NEWS: Lisa Keightley to Leave England Role at End of Summer

Lisa Keightley will leave her role as England Head Coach at the end of the summer, the ECB have announced, with Keightley having informed the ECB that she will not be seeking an extension at the end of her current contract.

Keightley took up the role of head Coach in January 2020 and was almost immediately forced to navigate the uncharted waters of managing the team in a world of lockdowns and biosecurity forced on them by the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst also being separated from her own family back home in Australia. With Keightley’s long-term assistant Tim MacDonald also returning to Australia after the Commonwealth Games, this decision comes as little surprise.

Director of England Women’s Cricket Jonathan Finch alluded to some of these challenges, saying:

“Leading an international team is challenging at the best of times. It is more challenging during a pandemic, and Lisa has been able to continue the development of the team during what has been the toughest period we have faced off the field.”

Keightley enjoyed a win ratio of 68% during her time in charge of England, but although the cemented their position amongst the best sides in the world, they remain very-much second-best to Australia, who handed them an embarrassing defeat in the 2022 Women’s Ashes, followed by a drubbing in the World Cup Final a few weeks later.

At the recent Commonwealth Games, England were pipped by India in the semi-finals, and then embarrassed themselves in the bronze medal match with a poor and petulant display – something the new management team will need to address ahead of the T20 World Cup in South Africa next year.

OPINION: England Actually Lost The Commonwealth Games Gold Medal A Year Ago

Just over a year ago, in June 2021, England announced that Nat Sciver would be replacing Anya Shrubsole as vice-captain. Sciver had done the role on a temporary basis during England’s tour of New Zealand earlier in the year; and the decision had been made that she should take on the role on a permanent basis.

Fast forward 13 months. It’s the eve of women’s cricket’s debut at the Commonwealth Games, and Heather Knight is receiving injections to try to relieve the nagging pain in her hip. She desperately wants to play… but it turns out that the pain is just too much. Sciver is called to a meeting with Heather and Lisa Keightley and told that she will be skippering the team. Not only will the anchor-batting role (in the absence of both Knight and Tammy Beaumont) rest on her shoulders, but so will leading a young side to the medal podium. Sciver is one of the world’s leading all-rounders, but even so… this is a LOT.

We all know what happens next. England’s first three matches are a walkover. Then they meet India in the semi-final, and fall just short in a desperate run-chase. The next day, they completely fail to turn up in the bronze medal match against New Zealand, seemingly deciding that if it isn’t a gold medal, it ain’t worth the bother. A picture of Heather Knight consoling a desolate Katherine Brunt after the match goes viral.

It could have been a very different story had England handled the situation with the captaincy-succession a little differently.

We thought at the time of the announcement that it was slightly strange that Sciver had been handed the vice-captaincy role – she is just two years younger than Knight, so it was clearly not a decision made with a long-term view in mind. Subsequent events have reinforced the view that Sciver is not seen by England as Knight’s long-term replacement. Last summer, with Knight out injured for the first two games against New Zealand, Sciver stepped in as captain. Afterwards, when I asked her about an on-field tactical decision, she made it very clear that all the key calls had been made by Knight before the game.

Then, during the Commonwealth Games, Knight was kept with the squad. “She’s been in all the meetings,” Issy Wong said after the New Zealand group-stage match, “and been pretty much 100% part of the group.” It seemed to be for the best, but for Sciver, trying to do the captain’s job on the pitch while (presumably) not feeling like the captain off the pitch must have been a challenge. She admitted as such in one of the mixed zones. “The first few games I was a bit like, ‘arghhh!'” she said, when asked about replacing Knight.

Arguably, the past few days for England have seen a real failure of leadership. As Syd put it in his piece yesterday:

England talk a lot about being role models, but after one player was given an official reprimand yesterday for swearing on the field of play, the overriding image of England today was another being shown live on TV, smashing over a chair with her bat on her way back to the dressing room after being dismissed.

