman as she was today – can’t quite do everything.

Then again, perhaps not.

Random Thoughts: England v Pakistan 1st ODI

Pakistan

The visitors weren’t awful – they weren’t overawed, but ultimately they were overwhelmed. With the bat they preserved their wickets at the expense of scoring runs; and they lacked that little bit of professional sharpness in the field, as witnessed by the massive let-off for Tammy Beaumont when she really ought to have been run out after a horrible mix-up with her skipper when she was on 49. Are Pakistan anywhere near up there with England? No! But do they belong at this level? On the evidence of today, absolutely; and playing in these kinds of conditions now sets them up to be ready for the World Cup next year, for which they will still hope to qualify via the Qualifying Tournament.

England

England’s “Brave New World” didn’t look that brave or that new today – no new cap for Alex Hartley… and not even a game for Fran “Like A New Cap” Wilson. It is to be hoped that we see the two of them later in the ODI series, especially as ODIs rather than T20s would (you’d think) be their preferred environment. But the really important thing is that they got the victory – they aren’t 100% happy with their bowling or their fielding, and rightly so, but a win is a win!

Heather Knight

Those who know Knight won’t be surprised to find that the “burden” of captaincy has quickly affected her form in the most positive of ways. She might not be “flashy”, either as a player or an individual, but as captain at Berkshire, Hobart Hurricanes, and now England, she has stood up and taken responsibility. Bowling-wise, she might not turn it much at all, but she lands it on a spot, and when you build pressure like that, the bad shots will come and the catches will follow. With the bat, she played quite conservatively, a lot off the back foot; but if her role going forward is to anchor the team coming in at 4, that is the game she needs to play in this kind of situation. (But in another situation, she can (and would) play differently.)

Tammy Beaumont

This was TB’s best performance in an England shirt, and it really does start to look as if Robinson might have had a transformative effect on someone who has always been able to do it at county, but has consistently struggled for England. She moved her feet like Ginger Rogers and punched like Nicola Adams; but she does need to remember to play to her strengths, driving in front of the wicket – the only times she looked shaky today were when she became a bit too expansive, not least the terrible shot she got out to.

Katherine Brunt

Brunt finally got her 100th ODI wicket, something which has been weighing a little on her, because it has taken some time to move past 99; but that’s what happens when you are the best – people play you differently, and the wickets are genuinely harder to come by. So don’t panic – she isn’t struggling or losing her form – and she remains key to England’s World Cup prospects next year.

England ODI Squad – County Stats

You can’t always read too much into a player’s county form – some, like Nat Sciver, always seem to perform better with an England shirt on; whilst others, such as Tammy Beaumont, have never yet seemed able to quite translate their always-impressive county numbers into international success.

But with that caveat, here are the top-level numbers for this season.

Player County Matches Batting Average Wickets
Heather Knight Berkshire 5 52 6
Anya Shrubsole Somerset 1 60 4
Tammy Beaumont Kent 6 52 N/A
Katherine Brunt Yorkshire 3 38 2
Kate Cross Lancashire 3 6 0
Georgia Elwiss Sussex 4 22 12
Jenny Gunn Warwickshire 2 21 0
Alex Hartley Middlesex 2 15 4
Dani Hazell Yorkshire 3 41 5
Amy Jones Warwickshire 3 4 N/A
Laura Marsh Kent 6 23 9
Nat Sciver Surrey 5 21 7
Fran Wilson Middlesex 1 63 N/A
Lauren Winfield Yorkshire 4 25 N/A
Danni Wyatt Sussex 4 37 7

NEWS: England Squad For Pakistan ODIs

England have announced a 15-player squad for the first two ODIs against Pakistan next week.

  • Heather Knight
  • Anya Shrubsole
  • Tammy Beaumont
  • Katherine Brunt
  • Kate Cross
  • Georgia Elwiss
  • Jenny Gunn
  • Alex Hartley
  • Danielle Hazell
  • Amy Jones (wkt)
  • Laura Marsh
  • Natalie Sciver
  • Fran Wilson
  • Lauren Winfield
  • Danielle Wyatt

For the first time in quite a while, the squad contains an uncapped player – Middlesex’s orthodox left-armer, Alex Hartley – who modestly told CRICKETher less than a month ago that she had “no chance” of being picked. (We always thought otherwise… sorry to prove you wrong Alex!!)

Fran Wilson is also included, as very much expected – she has played for England before, but not in the “professional” era – her last cap was in 2011.

Fast bowler Beth Langston is explicitly listed as injured, whereas Becky Grundy and Tash Farrant (the only other Performance Squad players not included) are just not mentioned at all – perhaps a bit of a surprise, particularly in the latter case, as Farrant has had a very good county season thus far as the highest wicket-taker in the County Championship.

