If you could pick one side England would NOT want to face in their opening World Cup game, who would it be? I think it might just be India – a game England probably HAVE to win if they are to avoid the unseemly Net Run Rate scrap in 3 weeks time for the 3rd and 4th semi-final spots.
India are the strongest of the middle-tier sides, having taken the honours recently against both South Africa in the World Cup Qualifiers and the West Indies in India; and while it is true that West Indies qualified directly for the World Cup ahead of India, that was only because politics forced India to forfeit their series against Pakistan.
So a game against India would be a definite proverbial “banana skin”… which is unfortunate because India are exactly who England face at Derby tomorrow!
England would have been planning to go into the World Cup with a well-balanced and mainly settled side, the bulk of which were automatic picks; but the injury to Lauren Winfield does make things a bit interesting.
- Tammy Beaumont – Having had a chequered England career under the previous regime, “TB” was the success story of last summer, filling her boots against Pakistan and adding two more half-centuries, against West Indies and Sri Lanka, over the winter. Although in some ways the jury is still out on her ability to compete at the highest level against the Australias and the New Zealands, this is her chance to put those remaining doubts to rest.
- Heather Knight – Knight vacated the opening spot when she inherited the captaincy last year; but with Winfield out, it looks like she might have to step back up – Knight has never scored an ODI century, so now would be an ideal opportunity to change that by leading from the front! Knight was also England’s leading wicket-taker in the Women’s International Championship; but she has been bowling a lot less recently, and the likelihood is that she will just fill-in two-or-three overs here and there during this World Cup, especially if she is opening the batting.
- Sarah Taylor – Taylor’s return is potentially the difference between an England who will be “there or thereabouts” and an England who will challenge for the trophy. Certainly the only England player in this team who is already a nailed-on “All Time Great” – though that isn’t to say others might not later add themselves to that list!
- Nat Sciver – Sciver has quite quietly become a pivotal player for England recently. Having made her debut as a back-up bowler just 4 years ago, her batting has since taken centre-stage, but her role as a bowler is still rather important. She isn’t quite good enough to open the bowling (she did the job when Anya Shrubsole was injured over the winter, and her limitations were exposed) but as a “We Need A Wicket” change option, she is England’s go-to, and she will probably bowl close to her allocation in most matches.
- Fran Wilson – Having made her “re-debut” last summer, after a false start to her international career back in 2010, Wilson was probably competing for a spot with Georgia Elwiss – the former is a better bat; but the latter offers a few overs with the ball. However, with Heather Knight set to move up the order to open in Winfield’s absence, it now looks likely both will play.
- Georgia Elwiss – See above!!
- Dani Hazell – Hazell’s position in the squad is an odd one – she is the unofficial “reserve captain”, having done the job in Sri Lanka over the winter and in one of England’s warm-up games, even though the official “vice captain” (Anya Shrubsole) was playing; and yet she isn’t guaranteed a place in the side, with Robinson seemingly preferring Laura Marsh as the right-arm compliment to Alex Hartley’s left-arm spin. But with Danni Wyatt misfiring more often than not with the bat at the moment, there is a good chance that Hazell – a solid batsman, who can definitely chip-in if and when things get tough – will get the nod, especially as it would take the pressure off Heather Knight to bowl as well as opening the batting.
- Katherine Brunt – The Hardest Working Woman In Cricket-Business, as Anya Shrubsole recently put it: “With Katherine, every ball’s an Effort Ball!” Injury worries mean she probably won’t play every game – especially if England have already qualified by the time their final group matches come around – but there is literally no one else in the women’s game you’d pick to open the bowling; plus she can also hit the kind of quick runs down the order which can turn a good total into a big one.
- Laura Marsh – Just over a year ago, it looked like Laura Marsh’s England career was over – playing through pain, plagued by a chronic shoulder injury, and dropped for the World T20 in India. But after flying out to India as a late injury replacement for Dani Hazell, she grabbed her opportunity and now seems to be Mark Robinson’s first choice right-armer; though it is likely that the plan was to rotate her with Hazell, which is something we may see ultimately presenting a dilemma if England reach the final!
- Anya Shrubsole – Shrubsole of course needs no introduction as the other half of England’s opening attack; but she is a very different bowler to Brunt – looking to get movement in the air where Brunt gets it off the deck – the variety just one of the reasons why they are so intimidating as a partnership. The vice-captain will, also like Brunt, have to be “managed” so perhaps won’t play every match, but she will play all the important ones.
- Alex Hartley – Variety is clearly something which Mark Robinson sees as the spice of life, and he tried two left-armers last summer in the search for adding something different to a mainly right-handed mix. Despite a tough introduction to international cricket last summer, Hartley was selected ahead of the much younger Sophie Ecclestone for elevation to the contracted squad, and repaid that faith over the winter, particularly in the West Indies, where she took 13 wickets – a record for England in a bilateral series – ensuring that she goes into this World Cup as England’s first-choice spinner.