I want to make it clear – I don’t blame Sciver for this failure. The real issue is that England have not been treating Sciver as a captain-in-waiting. They have been treating her as a captain-in-name-only, who simply executes decisions which seem to have already been made by Knight and Lisa Keightley before the match begins.

That can take you so far – but in crunch matches, like the semi-final against India, you need a captain who is equipped to think for themselves, who can come up with Plans C through to Z on the hoof, when Plans A and B fail. Has Sciver really been encouraged to develop that kind of independent thinking by England?

Imagine an alternative world, in which a year ago, England had decided that they were going to make a real effort to blood a proper successor for Knight. If you really want to think long-term, Sophia Dunkley is probably the most plausible candidate from the “next generation”. So appoint Dunkley as vice-captain. Allow her free rein to make some key decisions, even if you do that in “minor” matches against weaker opposition (e.g. those six white-ball games against South Africa). Give her the chance to captain the England Academy in warm-up games. Let her make mistakes. Allow her to be a real challenge to Knight’s authority.

Choose to do that a year ago, and losing your captain on the eve of a huge tournament is no longer a disaster. But they didn’t. And disaster it was.

Obviously, England can’t go back in time now – they’ve thrown away their chance to spend the past 12 months blooding Knight’s replacement, just like they threw away their chance at a bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games on Sunday.

But this should be a salient lesson for captain and coach. If you care about the future of this team, you need to let a future leader develop – really, truly, properly develop – and you need to do it now.

COMMONWEALTH GAMES: England v New Zealand – New Zealand Bold As Bronze

New Zealand thoroughly deserved their bronze medals in the play-off match at the Commonwealth Games, after restricting England to one of their lowest 1st innings totals in the history of T20 internationals.

Not to put too fine a point on it: New Zealand looked like they wanted the medals… England looked like they wanted to be somewhere else.

Having lost to England in the last match of the group stages, and been well beaten by Australia in their semi-final last night, with barely 12 hours between leaving the stadium last night and needing to be back here this morning, it wouldn’t have been surprising if it was New Zealand who looked tired and flat. That they came out fighting is credit to their leadership team.

The same cannot be said of England.

England talk a lot about being role models, but after one player was given an official reprimand yesterday for swearing on the field of play, the overriding image of England today was another being shown live on TV, smashing over a chair with her bat on her way back to the dressing room after being dismissed.

We can ask the question as to whether these bronze medal matches are needed or required – other sports in other tournaments just award both of the defeated semi-finalists a “shared” bronze medal – but everyone knew the deal coming into this tournament; and whilst frustrations do sometimes spill over for all of us – me very much included – we also sometimes need to accept that we’ve let ourselves down, front-up and apologise – not for losing in this case, but for losing badly with ill-grace.

The sight of the New Zealand players celebrating with selfies down on the outfield after the game, on the other hand, was lovely to see.

With a new coach and a new-look to their lineup, little was expected from the White Ferns at these Commonwealth Games. Getting to the semi-finals was probably over-par, after a slightly disappointing home World Cup, and so to come home with bronze medals was a fantastic achievement.

Although England were poor by their own standards, they did at least set New Zealand a chase that potentially made it interesting. It doesn’t happen a lot, but matches do occasionally get won by teams making less than 120 in the first innings, so it wasn’t quite a foregone conclusion. But the positive intent shown by Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates up top put New Zealand quickly in the driving seat. By the end of the powerplay they were over half way there, and Devine was able to push on to hit the winning run in the 12th over just after bringing up her half century.

It is probably just as well for England that we’ve got The Hundred coming up hot on our heels right now – there will be no time for the players to brood over the disappointment of the Commonwealths, but instead the chance to reset in a different environment, with different team-mates and different coaches. There will be some tough decisions for the management team to make ahead of the India series in September, but those decisions are for another day.

Right now, let’s just congratulate New Zealand and hope for a brilliant final between Australia and India this evening.

