England opened their account at the Commonwealth Games with a win over Sri Lanka at Edgbaston, thanks to Alice Capsey, who kept a cool head while others around her were losing theirs, top-scoring with 44 off 45 balls as England overhauled Sri Lanka’s 106-9 with 17 balls to spare.
England’s afternoon started in chaos after their bags got misplaced on the way to the stadium, and things looked to be going from bad to worse when Capsey top-edged into her own face while warming up, sustaining a nasty black eye and causing a moment of panic as England contemplated having to reshuffle the lineup at the last minute. Fortunately for England, she came through a quick checkup and was able to play a crucial part in a chase which threatened a couple of times to ride off the rails.
It was a very similar innings to the one Capsey played in the inaugural Charlotte Edwards Cup Final at the Ageas Bowl last summer – instead of going on all-out attack, she held back and calmly managed her way through the run chase. After reverse-sweeping Ranasinghe for 4 in the 12th over, she didn’t hit another boundary for the rest of the game – taking 12 of the 14 remaining runs she scored in singles. Nat Sciver is usually Mrs Cool, Calm and Collected, but even she had to admit post-game that she didn’t know who was more composed out there in the middle – her or Capsey.
I wrote at the time of that innings in the CE Cup Final that in some ways it was a more important innings than her 50 in The Hundred at Lords, because it showed she could play more than one way, and today re-emphasised that. There will be times in the next decade when England need her to go out and smash four consecutive 4s, as she did against South Africa at Derby… but there will be times when they just need her to make sure they win the game, and that was the job she did today. There are no Player of the Match awards at the Commonwealth Games (for some reason it isn’t considered a Commonwealth Games “thing”) but if there were, she’d have surely won it in only her third appearance for her country.
It does cause a problem now for England though: who do they leave out when Heather Knight comes back? Capsey won the day for them today; Maia Bouchier has been solid; Sophia Dunkley has been explosive; Nat Sciver is obviously undroppable, as is Amy Jones, because there isn’t really another wicket keeping option, so… does Wyatt have to miss out? That would mean reshuffling the batting order… again… but might that be the answer, to have Capsey opening with Dunkley?
All of this excitement followed a slightly strange performance with the ball, which possibly sounds like a harsh judgement considering Sri Lanka finished 106-9. But it definitely wasn’t all smooth sailing.
Chucking Capsey in for an over during the powerplay was presumably a pre-ordained strategy, but I’m not sure she was in quite the right head-space still after the knock during the warm-up and she went for 11 in the one over she bowled.
Freya Kemp looked the most dangerous of England’s bowlers, and the first ball she bowled was a beauty, moving slightly off a perfectly upright seam to rearrange Chamari Athapaththu’s stumps. But as has been the case thus far on this hybrid pitch, the seamers have taken wickets but been a tad more expensive than the spinners, and this was possibly why Kemp only got two overs, going for 14.
Next up for England is South Africa… again, but it will be the game against New Zealand which is likely to give England their first real test of the summer. They had a good win today against South Africa, with Suzie Bates hitting her best international T20 score since 2018, and the 3rd best of her career.
Bates’ innings today contributed to a total of 167, which puts England’s efforts today into a bit of perspective. Yes, they were managing the chase, but they still ended up 5 down, and although Ecclestone is a very handy tail-ender as she showed the other day, she is still basically a tail-ender who we’d rather not be relying on to finish things off in a chase.
Still, a win is a win – England have got points on the board and now probably need to win only one more game to make the semi-finals. They say that all journeys begin with a small step… this was one – but there will need to be bigger steps to come if they want that gold medal at the end of it.