Having started the day with zero points and a negative Net Run Rate of -0.16, following defeat to South Africa in their opening game, England turned things around in Canberra, getting two points on the board against Thailand, and perhaps equally importantly boosting their Net Run Rate to a whopping 2.38 positive.
The result puts England temporarily top of Group B, albeit with the West Indies, South Africa and Pakistan all having games in hand; and leaves them in a much healthier position should semi-final qualification come down to Net Run Rate.
England went into the match with an unchanged side, with Heather Knight having definitively ruled-out a u-turn on either the policy of playing 8 batsmen, or the that of batting their most consistent player of recent times – Tammy Beaumont – right down the order in a “closer” role which means she faces at best only a handful of deliveries.
Today she faced none at all, as Heather Knight took charge with a commanding hundred, which put paid to any hopes Thailand might have had of an upset after getting both openers out for ducks.
The recent form of Amy Jones in particular has been called into question after a pretty miserable Ashes last summer, but she did make two big T20 scores – 53 off 39 balls, and 89 off 52 – against Pakistan; and the bottom line is that she is essentially undroppable anyway, unless England want to hand the wicket-keeping gloves to Tammy Beaumont, which they really don’t, so they might as well continue to play her in her preferred position. (It isn’t like she’s chewing up deliveries – she is at least making runs or getting out.)
Wyatt also made runs against Pakistan, and given the damage we know she can do at the top of the order she also needs to stay where she is. By moving her down England would be depriving themselves of the one player they have capable of causing real carnage in a semi or final against an India or an Australia.
Getting back to today… Knight battered the Thais with 13 fours and 4 sixes, finishing with 108 off 66 balls – a Strike Rate of 164. As is often the case with Knight it wasn’t particularly pretty, but more of a professional demolition job that put put a wrecking ball through the scorecard, and taking England to a total of 176.
This was always going to be too much for Thailand whose highest ever score is 133, against the Netherlands last summer. They haven’t posted a score in excess of 100 since, despite qualifying for this tournament in that time, and today wasn’t going to be that day either. England’s spinners – Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn – both recorded Economy Rates under 3 as the Thais were held to 78-7 in their 20 overs. They didn’t shut-up shop, as we’ve sometimes seen from the minnows in these kinds of situations, so credit to them for trying to play some shots and still “going the distance” but they were still as definitively outplayed by England with the ball as they had been with the bat.
England still have work to do – beating the tournament’s lowest-ranked side is not in itself a reason to break out the champagne, but Heather Knight herself perhaps deserves a glass or two tonight after joining the “Hundred Club” in international T20s and getting England’s World Cup campaign back on track.