COMMONWEALTH GAMES: England v India – Jemi’s a Gem for India

There wasn’t much in it – just 4 runs, after Sophie Ecclestone walloped the final ball of England’s chase for 6 – but it was India that came away with the win, and the chance to play for the gold medal tomorrow.

India’s total of 164 rested on two crucial performances at either end of the innings. Smriti Mandhana got them off to a flying start with 61 off 32 balls; but arguably Jemimah Rodrigues’ 44 off 31 at the back-end was even more significant.

Jemi had come in at the fall of the first wicket in the 8th over, and made her way to 18 off 19 balls through the middle overs, playing the anchor role; but then stepped up 2-or-3 gears at the death, hitting 26 off 12 balls at a Strike Rate of 217 in the last 4 overs of the innings, playing some lovely strokes over the top on the off side – not trying to hit the leather off it, but doing just enough – the perfect balance of risk and reward.

Without those extra 12-14 runs from Jemi’s bat, India would have finished on something more like 150, which would have handed England the game. As it was, 164 proved just too many for England.

Although England kept in touch with the rate for most of the game, a couple of weak overs towards the end of the middle-over phase pushed the required rate towards ten, and it was looking dicey. They looked to have been handed a lifeline when India gambled on giving Shafali a second over in the 16th, which went for 15; but the two overs that followed were the death knell.

Deepti Sharma bowled the 17th and restricted Amy Jones and Nat Sciver to just 3 singles. The pressure that put on then indirectly led to Jones running a panicked single off the second ball of the 18th, bowled by Sneh Rana, from which she was run out; and the result was a second consecutive over of just 3 singles, leaving England needing 27 off the last 2 overs, which they simply couldn’t manage.

(13.5 an over does sound do-able, and England did hit 13 off the 19th; but in practice it is virtually impossible to get even 10 off the final over – it just never happens – so really England needed 18-20 off the penultimate over – 13 was never going to be enough.)

There can be no doubt that the better team won on the day – India deserve to be the ones vying for gold tomorrow; while England came up short at the first real hurdle they’ve faced this summer, after South Africa’s failure to really challenge them in the series that preceded the Comm Games.

The “Glass Half Full” take is that England were close, and this exciting young team can leave Birmingham with their dignity intact. Alice Capsey did exactly what we always said she’d do – stepped up to international cricket with aplomb; while the Freya Kemp gamble worked out well enough, though she didn’t get any opportunity to prove herself with the bat, which could have been interesting because she is arguably an even more exciting prospect with bat than with ball.

The likelihood remains that, even if they’d come through today, they’d have been flattened by Australia tomorrow; but the “next” England team, which is starting to take shape now, looks a much better bet to really give Australia a run for their money over the next decade than they have recently.

This being the Commonwealth Games, there remains the small matter of a bronze medal match for England tomorrow. It’s the match no one really wants to play, and it will be a tough ask for the management team to get everyone up for it – the squad were so fixated on that gold medal, that anything less was always going to be a huge disappointment. But they need to be the professionals they are, and give their all nonetheless – England expects… even if it is “just” for a bronze medal.

OPINION: Seedings Are Ruining The Group Stages of International T20 Tournaments

In the past 4 years, we’ve been treated to 3 brilliant international T20 tournaments: the 2018 World T20 in the West Indies; the 2020 Twenty20 (try saying that after a couple of jugs!) World Cup in Australia; and the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

All three tournaments have had basically the same format: two seeded groups to decide the semi-finalists, with the winner of Group A playing the team finishing 2nd in Group B in the semis, and vice-versa.

As a system it works to produce a balanced competition, and it is infinitely preferable to some of the crazy formats we’ve had in the past (and which they still have in The Other Game™) with Super Sixes and whatnot!

But is it making all these tournaments too samey?

All of the past 3 tournaments have seen Australia and India in one group, with England and South Africa in the other. So England have played South Africa in the group stages in each of the past 3 “world” T20 comps (the Commonwealth Games being effectively a “world” competition) while never facing India or Australia; and ditto for India and Australia, who haven’t played England or South Africa in the groups stages for 4 years, but have faced-off against each other 3 times.