Meanwhile behind the stumps,. Lauren Winfield is officially appointed “Under-Glove-Butler” to Amy Jones, which probably makes sense – there are definitely better wicket keepers in county cricket, not least Berkshire’s Carla Rudd, but Winfield is a much better batsman than Rudd, and Winfield doesn’t let much through, even if she isn’t as “clean” a keeper as some.

NEWS: New Zealanders McGlashan & Priest Head To County

New Zealand stars Sara McGlashan and Rachel Priest will warm up for the Kia Super League with some county action in the Nat West T20 Cup.

McGlashan – a middle-order batsman and veteran of over 200 internationals, including 2 Tests – will line up for Sussex, before heading to the Southern Vipers; whilst Priest – a wicket-keeping opening batsman, with an ODI highest score of 157 – will play for Berkshire, before quite literally “going west”, to the Western Storm!

With key players away on international duty (Heather Knight, for Berkshire, and Danni Wyatt and Georgia Elwiss for Sussex) both counties will be mightily relieved to bulk-up their batting; whilst for the players themselves it represents an opportunity to acclimatise to the freezing cold English conditions prior to KSL.

OPINION: Five Selection Dilemmas For England

Syd Egan & Raf Nicholson look at some of the selection dilemmas facing England coach Mark Robinson as he considers his side for the ODIs against Pakistan next week.

Dilemma 1: Lauren Winfield v Tammy Beaumont

In the post-dystopian wasteland that is English cricket without Charlotte Edwards, the first question Mark Robinson has to answer is: who will open with Heather Knight? Robinson obviously thinks highly of Beaumont – saying recently he was “excited” to see if she could build on her World T20 performances – and she is the highest run scorer in this season’s County Championship; but Winfield opened in the ODIs in South Africa, albeit not terribly successfully, scoring just 22 runs in the 3-match series. SE

Dilemma 2: Amy Jones v Fran Wilson

With Sarah Taylor currently out of the equation, another difficult call for Robinson is going to be: who should bat at number 3? While Jones will no doubt be an automatic selection as Taylor’s former under-glove butler, it remains to be seen whether she can step up and anchor an innings in the way that the no. 3 position requires. Wilson, on the other hand, is not only back to full fitness but appears to have made a good case for herself batting at 3 for the Academy, fresh from making 88 against Ireland A at Loughborough last week. RN

Dilemma 3: Georgia Elwiss v Jenny Gunn

It’s the Battle Of The All-Rounders. In the Blue Corner, we have Jenny Gunn: for so long England’s Heavyweight Champion. In the Red Corner, we have Georgia Elwiss: the young(ish!) upstart who alone of England’s batsmen came out of the Canterbury Test last summer with her head held high. Gunn may have played 232 internationals for England to date, but if the last month is anything to go by, Robinson seems quite prepared – indeed almost eager – to discard experience in favour of potential. Is Gunn’s time as England’s front-line all-rounder at a close? RN

Dilemma 4: Kate Cross v Tash Farrant

There is a good chance England will go into the series with just the two seamers (Shrubsole and Brunt) but if either of them gets injured, or they decided to try to take advantage of English conditions while they can, then it comes down to a shoot-out between Kent’s Farrant and Lancashire’s Cross. Farrant has impressed this year in domestic cricket – she is the leading wicket-taker in Division 1 of the County Championship – but Cross is the more likely candidate to eventually take over opening the bowling from Brunt when she retires, so if Robinson is building for the future, he might well be looking to give her a chance against Pakistan. SE

Dilemma 5: Becky Grundy v Alex Hartley

The battle of the left-armers is probably the most interesting of Robinson’s dilemmas, because the way it falls will be quite telling of the direction Robinson intends to take. Hartley is without a shadow of a doubt the better bowler, but she is also what they call a Genuine No. 11™ while Grundy had a good game with both bat and ball for the Academy last week against Ireland. Then again, Robinson could pass them both by and pick Lancashire’s Sophie Ecclestone, who at just 17 really is “the future”. SE

NEWS: Morna Nielsen and Amy Satterthwaite Join Kia Super League

New Zealanders Morna Nielsen and Amy Satterthwaite have become the latest international stars to sign for the inaugural Kia Super League.

The pair replace Australians Megan Schutt – who is injured – and Sarah Coyte – who has decided not to travel to England for personal reasons.

Nielsen, a left-arm spinner who is currently the ICC’s number two-ranked T20 bowler, will be playing for the Southern Vipers, alongside teammates Suzie Bates and Sara McGlashan.

Meanwhile Amy Satterthwaite – who topped the batting averages in the recent Women’s World Twenty20 – will help to strengthen the batting line-up of Lancashire Thunder in the likely absence of Sarah Taylor.

The Kia Super League kicks off on Saturday 30th July when Yorkshire Diamonds play Loughborough Lightning at Headingley.