After Wednesday, this was the match that we all wanted to see: the titans v the titans.
For the home crowd at Taunton, it didn’t disappoint. For the neutral, though, it ended up somewhat undercooked.
From an England perspective the biggest positive was the way in which they picked themselves up after defeat to South Africa earlier in the day. They could so easily have been down-and-out psychologically; but whatever Mark Robinson said to them after the first game clearly worked its magic. “The team showed a lot of character,” reflected Player of the Match Sophie Ecclestone after play.
None showed it more than Ecclestone, who was the standout star. Once again she was belted for runs by Lizelle Lee in the first match of the day; once again she came back stronger, ending with 2 wickets in her final over.
Then, against New Zealand she was steely-calm, starting off with a maiden that forced the wicket of the dangerous Suzie Bates in the following over; and coming back in her second over to break the Katey Martin-Maddie Green partnership; before finishing off the New Zealand tail to finish with 4-18.
But it was perhaps with the bat that she did the most important job.
Tammy Beaumont, speaking in the break between the games, had been clear what England needed to do on this pitch: “165 / 170 is par.” It might have slowed down a little since Wednesday; but not that much. Earlier in the day against South Africa, 160 had simply not been enough.
When England lost 3 wickets in the space of 6 balls in the 17th and 18th overs, leaving them 140-7, “par” looked a way off.
But by the end of the innings you ended up wondering what you’d been worrying about – across the last 3 overs, Anya Shrubsole and Ecclestone (plus a brief cameo from Dani Hazell) between them added 32 runs, England finishing on 172-8.
While it’s been a hallmark of this England side that they bat deep, “genuine number 12” Sophie Ecclestone (to coin a Don Miles phrase) was hardly the player you would have expected to punish Sophie Devine for four.
And the sight of Anya Shrubsole sending Leigh Kasperek over the top for the only maximum of the innings was equally unexpected.
“If we’d kept them under 160 the momentum would have been in our favour,” reflected Suzie Bates after the game. It wasn’t; and more to the point it put the pressure on the Kiwi top order, right from the outset. Bates summed it up: “When you are chasing over 10 an over it makes any bowler look better.”
Afterwards, Ecclestone reflected on her innings in a succinct but apt manner: “I love batting! To get out there and give it a whack is fun to do.”
Coach Mark Robinson, whose mantra as coach has been “go out and bat with freedom”, should be very, very proud of his young protege.