Furthermore, England have ended up facing India in the semi-final on all 3 occasions, albeit a) for slightly different reasons in 2018 and 2020 (when India won their group and England finished 2nd) to 2022 (when England won their group and India finished second); and b) England didn’t actually get to play India in 2020, due to the rain in Sydney.

And with another T20 World Cup coming along next year in South Africa, the same seeding system is likely to produce the same results on a 4th consecutive occasion too!

One answer is to draw the groups completely at random out of a hat. The argument against this is that it can produce a “Group of Death” which means that the best teams don’t all make it to the knockout stages; and can ultimately impact the quality of the final, which is the real “big deal” for TV.

But this could be avoided by having two hats: one for the top 4 seeds, and one for the rest. This would at least ensure some variety – each group would contain two top-seeds and 2-or-3 “others” – but we might see England get to play India or Australia in the group stages, rather than South Africa again.

Perhaps all of this is just really a symptom of the wider problem in women’s cricket, where the top teams are increasingly pulling away from the rest, making the group stages largely academic anyway? It certainly feels like there is less jeopardy in the group stages than there has been in quite some while, with England’s only real “worry” in Birmingham being whether they would face Australia or India in their semi-final. And with great crowds at Edgbaston, the evidence might suggest that the public doesn’t really care right now either. But ultimately, we do need to keep things interesting, and slightly more randomised groups could be a way of achieving that in South Africa next year.

ANALYSIS: How to Win at Domestic T20 – A New Approach

The tactics and strategies deployed by many women’s teams are fairly standard and largely mirror those seen in the men’s game (possibly not surprising given how many of the coaches are men) with seemingly little questioning as to whether these really are actually the best ways to win T20 games.

This article argues that just 2 stats* could drive a number of different approaches in team composition, batting order and bowling attacks. (*Taken from the 2021 WBBL – the best T20 competition in the world and the one with the most match data.)

Stat #1: “15 runs”

What’s the significance of this number? The margin of victory in 40% of games (21/53 completed) was 15 runs or less i.e.,

  • Chasing teams fell short by ≤15 runs; or
  • Teams batting 1st would have successfully defended a score which was 15 runs higher. This second point is obviously simplistic since it assumes that the chasing team wouldn’t have scored more quickly if they were chasing a higher target.)

But the crux holds true that just a few more runs made (or saved) would change the results of a large number of games.

Stat #2: Over-reliance on the top 4 batters

Bat Win/Tie Runs* scored by Top 4 Lose Runs* scored by Top 4
1st 28x 83.00% 25x 55.00%
2nd 25x 87.00% 28x 60.00%

* Runs off the bat only

Basically, teams don’t win unless their top 4 batters deliver the vast majority of the runs.

So, how could these 2 facts influence the way that a team might bat, field and select players?

Batting

Some might opine that if batters were capable of scoring more runs then they would. But this assumes, firstly, that these batters are making good decisions regarding how to make runs and, secondly, ignores the fact that top batters understand, and hence are constrained by, the correlation between their personal success and team success.

So how could a team score 15 more runs? The average 2022 Blast score was approximately 171 whilst the average 2021 WBBL 1st innings score was 137; the difference (34) being primarily attributable to approximately 3.4 fewer 6s, 1.1 fewer 4s and 11 fewer singles.

Can 6 hitting be improved? The best women batters can clear any boundary but the vast majority can’t. In the WBBL 50% of 6s were hit by just 10 batters. So, this wouldn’t seem a viable approach.

Can teams score more singles (and twos)? Most objective observers would agree that many teams could take far more singles through ‘drop and run’ or targeting weaker fielders. Rapidly improving batter fitness levels will also help. And boundaries need to be pushed out to avoid what some commentators have dubbed “1s or 4s games”. The recent Cricket World Cup saw big boundaries so it’s disappointing that the organisers of the Commonwealth Games have decided to bring them in so far. Big boundaries open up gaps, reward those batters able to manipulate the ball and allow the best fielders to showcase their skills.

