* Max = maximum possible points achievable.
England travel to Kuala Lumpur for their final round of matches against Pakistan in the ICC Women’s Championship, with automatic qualification for the World Cup in New Zealand next spring already in the bag. (Four teams qualify automatically, along with hosts New Zealand; and while India, South Africa and Pakistan can all theoretically overhaul England, India and Pakistan, who play each other in their final rounds, can’t both do it.)
Whether England had this in mind when they selected their squad is an open question, but with four “newer” faces in the 15, with just a handful of caps between them, England do have the chance to roll the dice a bit against a Pakistan side who are probably better than when England thrashed them at home in the lead-up to the 2017 World Cup… but not that much better.
Pakistan will also be without their greatest ever player – Sana Mir – who taking a break from the game, which can only make England’s task easier.
What it won’t be, however, is “easy”. Kuala Lumpur is bloomin’ hot this time of year – the mercury will be hitting 31-33 degrees all week – and there is also a fair chance of thunder and rain having a say in proceedings.
England’s only uncapped selection for this tour is Sarah Glenn, a specialist leg-spinner who had an impressive KSL for Loughborough Lightning this summer. Former Head Coach Mark Robinson was always on the lookout for a leggie, and England might just have found a good one in Glenn, who doesn’t turn the ball as much as Amelia Kerr, but is a very tidy bowler who won’t give much away. Personally, if I had to choose one or the other, I’d play her in the ODIs rather than the T20s, but England’s inclination is usually to do the opposite and use the T20s to blood new caps, so we’ll see!
Mady Villiers got her first cap in England’s last international – the final T20 of the Women’s Ashes – and the T20s is probably where we’ll see her run out, hopefully with a chance to get a bat as well as a bowl.
Freya Davies meanwhile is turning into something of a South East Asian specialist. Having won all 3 of her previous caps against Sri Lanka in Colombo, she looks likely to add to that here – Heather Knight is a big fan, having played with her at Western Storm; and Knight was also no doubt influential in ensuring she grabbed her for the London Spirit in next summer’s Hundred. Barring an injury to one of the Brunt-Shrubsole axis, she probably won’t get a game in the ODIs, but the T20s are another matter, and with the T20 World Cup coming up next, there is an opportunity for her to stake a claim as an economical opening option for Australia.
Kirstie Gordon has yet to win an ODI cap, but has a good chance of collecting the final one of the set, having made her Test and T20 debuts already. With England playing 3 ODIs in the space of a week, picking all three current first-choice quicks (Brunt, Shrubsole and Cross) in that heat and humidity feels like cruel and unusual punishment – so expect to see “Commissioner” Gordon at some point teaming up with Sophie Ecclestone – they may both be orthodox lefties, but they offer something quite different, balancing each other with attack from Gordon and a little more defence from Ecclestone.
The batting line-up is much more settled, though England are likely to change the order up a bit: Danni Wyatt, coming off a pretty encouraging showing in WBBL, is likely to open in the T20s, but not in the ODIs. The only real area of debate is the duel between Lauren Winfield and Fran Wilson for the final spot in the late middle-order, with Wilson probably edging it, thanks in part to her exceptional fielding which often adds 10-20 runs to whatever she gets with the bat.
Overall, England really ought to be targeting a whitewash, certainly in the more predictable ODI format. However, there are some worries that the players who went to WBBL are tired, after racing round Australia at a million miles an hour for six weeks, while those who didn’t have been stuck indoors at Loughborough for three months and may be rusty, so don’t under-price Pakistan pulling off an upset in the 1st ODI. Even if they do, expect normal service to be resumed pretty sharply, with England winning the ODIs 2-1 and the T20s 3-0.
Fans in England will, we understand, be able to watch the action on something I believe the kids call “The You Tubes”, but a good supply of coffee will be essential, as the ODIs start at 1:30am on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, with the T20 series following the week after with 2am starts!