Five years ago, all-but to the day, South Africa walked out onto this ground at Leicester to take on the West Indies in the 2017 World Cup – bowling them out for 48, before knocking off the chase in under 7 overs. Perhaps Sune Luus had that day in mind when she opted to put England in, having won the toss on one of the hottest days in recorded history in this country.
It was certainly a decision that otherwise looked baffling at the time, and even more so in retrospect, as England posted 371 – their 5th biggest total of all time, falling just 8 short of their highest ever – 378 against Pakistan on tiny boundaries at Worcester in 2016.
Tammy Beaumont produced the perfect riposte to being dropped from the T20 squad for the Commonwealth Games, hitting 119 off 107 balls. Beaumont now sits joint-3rd in the all-time list for hundreds in women’s ODIs with 9, level with Charlotte Edwards, who played almost twice as many matches to achieve that. It was therefore somewhat appropriate that it was Edwards – Beaumont’s former county captain at Kent – who prior to play today presented her with a special commemorative cap to mark her 200th appearance for England.
Beaumont wouldn’t be human if she wasn’t bitterly disappointed to miss out on the Commonwealths, having been such a consistent performer for England over the past few years, but she showed today that she still has plenty of punch left in her, and South Africa took the full force of the blow.
With Emma Lamb passing 50 for the 3rd time in the series, and Sophia Dunkley and Heather Knight also making half-centuries, England looked like the record score was well within their sights, especially after Danni Wyatt had come in and blasted 33 off 14 balls. When Amy Jones was dismissed with 2½ overs left, the stage was surely set to send Issy Wong in to blast the runs they needed; but England’s batting order is apparently a sacred text and instead we were left with a little bit of an anti-climax, with just 4 runs coming from the final over. Does it matter? Of course not! But would it nonetheless have been fun to get the record? Call me old fashioned but… yes!
Once again, South Africa started positively in the chase, with Laura Wolvaardt punishing anything slightly wayward. And there was quite a lot of “slightly wayward” up top from England, on a day which seemed to get hotter and hotter as it wore on.
South Africa kept pace with England for 15 overs, thanks to Wolvaardt, but as soon as she left the fray, LBW trying to sweep a lovely little delivery from Charlie Dean, South Africa started to fall behind. There was a brief resurgence for South Africa when Kapp and Tryon went on the attack in the middle overs, but it wasn’t enough to really worry England – they’d have needed to keep going at the rate they were going for 20 more overs, and that just wasn’t going to happen. Both Alice Davidson-Richards and Emma Lamb bagged maiden ODI wickets, both finishing with 3fers, as did Dean; while Issy Wong joined the party with the perfect fast bowler’s wicket to flatten Shabnim Ismail’s stumps right at the end.
The written press were unanimous in naming Emma Lamb player of the ODI series, in her first full series for England. It was obviously for her batting, but England will be particularly pleased with her contribution with the ball – if she can regularly bowl 6 or 7 overs going forwards, it takes a lot of pressure off Nat Sciver, and gives England that bit more flexibility with Heather Knight so reluctant to bowl herself.
Lamb will not be part of the next England team we see, with a new look for the T20 series ahead of the Comm Games; but no doubt she will be back for the India series in September.
On a day when we’ve seen debate about whether the top men can play all 3 formats, with the retirement of Ben Stokes from ODIs, perhaps it is inevitable that we’ll start to see more format-based teams in the women’s game going forwards too? The T20 leg of this series is going to be very interesting in that respect, and it begins in Chelmsford on Thursday – we’ll see you there!