Lizelle Lee finishing it with a six just about summed things up, didn’t it?
Despite the fact that in the innings break we thought that England still had a fair crack at winning this match, the ease with which South Africa strolled to victory today showed that England really lost this game with the bat, not the ball.
Was this a difficult pitch to bat on? I’m not convinced. England’s batsmen were – with the exception of Tammy Beaumont – either beaten for pace or out playing a silly shot. “It looks like a good pitch,” Heather Knight said at the toss, as she chose to bat. She wasn’t wrong.
South Africa are a bowling side – cf their World Cup match v West Indies last year – so it would be unfair to say England “should” have won today: they lost to a good side and the stat about it being the Saffers first win against England in a home ODI for 15 years is a bit illusory.
But what this result does do is leave Mark Robinson facing some tricky selectorial decisions for the rest of the games.
The key one relates to filling the two opening slots. Today he chose to go with Beaumont and Amy Jones up top, who made 19 and 6 respectively. One could argue that neither did a lot wrong: Jones played positively, looking to attack Shabnim Ismail early on, while Beaumont was done by one of the only balls (from Ayabonga Khaka) that moved significantly all day.
Unfortunately the current squad contains four openers, not two: and therein lies Robinson’s dilemma. Lauren Winfield has been brought back after missing the India tour. She was left behind with instructions from Robinson to work on her game; she has, and after scores of 28, 55, 69 and 45* for Yorkshire in the Women’s County Championship has played her way back into contention. But for someone who has done nothing except open for England in ODIs for the past 3 years, does it make sense for her to come in further down the order?
As for Danni Wyatt, her recent success for England – including both her international centuries – has all come at the top of the order. Arguably what England really needed today up top was a Lizelle Lee: someone who would hit it hard and play positively. Of the 4 candidates it is Wyatt who most fits that bill. What she isn’t, is the kind of player who will feel comfortable coming in at 6 to play a steadying role – it just isn’t her natural game.
So how does Robinson make room in his side for 4 openers?
One other dilemma for Robinson relates to the third ODI of this series v South Africa. The decision to only announce a squad for the first two matches, with room to adjust prior to the third game, may well have been made with the intention of resting key players, in what is going to be an extremely busy summer.
A prime candidate for “resting” is Katherine Brunt, who admitted in the BBC Stumped podcast this week that she found last year’s packed schedule incredibly tough on her prone-to-injury back. As she spoke to the media after close of play today she was clearly pretty stiff.
But if Brunt is going to prop up the team with both bat and ball, as she did today, it’s going to be very difficult to leave her out – especially as these are all Championship ODIs that count towards World Cup qualification.
For England, today’s game poses more questions than it answers – questions that no doubt will rumble on across the summer.