Kuala Lumpur is the business capital of Malaysia, so it is perhaps appropriate that England turned-in a businesslike performance to win the 1st ODI versus Pakistan.
“Businesslike” may seem an unfair label for a display which included two centuries, for Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont, in a 180-run opening stand, followed by a 4fer for Kate Cross as England bowled the Pakistanis out well short of their target; and perhaps our perceptions were coloured by watching it all on four hours’ sleep, but “entertaining” it was not!
Nevertheless, this could have been a banana skin – the first match of the tour, with the entire batting order having spent a hectic six weeks in Australia at the WBBL, while all the bowlers were stuck trying not to gather rust in the indoor nets at Loughborough. There was definitely scope for it all to go horribly wrong, and the fact that it didn’t is probably the important thing here.
This is not to subscribe to the Matthew Mott mantra of “Our Job Is Just To Win”. It really isn’t – your job is to get people to pay money to watch you, and that means entertaining them! But every once in a while you gotta do what you gotta do, and facing Pakistan in their home conditions, in oppressive heat and humidity, in the 1st ODI of the series, was maybe one of those times.
Heather Knight has talked a fair bit in the lead-up to this series of a “New Era” post Mark Robinson. She seems to be very-much in charge now, and it was interesting to hear Danni Wyatt after the match say:
“Heather’s given me licence to play my game at the top of the order.” [Emphasis ours.]
Just a few months ago, it would have been Robbo giving her that licence.
So what did Heather do differently?
Well, she gave Wyatt back the spot at the top of the order that she wanted, and that certainly came off as she posted her first ODI hundred, at quicker than a run-a-ball. She played some nice shots, particularly driving inside-out over the top of cover / mid off, and looked confident in her game.
Alongside her Tammy Beaumont put in a more measured performance, and it took her a while to work out how to score runs outside of the powerplay, as her Strike Rate dropped to around 40 through overs 11-20, before picking up again to finish at around 75.
England’s (and I guess Heather’s) big decision was what to do at first drop? No 3 was Sarah Taylor’s role so someone needs to step into it now. Heather herself did that today, but was this based on the match situation, or will she do that job from now on? My impression is that it’s not a role she particularly wants, but she may have decided that she needs to take that responsibility anyway – it will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of games.
With the ball, Sarah Glenn became the first player to make their international debut in an ODI since Alex Hartley in 2016, with England under Mark Robinson generally using T20s to blood new selections. Glenn pretty-much picked up where she left off in KSL – bowling tidily; making the batsman play and making them think. She wasn’t getting a huge amount of turn, but she picked up a couple of wickets towards the end, including a nice LBW which did do a bit, edging leg through the air, and then turning in off the pitch to hit more of middle than leg. (Diana, at the non-striker’s end, didn’t look impressed at the time, but she was wrong!)
The interesting question going forwards is whether England stick with the same XI for the rest of the series? Batting-wise, I’d guess they will – there aren’t too many options, though Lauren Winfield will be hoping to get an opportunity at some stage. Bowling-wise, it would seem harsh to “drop” Glenn, and I’d like to see her play all 3 ODIs; but with those 3 games coming in less than a week, they probably do need to rest the quicks at some point and bring in Davies, though they may wait until the 3rd ODI to do it – we’ll find out on Thursday.