But who is to score these runs given the highlighted reliance of teams on their top batters? More aggressive batting comes with higher risks and there simply isn’t the depth of batting in most teams to recover if several wickets fall early. (This is in marked contrast to the Blast where the SRs of batters #1 through to #8 barely drops.) So how do you reconcile the need to take more risk with the fact that you can’t afford to lose your top batters too early?

The proposal here is the deployment of pinch hitters. Central Sparks alluded to such tactics by using Issy Wong at the top of the order in this year’s CEC but this isn’t about promoting a solitary batter to ‘give it a go’ before the ‘proper’ batters come in – this tactic would see a succession of lower order batters promoted to the top of the order with the clear role of taking advantage of fielding restrictions during the powerplay. Losing 3 wickets in the powerplay is rarely recoverable in men’s T20s, but 30-3 off 3 overs might be fantastic start for a women’s team utilising this strategy. (For comparison, in 2021, the average powerplay in the CEC was 38.4 for 1.6 wickets.) And, if the opposition didn’t change their bowling order, it would also mean your best batters faced fewer balls for the opposition’s best bowlers.

Fielding / Bowling

The strategic ramifications of these 2 stats are just as important for the fielding team (particularly if your opposition also adopt the above batting tactics).

The wicket-keeper becomes even more pivotal. All keepers should be able to stand up, even to the fastest bowlers, and thereby keep batters in their crease. This is not an unreasonable expectation as Amy Jones and Sarah Taylor have demonstrated. They should also look to how the best men keepers cover a wide area behind the stumps rather than, as many women keepers do, hovering by the stumps and expecting third and fine leg to field snicks and edges.

A keeper standing up combined with a ring of athletic fielders would put enormous pressure on batters – the tactic so brilliantly deployed by the men’s Gloucestershire team during their 90’s heyday or the current men’s Hampshire squad.

Teams then need a bowling attack capable of taking out the opposition’s top 4 batters. Economy rates shouldn’t matter and nor should overall Strike Rates (which can be flattered by cheap wickets at the back end of an innings) – just a bowler’s SR against the best batters. This also means teams shouldn’t necessarily copy the men’s tactics of using 4-5 different bowlers in the powerplay – teams need their best bowlers attacking the opposition’s best batters (because if the best bowlers can’t get the best batters out, what chance do the other bowlers have?)

Regarding the composition of the bowling attack, teams need to focus on what works versus what’s ostensibly exciting. The simple fact is that slow bowlers are hard to score off – in the 2022 Blast the 26 most economical bowlers were slow – so a team should have at least 3 spinners (ideally a wrist spinner, a left armer and a conventional off spinner). But why not 4?

Is this anti-fast bowler? No, but coaches should acknowledge the realities of what fast bowlers bring to a team versus the hype. It might sound exciting if someone is bowling at 70-75mph, but in itself that just means more speed off the bat and no decent batter should be fazed by such speeds since they’ll regularly face bowling machines set at this speed or, for the diminishing number who play men’s cricket, in club matches. Speed of this magnitude is only penetrative when it’s combined with something else. (The 27th most economical bowler in the Blast is the 6’7” Irfan.). So, your fast bowler needs to be tall (e.g., Bell, Arlott or Filer) or left arm (e.g., Kemp, Farrant or George) or someone who can take the ball away from the righthander (since the majority of women bowlers bowl inswing).

What therefore might a team look like built on these insights?

4 bowlers: selected for their SR against the best batters, not against the middle order and tail. (Once you’ve dismissed the top 4 opposition batters, further wickets become unimportant since the SRs of number 5 to 9 are pretty similar.) Hence a SR of 10 / ER of 9 is far more desirable a SR of 20 / ER of 6. But they need to be matched up against the best batters – your all-rounders and batters-who-bowl should be capable of getting the other batters out.

