After South East Stars’ mammoth showing against Sunrisers on Saturday, their Bank Holiday outing against reigning champions Southern Vipers promised to be one of the matches of the tournament.
Instead, Stars found themselves 24-3 at the hands of Charlotte Taylor, whose arm balls still seem to have the knack of fooling some of the best players in England.
From there, they were able to set only a very modest target of 137, a target which Vipers overhauled with 20 overs to spare. After a slow start, in which she successfully “saw off” Stars strike bowlers Freya Davies and Tash Farrant, Danni Wyatt finished unbeaten on 64 from 88 balls, including nine boundaries.
It was her second half-century in as many matches, and from our perspective – having watched both innings live – this was the much less scratchy of the two, heavily featuring her favoured inside-out drive over cover. Interestingly, Wyatt herself disagreed with this assessment – showing the chasm that can exist at times between journalist perceptions and player realities!
“The [Beckenham] pitch was very very difficult to bat on,” Wyatt told us at the close. “It got slower and slower. I kept saying to myself, ‘don’t give it away’, but I had to work really hard to not get out!”
“We spoke about it, last night in the team meeting, that it’s really important that one of the top 4 gets a big score and sees us home and that’s what we did today.”
Wyatt was supported brilliantly by Georgia Elwiss (45 off 43), who only fell in the penultimate over because she was attempting to hit the six necessary to achieve her half-century, before they ran out of runs to play with.
The question on everyone’s minds this weekend, with the full contingent of England players participating in the opening two rounds of the RHF, is who might have advanced their case in Lisa Keightley’s eyes enough to win one of those precious spots in the Test squad against India (which is likely to be announced in the next week or so).
Of the England “definites” and “probables”, only one was consistently superb with the bat across both matches – Amy Jones, who hit 114 against Diamonds on Saturday, and followed it up by thumping 163 from 114 balls against Storm on Monday. If she isn’t now nailed on to open the batting in the Test, then I’ll be very surprised.
But that still leaves a spot or two in the middle order up for grabs. And with big-hitter Wyatt not necessarily an automatic pick for the Test, it also begs the intriguing question of whether two half-centuries in two matches (Wyatt) is equal to, better than, or not quite as good as, one century in one match and a single-figure score in the second (Lauren Winfield-Hill [110 + 2], Sophia Dunkley [104* + 0]) in the eyes of Lisa Keightley?
One thing that might go in Wyatt’s favour is her ability to turn her arm over. England may no longer see her as a serious bowling option – “I know I’m probably not going to bowl for England”, she said at the close – but if India bat for two days straight at Bristol, might it be an advantage for Heather Knight to have a few bonus overs of spin up her sleeve?
Wyatt says that she has been working hard on her bowling, with the likelihood of playing a key role with the ball in The Hundred at the back of her mind: “I’ve tried to change a few things in my action, tried to keep my hands close in, as I’ve been working on the last few months with England in the nets. I want to have the confidence to bowl well if Heather chucks me the ball. Whenever I get the chance to bowl I want to bowl really well and put my case forward.”
With Vipers missing key strike bowler Lauren Bell, who pulled up with a groin strain right before the start of play, as well as Paige Scholfield, who is still fighting her way back to full fitness after a back operation, Wyatt’s hard work in the nets came good. She was called on to bowl 7 overs by captain Georgia Adams against Stars, and she finished with figures of 3-19, including the crucial scalps of Grace Gibbs (29) and Aylish Cranstone (31), who looked to be beginning to claw Stars back into a competitive position.
All in all, it was a decent day’s work for Danni Wyatt. As to whether two half-centuries in the hand really are worth one century in the bush? We’ll have to wait for the announcement of the England squad to find out the answer to that one.