If this was the Commonwealth Games – currently taking place in Gold Coast, Australia – then England flying home from India with two silver medals in their bags might be thought quite a creditable achievement.
But it isn’t – it is cricket – and coming second in the Tri-Series versus India and Australia, and then second again in the bilateral ODI series against India, is probably not what England ideally wanted.
Of course, there is an element of being able to argue that the end-results didn’t really matter – a throw-away T20 “cup” and 3 non-Championship ODIs are both things you can afford to lose – no one will remember these reversals if England go on to win the World T20 in the Caribbean in November.
It was also a weak England team, without Sarah Taylor and Katherine Brunt – and they were consciously “experimenting” by bringing in Bryony Smith, Alice Davidson-Richards and Katie George for the Tri-Series; and bedding-in a new ODI opening partnership, after Lauren Winfield’s slump in form made her continued position at the top of the order untenable.
The new opening partnership for the ODIs – with Danni Wyatt joining Tammy Beaumont up-top – was definitely a success, with 70+ partnerships for the 1st wicket in the 1st and 2nd ODIs – it will be a big surprise now if that is not the opening partnership we see this summer against New Zealand and South Africa.
Wyatt herself was with little doubt England’s star player on this tour, with 304 runs (across both series) at an average of 38, and a Strike Rate of 143; though it bears pointing out that India’s star – Smriti Mandhana – made a lot more runs (389) at a better average (78) with a Strike Rate also well over 100 (108) despite playing one less match.
Elsewhere in England’s batting line-up, Nat Sciver (180) and Tammy Beamont (200) made runs, as did Amy Jones (143), although of course most of them came in her “deserved a” 100 in the final ODI. But there have to be some concerns about Fran Wilson – averaging 19; whilst Heather Knight didn’t quite fire, making starts but not passing 40 on the tour; and Georgia Elwiss, drafted in for the ODIs, also had a tour she will probably want to forget, making 11 and 1.
With the ball, Sophie Ecclestone and Dani Hazell were England’s stand-out performers – Ecclestone taking 10 wickets at 4.5; and Hazell 9 wickets at 4.8 – both can probably start shopping for a trip to the West Indies in the autumn… though hopefully there won’t be too much time for them on the beach, as England will be too busy winning the thing!!
With Katherine Brunt home injured, and Anya Shrubsole also missing the T20s and still clearly working her way back to full match fitness in the ODIs, England experimented with various other quick bowlers, but we are unfortunately still no nearer to the answer of who our backups are for Brunt and Shrubsole when they are unavailable… or indeed who will replace 32-year-old Brunt longer-term.
Tash Farrant didn’t have a bad T20 series – she went at 8-an-over, but to be fair that seems to be the new normal, especially when you are playing Australia! She is not an “out and out” quick though, so England probably don’t see her as a long-term opener. Katie George is still clearly as raw as onions; whilst even at county, ADR is more of a batting than a bowling all-rounder. Meanwhile, Kate Cross can’t get a game, and Freya Davies can’t even get a plane ticket.
So what is the long term answer? I’m not sure England know! I’ll be accused of “wearing a Berkshire hat” here, but… Lauren Bell, possibly? She is rawer than George, but terrifyingly quick when she gets it right, and England’s coaches might just be hoping that Brunt can carry on for another 2 years until Bell is really ready.