4 batters: capable of batting the bulk of 15 overs (although not the first few) with a SR of 120+. (A team could perhaps afford to have 1 ‘anchor’ but even then their SR should be at least 110.) Your keeper doesn’t have to be one of these 4 if they form part of the expendable opening batting line up, but their keeping and wider athleticism has to be exceptional. If any of these batters can offer the occasional over of bowling, all the better.

3 all-rounders: collectively capable of delivering 4-8 overs once the top 4 batters are out (or early in the innings if the opposition also cards their best batters lower) combined with role as pinch-hitters capable of scoring e.g., 10 off 4 balls and ‘gun’ fielding.

Fielding athleticism: the ability to squeeze teams in the field is core to this strategy. As we start to get better fielding stats, we can better assign value to this aspect of the game.

The most valuable player in such a squad might not be the batter with an average of 25/SR 120 or a bowler with an ER of 5, but instead someone who bats at 3 with an average of 12 / SR 150, often bowls 2 overs for 16 and typically saves 5 runs in the field compared to the ‘average’ fielder.
Einstein famously said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. It could similarly be contended that any team hoping to beat Southern Vipers by simply repeating the same tactics which haven’t worked to date is destined to the same fate. Is any team ready to re-think the way domestic T20 is played? If so, perhaps some of the answers lie herein?

COMMONWEALTH GAMES: England v New Zealand – You’re Not Paranoid If Katherine Brunt Really Is Out To Get You

Among the songs played by the DJ at Edgbaston during the New Zealand innings was Paranoid, the seminal tune by local metal-meisters Black Sabbath. “People think I’m insane because I am frowning all the time,” sings Ozzy Osbourne; but as the old retort goes, you’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you… and England really were out to get New Zealand tonight.

With Katherine Brunt taking 2-4 from 3 overs, England restricted the Kiwis to 71-9. In 140 T20 internationals, New Zealand have only scored fewer runs batting first on one other occasion – also against England, when they were bowled out for 60 at Whangārei in 2015.

In front of a crowd of over 10,000, Brunt sailed in for the first over like a flagship on the evening breeze, almost bowling Suzie Bates before castling Sophie Devine with a roar of celebration. In her next over she did for Amelia Kerr too – it wasn’t a a great shot from Kerr, but they still only count if you hit the stumps, and Brunt did for the second time in the evening.

Brunt’s third over didn’t produce a wicket but only went for 2, and with New Zealand having also lost Bates in the meantime – a soft dismissal, caught by Nat Sciver off Issy Wong – the writing was already on the wall, and Brunt was not required to bowl another. She’d had her say though, and who’d bet against her having it again before these games are out?

Things went from bad to worse for New Zealand in the 7th over, as non-striker Brooke Halliday put her head down like a charging bull, setting off blindly for a run while Maddy Green stayed rooted in her crease, leaving both batters at the same end and the easiest of run-outs for Nat Sciver to complete. It was Halliday’s call in the sense that it had gone (just) behind square, but she really only had herself to blame nonetheless – if she’d just glanced up for the tiniest instant she’d have seen that Green wasn’t going anywhere and could have saved herself.

Their confidence shattered, New Zealand were just looking to stay alive after that, which they just about did, getting through the 20 overs for the loss of 9 wickets. Sarah Glenn bowled nicely, emphasising the value of consistently executing line and length in this format, rather than necessarily doing anything spectacular, finishing with 2-13 from 4 overs.

England’s response didn’t get off to the best start – again, Alice Capsey was into the action earlier than England would ideally have liked, but she’s making that number 3 spot her own now, and it was another box-office performance from the 17-year-old superstar. It was bang, bang, bang, bang, thanks for coming Lea Tahuhu, as the kid tonked the veteran seamer for 16 off her first over.

Not to be outdone, Sophia Dunkley hit Amelia Kerr for 10 off the next, and England were 41-1 – over half way there – inside 5 overs.

