Is today’s XI the team which will take to the field come February 23, England’s first fixture in the 2020 World Twenty20? It seems more than likely. Heather Knight may change things up later in this series, but for now, you’d say that this is the team she believes has the best shot at winning them the world title.
That means Amy Jones back at the top of the order, with Tammy Beaumont dropping down to 3, which is my personal preference, as I tweeted during the second ODI:
Jones certainly looked much more confident today, hitting a 38-ball half-century. It wasn’t a chanceless innings, featuring a couple of inside edges which she was lucky to get away with, but in T20 you need to take risks, especially when your partner at the other end is getting a bit bogged down.
For their part, Pakistan bowled well enough to restrict Tammy Beaumont to only a-run-a-ball. In particular, 15-year-old debutant Syeda Shah dazzled the England batsmen with her leg spin: Jones bowled after failing to read a straight one, while only a fumble by wicketkeeper Sidra Nawaz prevented Shah from also picking up the wicket of Nat Sciver in her next over.
Oddly, when Beaumont was finally dismissed in the 16th, England chose to send in Katherine Brunt at 5. With 4-and-a-bit overs still remaining, you’d think that Knight would back herself ahead of her frontline seamer; or even Fran Wilson, fresh from her unbeaten 85 in the second ODI. Not only is the England captain clearly the superior batsman, I’d also question whether it’s really worth knackering Brunt with the bat in this heat when you also want her to open with the ball? (Her economy rate today – 9 – seemed to suffer accordingly.) I’m not sure it’s a tactic I’d repeat.
As it turned out, when Knight did finally make it to the crease in the final over, she bludgeoned three consecutive boundaries. Of course England won easily – never in doubt? hmmm – but you’d hope they might be scoring upwards of 175 batting first against Pakistan, who are clearly a much weaker side.
One player who must surely have cemented her place in the WT20 squad after today’s game is Freya Davies. With Davies entrusted with opening the bowling for England, it seems that Knight has more faith in her Western Storm (and soon to be London Spirit) teammate than former coach Mark Robinson; faith that was repaid handsomely today. Bowling quickly and getting a touch of swing, Davies made as experienced a batsman as Javeria Khan look ridiculous – the opener totally exposing her stumps, swinging and missing completely as the ball clattered into off-stump. Davies’ ability to bowl dot balls in the powerplay – she managed 9 today – is also invaluable.
If this IS Knight’s first-choice XI, you’d expect England to go into the 2nd T20 unchanged, to give them another outing together ahead of their Australian odyssey. Mady Villiers and Kirstie Gordon might therefore have to wait a bit longer to get their first opportunity of the tour.