Until tonight, Emma Lamb hadn’t scored a single run in international white ball cricket – three caps; two balls faced; no runs – though she had, of course, made a solid 38 off 69 balls in the Test at the end of last month.
But given how consistently she has made runs in domestic cricket over the past few years, it felt like it was only a matter of time before she made a proper score for England, and tonight was the night.
I didn’t dare to jinx it by tweeting it in public, but at 6:29pm this evening I texted a friend, saying: “If Lamb plays 100 games she will never have a better chance to score a 100 for England.”
Lamb set off as she meant to go on – at the 5-over mark she was going at a Strike Rate of over 100, and she pretty-much maintained that throughout her innings.
Lamb’s selection tonight was the only change to the names on the team-sheet from the World Cup final – it was Lamb in for Shrubsole – but the lineup was definitely a new look for ODIs, with Lamb opening alongside Beaumont and Dunkley coming in at 3, with Nat Sciver staying at 4 and Knight shuffling down the order to 5; and then Wyatt in at 6 and Amy Jones at 7.
It’s a long batting line-up, but it means only 4 bowlers and leaves England either trying to get a full quota out of Nat Sciver, or fill in with Lamb (who did the job for a couple of overs tonight) or Knight. I’d be more comfortable with 5 bowlers, but with Amy Jones struggling in international cricket – she’s made just one 50 in her last 12 innings – England are obviously nervous about the batting. Is it time to look at another wicket-keeper? The problem is that she is far-and-away the best keeper, so she keeps her spot for the moment for that alone, but the very best international teams don’t carry their keepers for long…
Given their margin of victory here, England should feel comfortable bringing in Bell for the next match at Bristol on Friday, at the expense of Wyatt. Not that Wyatt has done anything wrong, but it makes for a better-balanced team and gives England another attacking option with the ball, which (oddly, given they bowled South Africa out) did look to be lacking at times, especially when the Tryon-de Klerk partnership was starting to look like a thorn in England’s side.
As for South Africa, they would have known this tour wasn’t going to be an easy one; but without Ismail… without van Niekerk… and now without Lee… they really look very short of the mark. They saved the Test by blocking and successfully praying for rain, but there was no hiding behind the weather at Northampton – in the pounding heat, they wilted, and the rest of the tour could be about to get very, very sticky for them.