Guest reporter Ben Gardner was at the Oval on Thursday to watch a composed innings by Tammy Beaumont.
Tammy Beaumont walks out with Bryony Smith, bats in hand. Surrey Stars are chasing 134, and defeat will make it almost impossible to qualify for Finals Day. They are the most bowler-heavy team in the tournament, with most of the run scoring responsibility falling on the shoulders of Beaumont, and her England teammate Nat Sciver. In a format famous for its smash and grabs and 10 ball cameos, playing with responsibility its own special challenge, but it is one that Beaumont will thrive on.
It is Beaumont who takes strike for the first over. The bowler is Katharine Brunt, who is breathing fire, having smashed one of the longest sixes in the competition minutes previously. Beaumont leaves the second ball of the innings, and then nudges a single. Her opening partner, 18 year old Bryony Smith, follows her lead, and leaves the first two balls she faces. It is the first over of a T20 innings, but apart from the colour of the clothing, you wouldn’t know it wasn’t a Test match.
After 4 overs of their innings, Surrey are handily placed on 26/0. But 16 of those came off one Spragg over, containing 5 wides, and you get the sense she won’t bowl again. Surrey have seen Yorkshire Diamonds slip away after a strong start, and know that this could be the best time to bat; with pace on the ball, in the Powerplay. Brunt, who has conceded just 3 off 2 overs, returns to bowl her third. Smith so far has 1 off 7 Brunt balls.
Backward point. Midwicket. Cover. Cover. On both sides of the wicket, off front and back foot, Smith hammers Brunt. In front of over 2000 people, this 18 year old has announced herself in spectacular fashion. She has taken her time and exploded. Smith will later say Beaumont talked to her between every ball, giving advice. If just one of those pieces of advice was to give herself a chance, to make sure she’s seeing it properly before going for it, Beaumont deserves credit. It is certainly the example she set with her own innings.
At the end of the Powerplay, Surrey have 50, and the required rate is barely over a run a ball. They are well ahead of the game, but there is much left to be done. Too cautious an approach could see the rate spiral, but taking undue risks could lead to a collapse, and Beaumont plays it to perfection.
Her running is superb, turning twos into threes, and even stealing singles for her partner; when Nat Sciver nudges one behind her on the leg side, Beaumont calls confidently and scampers straight away, knowing she is running to the danger end, and backing herself to make it.
It is Sciver who will finish the game, ending on 29 off 24. But it is a cameo enabled by Beaumont’s strike rotation; from the start of Sciver’s innings until the start of the 16th over, she faces 18 balls while Beaumont faces just 7. From the end of the Powerplay up to this point, Beaumont faces 19 balls, scores just one boundary, but still scores 18 runs. It is a masterclass in keeping the scoreboard ticking over, and Beaumont never seems to be struggling to see where the next run will come from.
Beaumont’s acceleration, as with much else in her innings, is timed perfectly. She picks the bowler and the over, targeting Stephanie Butler’s spin in the 16th. She dabs and reverse sweeps her to the boundary on 3 occasions. At the start of the over, Stars needed a run a ball, ahead for sure, but with the game still a contest. By the end, they need just 15 off 24, and they’ll win with 11 balls to spare.
It is not just the pacing of this innings that Beaumont has timed well recently. At the beginning of the summer, with the England team in a state of flux, it was Beaumont who stepped up with 342 runs in 3 innings against Pakistan. Although she made her debut in 2009, she had not managed to fully establish herself, but the retirements of Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway, and Sarah Taylor’s break from cricket meant that almost overnight she became one of the side’s most capped players. She is thriving on the extra responsibility.
In some ways it is not a surprise. Her skills suit responsibility well. She is able to bide her time while still scoring runs and then explode, which makes her ideally suited to play a senior batter’s long innings. It is heartening for both Surrey Stars and England to have a player who only seems to improve as more and more is expected of her.