For a few years after the dawn of the professional era, the average age of England’s “Top 6” hovered around 26/27. Then around 2016, something happened.
England under the leadership of Mark Robinson and Heather Knight found a batting formula that worked and won the World Cup with it. Tammy Beaumont was leading run scorer and player of the tournament; Heather Knight and Nat Sciver hit their first ODI hundreds – England were flying.
There’s a saying in computer programming: If it ain’t broke… don’t fix it! And England applied that mantra to their new-found magic batting formula, with one important side effect: their batting line-up began to age. As every year passed, the Top 6 became a year older, hitting 30 in 2020.
Longer term, there has to be a concern about this – England aren’t debuting new batters, and the worry is that in the next two or three years the entire lineup retires without any transition taking place to the next generation, who will be thrown unceremoniously thrown to the wolves just in time for the 2025 World Cup.
But in the short term, England’s “Old Guns” are absolutely owning the game, particularly in the longer 50-over format.
Last night’s 2nd ODI against the White Ferns was a classic case of older, wiser heads prevailing. Both teams lost early wickets – at 5 overs, New Zealand were 20-2; England were 21-2. It was in the next 5 overs that England won the game.
While New Zealand slumped, scoring just 8 runs in overs 5-10, and losing another 2 wickets in the process, Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver showed all their experience – shrugging off the match situation, they just played calm, sensible cricket. The result: 23 runs for the loss of no wickets.
And that was the game – Sciver and Beaumont both cruised passed 50, and although Sciver eventually holed-out with a slightly dozy shot, England’s win was never in doubt. Having initially required 3.8 runs per over, they scored steadily at well over 4 runs per over, to win the match inside 40 overs.
Tammy Beaumont’s innings – finishing 72 not out – really deserved to be a century, and had the White Ferns given her a few more runs to play with, she surely would have added to her tally of 8 international hundreds. With apologies to Knight, Sciver, and everyone else, Beaumont for me has been England’s best player through the past 5 years, and is now just 3 centuries away from overtaking Charlotte Edwards as England’s leading century-maker, despite having played just 73 ODIs to Edwards’ 191!
I’d still like to see England think a bit more about the future, and bring in some younger batting talent to ease the transition to the next generation a few years hence; but I have to admit, we’ll miss these Old Guns when they’re gone.