There was even room for a little wobble, with Capsey caught twice in the space of 4 balls (the first off a no-ball really summing up New Zealand’s day), and Dunkley bowled by Amelia Kerr, but Amy Jones is looking more confident with the bat than she has for a while and she finished things off with some stylish strokeplay to get England home with no further alarms.

New Zealand will need to pick themselves up off the floor before their semi-final against Australia. Bates and Devine have seen it all before of course, but it is their leadership, rather than their skills with bat or ball, which will be tested in the next 48 hours. You’d expect Australia to better New Zealand nine times out of ten, but there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be that one time, and if they can make the final they would have more than exceeded expectations from this tournament.

As for England, there is clearly a feeling of confidence in this team, but India have been looking dangerous with the ball and England’s batters will need to tread a delicate line of attack. Nat Sciver’s role as the anchor could be crucial without Heather Knight, who so often provides England with their backbone when things don’t go 100% to plan. The captain hasn’t really been missed yet, mainly thanks to the remarkable start to Alice Capsey’s England career, but we’re really at the business end of this intense tournament now, and India will look at England’s gung-ho approach and see a house of cards which they can bring crashing down. It should be quite a battle.

COMMONWEALTH GAMES: England v South Africa – Al For One & One For Al

England took themselves to the brink of semi-final qualification with a solid performance against South Africa, as the Proteas failed to chase down 167 for the second time in 3 days, having been set the exact same target by New Zealand here on Saturday.

Although the South Africans got closer on Saturday, falling 13 short as opposed to 26 today, this was in some ways a better looking performance – they took more wickets than England did, and they stayed in touch with the rate until the 17th over, which was when things turned definitively against them.

With 3 overs to go, South Africa needed 51 from 24 balls – a required rate of 12.8, but with Chloe Tryon still at the crease along with Laura Wolvaardt it felt like a “definitely maybe” moment. But that 17th over bowled by Katherine Brunt turned “definitely maybe” into “definitely not”. An ugly single to Woolvie was followed by two dots to Tryon, who then tried to lump a slower ball over cow corner, only to find the hands of Freya Kemp at long off.

(Kemp has looked pretty handy all-round in the field, making a brilliant save at long on earlier in the day – if she ever gets bored of cricket, she’d make one hell of a goalkeeper! [Don’t give her ideas! Ed.])

Two more singles off the final deliveries of the 17th, and 51 from 24 had become 48 from 18 – a required rate of 16.0, and that was game over bar the shouting, with Brunt completing a spell of 1-16 from 3 overs. It won’t look like a “great” spell in the scorebook, but that 17th over was absolutely crucial for England’s hopes of progressing in this tournament.

The headlines though will obviously once again go to Alice Capsey, who has now batted 3 times for England, and impressed on every occasion. If her first innings was brutal aggression; and her second savvy game management; her third lay somewhere in between, as she became the youngest English woman ever to score a T20 half-century, 9 days before she’s legally allowed to buy herself a drink to celebrate.

The most impressive part again was actually the running – she was nailing the boundaries, hitting seven 4s and one 6; but she also wanted to take every single on offer, and then with the single taken was constantly looking for the second too. It showed her work ethic, and her willingness to play for the team, which is what gives you so much hope that this is just the beginning for her.

Proudly wearing the black eye she sustained before the Sri Lanka game at the weekend (“it looks worse than it is”), Capsey’s performance in front of the media after the game was equally as impressive and assured as she’d been on the pitch. Looking forward to a potential semi-final and medal match, she told the press: “They’re the games that you want to be part of, playing against the best countries. We’re starting to build momentum, we’re getting better each game.” Heather Knight couldn’t have put it any better herself!

England will now be waiting on the result of tonight’s other game to be 100% assured of qualification for the semi-finals. A New Zealand win (or a no-result) will put them into the next phase of the competition, with the White Ferns officially joining them if they get the win.