In what was a more convincing win than Monday’s “business-like” affair, England absolutely walloped Pakistan – Heather Knight laying the foundations for a strong total, while Nat Sciver (who hit her third ODI hundred) and Fran Wilson (who achieved her highest score for England) then delivered the knockout blows at the back end of the England innings.
England’s 300+ total was all the more impressive coming as it did after both centurions from match one fell cheaply today. As so often in Danni Wyatt’s career, famine followed feast, as her century in the last match was followed up by a limp dismissal in only the second over of this one – Wyatt plonking it straight into the hands of extra cover. Tammy Beaumont was also largely responsible for her own downfall, repeatedly swiping at wide balls outside off stump until at last she edged one out to backward point in the 14th over.
That left Heather Knight, England’s new number 3, playing the aggressor role. Knight’s strength is that she is more than capable of adjusting her game to the match situation at hand – a quality which is much-needed for the batsman coming in at first-drop – and this match was no different, the England captain timing the ball perfectly through the gaps to rack up a 49-ball half-century.
Unfortunately she got bogged down in the 80s – possibly with the thought of that impending century somewhere at the back of her mind? Or maybe it was just the crazy heat. Either way, with the run rate dropping below 5 an over thanks to a tight spell of bowling from captain Bismah Maroof, she decided to chance the arm of Sidra Amin at mid on, thus denying herself the chance to reach 3 figures.
That honour instead fell to Nat Sciver, who – to the delight of her teammates – achieved the milestone on the penultimate ball of the innings with a scrambled single (though oddly didn’t secure her the Player of the Match award, which went to Knight).
Despite that, the real star of the day (in my view) was Fran Wilson. Wilson has had a difficult time of late – playing no official role in England’s Test or T20 teams against Australia last summer, but still expected to be on hand in case they needed a “gun” substitute fielder – so to see her succeeding at international level is particularly pleasing. Her arrival at the crease today seemed to reinvigorate a slightly-flagging Sciver; and her strike rate (173) was far and away the highest of the match.
It was the Sciver-Wilson partnership which helped England finish with a bang instead of a whimper – on Monday they hit just 61 runs across the last 10 overs of the innings, while today they added 107 in the same period.
Pakistan’s problems are two-fold, judging by these first two matches. Firstly, their spin-heavy bowling attack has been unable to generate wicket-taking opportunities on pitches which don’t offer much turn. They are left with the option of trying to bowl tightly, restrict runs and hope that England make mistakes – as a strategy, it worked for a short time today and did generate a couple of wickets, but they couldn’t sustain it long enough to put them in a match-winning position.
Secondly, they just can’t bat at anything like the required rate, which means that even though they ostensibly had a good start today – losing just the 1 wicket in the first powerplay – you never quite felt like they were in with a chance of chasing down the total.
For England, the big question ahead of the 3rd ODI is whether, now that they have safely won the series, they will change things up selection-wise. Bringing in Freya Davies and Mady Villiers for the final match would make perfect sense – nothing to lose, everything to gain in terms of international match experience – but England’s selection policies of late have been notoriously conservative, so who knows?