England may not have played a single ODI in the 437 days prior to this series, but New Zealand had suffered an even longer drought: their last win in ODI cricket came over two years ago, on 1 February 2019.
That drought finally ended earlier today, after New Zealand inflicted a seven-wicket defeat on England. Dead rubber it may have been, but this was an important statement by New Zealand: they have not forgotten how to win games of 50-over cricket.
Importantly, too, Amy Satterthwaite has not forgotten how to score big runs. This may have been her seventh ODI hundred, but it is her first since February 2017. It is also her first since an 18-month absence from cricket brought about by pregnancy, childbirth and maternity leave. While Sattherthwaite is following in a long line of female cricketers to return to cricket after pushing babies out of their bodies (Enid Bakewell did it three times in five years), she is the first to do so in the professional era, and we shouldn’t underestimate how important that is.
Amelia Kerr’s unbeaten 72 was important for a different reason. Since her 232* against Ireland in 2017 catapulted her into the headlines, she has barely troubled the scorers in 50-over cricket. Prior to this series, her average in ODIs against all opposition except Ireland was under 10, and her highest score was 28. There comes a time when you have to stop living off past glories and prove you are capable of batting at 5 against the reigning world champions. Offered the chance to do that today, Kerr took it and ran with it.
The successful run chase came after New Zealand had dismissed England for 220 – at least 40 runs short of a par score, as Heather Knight admitted after the match. This was a full-strength England batting line-up, plus bonus Lauren Winfield-Hill (brought in after Katherine Brunt was “rested”), so to bowl them out was an impressive effort from the hosts. In fact it could have been far worse for England. The cricketing gods, particularly the one that controls the DRS ball-tracker, really did seem to smile on them for the duration – giving Knight a life on 26* and Beaumont one on 33*.
Amelia Kerr finished with 4 wickets, but it was her sister Jess Kerr who really bogged England down in the middle overs, forcing repeated errors from both Knight and Beaumont. Kerr senior, who opened the bowling for the first time today, is becoming a formidable threat with ball in hand, showing her ability to swing the ball in a fashion worthy of Anya Shrubsole herself. She could be key in home conditions in next year’s World Cup.
In fact, for the first time in a while it’s possible to look beyond the inevitable retirements of Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu in the next couple of years, and see a chink of light. Devine never came to the party this series (scoring 16, 6 and 15) and Bates wasn’t even INVITED to the party (Ed: How far are you going to extend this terrible metaphor?) but Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen and the Kerr sisters went a long way to making up for it.
There’s something of an unfavourable contrast to be made with England’s selection policy. Even in a dead rubber situation, they failed to give younger batters like Sophia Dunkley an opportunity, presumably on the basis of Lisa Keightley’s belief that “I don’t want to give away caps, I think people need to earn it”. And they still lost the match.
It may be a cliche, but winning IS a habit – and with a year to go until the next World Cup, this dead rubber mattered more than most.