In the second part of a two-part special, James Piechowski reviews England’s summer v Pakistan.
To me the T20 series was a different priority for England – with no upcoming major competition, they had time to re-build, but would want to put their recent World T20 competition, in which they were more sedate than sensational, firmly behind them. It was worrying that Shrubsole had picked up an injury after bowling only about 23 overs in the ODIs. She still contributed well, with 6 wickets, but England will need her to be on top form for the upcoming winter tours and of course, a certain tournament starting next year on these shores.
England’s new opening partnership very much carried on where it had left off. Whereas Beaumont had been scoring more heavily in the ODIs, Winfield was the more impressive in the T20s. As an aggressive, front footed opener hitting through the ball, harsh on anything too full or too short, it’s hard to see too many other players fulfilling the same role for England. Over the 3 games, Winfield scored 166 runs at 55 with a strike rate of 164. Beaumont managed 142 runs at 47 and a strike rate of 128. These were, unsurprisingly, the chief contributions to England’s batting.
England made an impressive 187/5 in the first game at Bristol, with 50s for both of England’s openers. Pakistan’s reply was led by quick-fire scores of 24 by Nain Abidi and 35 from Asmavia Iqbal, another player who I could see making it in WBBL. But 2 wickets apiece from Hazell, Sciver and Gunn, the latter contributing strongly and consistently with the ball throughout the T20 series, was too much and Pakistan finished on 119-7. England had won by 68 runs. Sophie Ecclestone, the 17 year-old left arm spinner who with her freckles and braces looks every bit the schoolgirl (which she still is!), showed good composure and gave consistent performances across 2 games to return total figures of 3-47 off 8 overs.
The third and final iT20 match at Chelmsford followed a similar pattern to the first, both England openers making fast 50s and the middle order blasting a few final runs to give a total of 170. This never looked in danger as Pakistan finished on 113-7 this time. Tash Farrant bowled 4 overs for 15 runs and took a joyful return catch off Nahida Khan, and Alex Hartley impressed and did her ongoing selection chances no harm with 2-19, including the big wicket of Bismah Maroof (35), castling her with a beautiful and clever piece of bowling.
The second T20 at Southampton is worth considering in a bit more detail, as in some ways it was a bit more of a chastening experience for England. On a supposed road of a pitch, neither Beaumont nor Winfield reached 30, and England’s middle order were kept quiet by some accurate and very slow sub-50 mph left-arm spin bowling from Bismah Maroof (2-19). The boundary count was down, and the total of 138 was in no small part due to a much-needed 43* from the ever-solid Fran Wilson. Finally given a long overdue chance, but hardly in her element in a T20 innings where run rate was a priority over steady accumulation, Wilson played very sensibly and ran well, in a succession of small partnerships that saw England climb to what turned out to be a respectable score. It seemed Wilson was determined to impress no matter the situation. Luckily, England were able to provide a strong performance with the ball to back up their batting, restricting Pakistan to just 103. The surface had played slowly. It wasn’t the perfect pitch we’d been led to believe after all. Despite a 35-run win in an ultimately solid display, England were heavily criticised in the press.
It’s worth noting that back in 2012, when a supposedly better England last played Pakistan in a home iT20 series, Pakistan couldn’t even score into the 90s. In reply, England took almost 16 overs to reach the target. In the other game England only managed a 160 score. This new series was definitely more exciting. Personally, I think the new-look England does have a lot more appeal.
Whilst England kept their heads to post a reasonable score on a slow track, where batsmen found it hard to get the ball away, it was some of the press that seemingly lost it. The Independent was claiming that England’s middle order frailties were once again exposed. We had scored 140 plus, which as the later men’s game showed, was not so bad an effort. Indeed, rather than the quick singles taken by Knight, Wyatt and Sciver being a failing, it was very much where England outclassed a Pakistan side who so often found it harder to rotate the strike rather than hit the ball to the boundary.
CRICKETher pointed out this fact and it will be an area where Pakistan could really improve their game, to become more competitive in a format where, as they showed in the recent World T20 series against India, they have the best chance of causing an upset. Anyhow, England had taken the 2016 iT20 series 3-0, and the celebrations ensued.
Let’s not forget England’s success was also in part due to Natalie Sciver. Batting incredibly effectively in the ODI series and bowling well in both the ODIs and iT20s, she scored a total of 194 runs and took 7 wickets, the latter bettered only by Brunt. Her ground fielding and catching is also excellent, and the only part of her game that has really failed to ignite has been her batting in iT20. England have brought her in high enough up the order, I think, but something about the expectation or pressure of the format is preventing her from recreating her ODI form. It is certainly something to continue working on.
Too much minimising England’s successes this summer seems churlish to me. Indeed, the facts back this up. I don’t particularly care if you consider Pakistan to be a “club side”, whatever that means. If we look back at how Australia, South Africa and West Indies fared against Pakistan, we can see that England’s performances are more dominant.
Pakistan’s past ODIs against top sides in the ICC WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP
Australia – August 2014
In the 1st ODI, Australia finished 6 wickets down chasing 157. They took 36 overs, and would probably not have made 300.
The 2nd ODI was rain reduced to 25 overs. Australia won with just 3 balls left chasing 122, and were 5 wickets down.
The 3rd ODI was much more comfortable for Australia. They were 2 wickets down chasing 190, taking 33 overs. They would almost certainly have made 300 plus.
South Africa (Sharjah) – March 2015
Pakistan actually won one game and suffered a 2-1 narrow loss in the series. SA did not win any match especially convincingly.
West Indies – October 2015
The 1st ODI was not counted in the Championship.
In the 2nd ODI, WI successfully chased 150, but were 7 wickets down and only had 3.1 overs left.
In the 3rd ODI, WI made 281/5, and Pakistan finished on 172/9, a higher score than they achieved against England.
In the 4th ODI, Pakistan made 182/5 and WI chased successfully, reaching 183/4 off 42 overs. This was comfortable, they could have made 250 but probably not 300.
The summary from all this, is that the worst beating Pakistan had taken coming into the England leg of their ICC women’s championship campaign was by Australia in the 3rd ODI of their series (by 8 wickets with 17 overs to spare). This was only akin to the least severe of 3 defeats England inflicted upon them (by 7 wickets with 18 overs to spare in the first ODI). England won 2 matches by over 200 runs. No opposition player had scored a century against Pakistan in these previous matches, although Nicole Bolton of Australia and Stafanie Taylor of WI, twice, came close. England scored 3 centuries.
If those Australia and West Indies games had seen widely broadcast, I wonder if we would have been mitigating against the performance of the two top teams in the ICC WIC as much as England? But because no-one saw them, the opportunity did not arise. England seem to suffer for trying to lead the way.
Of course we must proceed with caution, and we can’t tell how well England will follow this series up in the West Indies. But with Sarah Taylor, who had previously scored a hundred there, set to return at some stage, England must be hopeful that they can take some more points back from their travels.
They say that the best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today, and England certainly did that. As it stands, Robinson has a series of selection “problems” over who to pick from an increasingly confident group of players, which are the kind of problems you’d like to have!