After Syd and I both said on Sunday’s vodcast that we thought this would be a close-fought series, New Zealand seem intent on proving us wrong. This was another disappointing display by them in the 50-over format – bowled out for 178 in 45.1 overs, before England chased down the target with 98 balls to spare.
There really wasn’t a lot wrong with this Hagley Oval pitch. Bar a little bit of swing up top, the England bowlers never got much movement. Wickets fell when they stuck to a middle-stump line, and adjusted their length to account for the fact that the Kiwis were doing all their scoring off the back-foot. Suzie Bates said on commentary that she felt New Zealand should have been aiming for a total of 250+ – after they fell nearly 100 runs short of that “par score”, the result was all but a foregone conclusion.
England firmly dispelled any notion of off-season “rustiness” with a thoroughly convincing showing in the field. But New Zealand’s “big names” largely did for themselves – Amy Satterthwaite and Amelia Kerr in particular falling to irresponsible, half-hearted shots. I wonder whether leaving Satterthwaite, Kerr and Sophie Devine out of the warm-ups (which were effectively contested against a NZ “B” team) was such a good idea?
The Kiwi commentators seemed surprised that the New Zealand batters didn’t push things along a bit more in the middle overs, but the problem with being 94 for 4 is that it leaves you with a lot of rebuilding to do. I’m also wondering whether New Zealand have got into their own heads a bit – they know they have a reputation as “the side that gets bowled out”, and that can’t be a very freeing thought. Of course, Sophie Ecclestone was also brilliant as ever, really piling on the pressure and making sure there were few easy runs to come by.
Despite all this, if I was a New Zealand selector, I might well be feeling pretty smug right now. 25 year old Brooke Halliday appears to be a real “find” (where has she been hiding?!) New Zealand’s big problem these last few years has been a lack of middle-order “backbone” – Halliday might just been the answer. The real question is what on earth she was doing coming in so low down the order, risking her being stranded? More of this GIF in the next few matches please:
I’ll admit that England’s team selection took me by surprise, but it was great seeing Tash Farrant grabbing her opportunity, when it finally came, with both hands. Heather Knight had been pretty clear in the pre-series press conference that she didn’t see a front-line role for Farrant, saying: “She’s there as cover. She’s got a chance in the nets to try and push for selection, and show her skills.” But now Farrant appears to have leapfrogged both Freya Davies and Kate Cross to play the role of Katherine Brunt’s new-ball partner. Clearly, she’s enjoyed some stonking net sessions since the team arrived in New Zealand!
There’s been much said about Farrant’s return being a vindication of the new regional contracts – I’ll add just one thing. To me it shows the value of players being available to play in every single round of the RHF. In doing so, Farrant got far more overs of competitive cricket under her belt than either Davies or Cross did in the England “bubble” at Derby / Loughborough. It’s going to be a real dilemma going forwards for the fringe contracted players, as coaches balance whether to release them to play for their regions or not, weighing up what is best for both the player concerned vs what is best for England as a team.