A few weeks ago, having handed back the keys to their Kias, the England squad took delivery of their latest rides, courtesy of new team sponsor Cinch. If I know anything at all about cars (and let’s be clear here… I don’t!) they were Ford Kugas; but perhaps Mark III Ford Capris would have been more appropriate, because this England team are The Professionals.
If one moment today summed this up, it was Tammy Beaumont facing Shikha Pandey. Beaumont came out of her crease looking to drive, but the shot wasn’t there and she was forced to just bunt it back to the bowler on her follow-through. With Beaumont out of her ground, seeing a glimmer of a chance Pandey pounced on the run-out opportunity, gathering the ball to shy at the stumps.
Beaumont’s instinct… anyone’s instinct… would have been to try to get back into her crease; but Beaumont is a wily old cat these days, so the first thing she actually did was subtly reposition herself to make sure her body was between the bowler and the stumps. Only then did she peddle back towards her ground, with Pandey’s throw hitting her “innocently” on the legs as she did so.
More generally, this wasn’t a glamourous day of cricket; but having chosen to bat, England’s top order all did their jobs. Lauren Winfield-Hill and Beaumont showed good control in the first hour, defending the good balls and making hay off the bad ones. It wasn’t risk free – Beaumont wasn’t afraid to play her trademark ramps and Winfield-Hill smashed two cracking sixes over the ropes. Of course, Winfield would have wanted more – losing her concentration for a moment, allowing Taniya Bhatia to take a showcase catch – but you can’t win ’em all, and she shouldn’t feel disgraced at all by “only” making 35.
Similarly, Heather falling within inches of what would have been her second Test hundred might look disappointing on paper… and might feel disappointing in the crowd… not to mention in the press box, where more than one scribbler had already all-but filed a piece with the words “Knight Century” in the headline. But in the scorebook where it really counts, the 95 runs she got were a whole lot more important than the 5 she didn’t; and she’ll absolutely know that.
The only thing I might have approached differently was the final 40-minutes or so. With the last “proper” batter, Georgia Elwiss gone, I might have told Katherine Brunt and Sophia Dunkley that 300-9 at the close was a better position than dropping anchor to 269-6.
But if Brunt and Dunkley can come out tomorrow and take England well past 300, there should still be plenty of time for England to go on to win the match; and they’ve probably ensured already that India will struggle to do so, unless Knight offers a generous second-innings declaration of course.
That would be fun… and sporting… though ironically not particularly “professional” – that’s a moral dilemma for the captain; but right now, it is a moral dilemma for another day.
Yet to watch the highlights, but from what I saw, England played very well overall. Brilliant from Knight & Beaumont by all accounts. Dunks played well at the end too. India haven’t shown any massive desire to win really – conservative team selection, some defensive fields and fairly slow over rates. They bowled pretty well though. If they want to push for a win they’ll have to finish England off first thing and get scoring at a fair old rate. They’ll need a century or quite a few 50s in order to build a sizeable total quickly enough to bowl England out again.
If England can restrict the Indian scoring rate and/or get some big wickets tomorrow, then with a bit of rain around they might have already done enough to avoid defeat. Can’t help thinking that Arlott and Villiers (or Glenn really) should have played if we truly wanted to push for a win though? India could score a lot of runs on this pitch, I feel, and we only have one spinner (plus Knight). Brunt & Shrubsole will have to get through a lot of overs. At least they have Cross, Sciver and Elwiss to back them up. All might end up needing to bowl 12 or more overs a day though even if Ecclestone is extensively used.
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92 overs in 6 1/2 hours …… hardly the sort of over rate to get the crowds flooding through the gates. Poor show.
PS: England scoring rate, whilst nothing like fast, would (if continued to the end of innings) be the 9th highest 1st innings of the match scoring rate of the 98 Tests involving England (or 96 if you ignore the1958 and 2002 Tests in which not a ball was bowled)).
That 2002 Test was the 1st Test against India. Goswani played in the 2nd Test – impressive longevity.