No player ever celebrates when their teammate has to sit out a game with an injury, or in this case misses out because they are precautionary-isolating with a head cold, but the absence of Katherine Brunt from the second T20 was the best thing that could have happened to Freya Davies.
Davies did play in the first T20 (it was Tash Farrant who was the like-for-like replacement brought in for Brunt today), but with England’s conglomerate of bowling options, she only had the chance to bowl one over. Today, she was handed her full allocation of four – and she certainly made the most of them.
In her first over, she had Hayley Jensen caught in the deep trying to cut – a perfectly executed plan, directly following a chat to captain Heather Knight and a swift rearranging of the field, to tempt Jensen into her favoured shot.
Then, 10 overs later and with New Zealand eyeing up a total of 150, Davies took the key wicket of Amy Satterthwaite on 49*, coming round the wicket and shaping the ball back into the left-hander to have her bowled. Three balls later she also saw off Maddy Green – this time, moving the ball into the right-hander, who got an inside edge which was well snaffled by Amy Jones behind the stumps. It was the perfect demonstration of why Davies at her best is so dangerous: the ability to move the ball both ways, very late, leaving the opposition batters in a state of desperate uncertainty.
In her final over it was a fuller, straight ball which did for Kate Ebrahim, handing Davies her first ever four-fer in international cricket. New Zealand’s eventual total of 123-9 was never going to be enough.
Davies made her name in the Kia Super League for Western Storm, as a crucial part of the team which twice won the competition. In the final year of the KSL (2019), she finished as leading wicket-taker, ahead of a raft of the world’s best bowlers. The key to her success was that she knew her role, and could therefore do it with confidence: the senior seam bowler, who always opened, and usually also bowled an over or two at the death.
One of the difficulties for Davies has been finding her feet in a similar way for England. With Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole the automatic new-ball bowlers, and the England management seemingly reluctant to “experiment” between World Cups, chances to showcase her skills have been few and far between. You sense that even when chances have come her way it’s been hard for her to understand her role in the team – there’s never been certainty about when, or if, she will bowl her overs.
Katherine Brunt is one of England’s great players, and no one wants to see her career end before it’s her time. But Tammy Beaumont only came into her own as an England batter when the heavyweight Charlotte Edwards retired from the fray. Is it a leap to suggest that the absence of Brunt from today’s game had a similar psychological effect on Davies?
This might be speculation, but it could be important. It seems unlikely that Brunt will be able to go through a jam-packed 2022 schedule without needing to be rested on some of the big occasions, and in any case, she herself acknowledges that she isn’t going to be around forever. England need someone to be ready to step up and take on Brunt’s role whenever the need arises. Davies made a very good case today why that someone could… should… be her. Had Brunt been playing, she might never have been given that chance.
Sometimes a head cold really can be a blessing in disguise.
Another good win and strong performance from England. It could have been a different result at one stage though – NZ were well on their way after 11 overs, on 78/2, and it looked like they might post 150-plus, which would have been a good and challenging score. But then Glenn and Jones produced 2 pieces of brilliance and England were back on top.
Davies had earlier laid the trap for Jensen with a well-set-up tempter which, as you say, the NZ opener fell for. Then Davies stepped up again with her ability to move the ball around late, both ways and she got it just right to pick up those 2 big middle-order wickets. Good example of skilful bowling and Davies looks like she could pick up a lot of wickets if England give her a chance. Sciver then rattled the stumps with 2 consecutive balls, with some good deception. 17 runs in the last 4 overs really limited that final NZ score.
Tammy Beaumont had one of those innings where everything she hit just flew off her bat like a tracer bullet. She stuck around for a long time, too, which has been a feature of her performances on this tour. She’s managed to put away those ill-judged little scoop, paddle and ramp attempts that sometimes get her out – and has only played them when it’s really on and when being well-set. The same wasn’t true of Sciver this time, who hadn’t allowed herself to get in first before trying a ramp that came off her glove and looped to a grateful Katey Martin. A few slightly careless dismissals from Sciver recently, but she’s still had a good tour, which shows what a player she is.
Despite those minor setbacks and Knight holing out near the end, the real miss by England seemed to be that Dunkley again didn’t get to face a ball with bat in hand. She did field very well though. This has been a slightly strange series in that fielding first seems to work best, no matter which team tries it. England in the last few years at least have tended to do better when batting first – so I don’t know if this a just an artefact of this series or the start of a longer-term trend. Anyway looking forward to the last T20 tonight.