They’ll be singing on the streets of Wellington tonight… or today… or tomorrow… or whatever time it is in New Zealand… after Sophie Devine led New Zealand to victory in Hove, with an innings of 50 off 41 balls, with all-but half of those runs coming in just 4 shots for six.
The biggest of those sixes – onto the rooves of the hospitality boxes over deep midwicket – were vintage Devine – an effortless whip of the wrists sending the ball sailing through the starless black skies over the county ground at Hove.
Nonetheless, New Zealand almost blew it, partly thanks to some magic fielding from Mady Villiers, who brilliantly threw down the stumps to send Suzie Bates back to the pavilion for 8, and then produced a stunning running dive to catch Devine. There was also a smart Caught & Bowled to get rid of Maddy Green.
There remain doubts about exactly what Villiers’ role in this team is – she is batting below Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn, neither of whom are genuine allrounders – so she is batting in a bowling position, but she only bowled one over. That over did produce a wicket, but what England really needed at that stage in the game, with 23 required from 5 overs, was for an over not to go for 8 runs… which is what it went for. Nonetheless, there is little doubt that Villiers is among the best fielders in the world… if not the best – and that’s pretty handy to have on-board.
Devine’s heroics overshadowed what was a strong debut for Maia Bouchier – her 25 off 24 balls was the highest score by an England player on T20 debut since the very first T20, played at this same ground in 2004. I wrote during The Hundred about how Bouchier seemed to have a new sense that she truly belongs at the highest levels of the game, and she showed that again today. One shot in particular – a cut through point off Amy Satterthwaite – was a stroke out of the very top draw.
Less than a year ago, Bouchier was heartbroken to be banned from bowling by the ECB for an illegal action; but she vowed to go away over the winter and rectify the issue with her action, which she did to the satisfaction of the board, who cleared her to bowl again earlier in the summer. It took real character to do that, not to mention hard work, and that was rewarded with an England cap tonight, and the chance to do what Emma Lamb didn’t have the chance to do on her debut last week: to actually make an impact on the game.
Coming in at 4-down with 10 overs to go though is a mixed blessing – you have time, but it is all on you! It was a real pressure situation for Bouchier, and some slightly crazy running between the wickets suggested she was feeling that pressure. But with luck and pluck she came through it, and it seems safe to say that although she is unlikely to play in the 3rd T20, assuming Heather Knight returns to the XI, we will see her in an England shirt many more times in years to come.
Even as an England fan it’s hard to feel too down when Sophie Devine takes a game away from you, the ODIs are going to be so tasty!
I’m with Charlotte Edwards who in post-match commented on how this defeat can fit gainfully into the bigger picture, despite Nick Knight’s protestations and his irritating obsession with Australia. There are so many ways England can progress and improve without thinking about Australia, let’s build on our own type of cricket while getting the basics right.
True, Mady Villier’s role doesn’t seem clear to anyone, but my goodness she was inspired today! A lot of opportunities to be a hero in that fielding innings and she took them all. A real mixed bag of bowling from England again.
We’re in level 3 COVID restrictions here in Wellington, which means singing in the streets isn’t encouraged, but all the same that was a much more encouraging performance by the White Ferns. When Sophie Devine was dismissed I thought “Uh-oh, I’ve seen this movie before”, and there was an element of panic by our middle order – all they needed to do was knock the ball around on the ground, but instead they kept hitting it in the air – but a win is a win, and a very important one for a side low in confidence.
Mady Villiers seems to have a similar role for England to Thamsyn Newton in the White Ferns: both can bowl and bat, but their key role is fielding – and in a tight contest that really matters. Onwards to Taunton!
“if not the best” – if Villiers is a better fielder than Fran Wilson then she must be something else.
England’s batting was a bit disappointing, we lost wickets at just the wrong times. Personally I think Dunkley should come in above Jones, not below her, if only because she seems less likely to get out first ball?. Wyatt and Bouchier could have taken England to 140+ but Rowe did a great job in those late-middle overs. NZ’s bowling was much-improved but England didn’t learn from that and struggled with their line in particular. The much-lamented 19 wides were, by my count, comprised of “only” 10 wide-signalled deliveries (which then had extra runs added to many of them), but that mitigation still leaves much to be desired. In the final analysis I think only Sciver, Ecclestone and Glenn had figures good enough to really help rather than hinder England’s effort.
England now need to get back on track quickly, but there are signs of a worrying lack of form for Sciver with the bat (which is not ideal timing given Knight’s continued absence). Edwards did not seem overly concerned though in the post-match punditry and I think saw this as a learning opportunity from which Keightley would have come away with some useful notes. In truth the T20 series is a bit of a free hit, given that the 50 over format will be to the forefront in upcoming months – and it’s arguably NZ’s stronger suit plus a bit hit-and-miss at the best of times. So a 2-1 T20i series loss for England could potentially be forgiven – if and only if England are much more convincing in the ODI series. That said I’m still keen to see England bowl better in Thursday’s 3rd game. Villiers though – What a fielder!
One other item to add to the differences between the teams, which you refer to – Devine hit 4 sixes, the entire England innings featured none. I understand Hove isn’t a huge ground, relatively?
That surprised me, given the way England play now