Sophia Dunkley recovered from a rocky start to lead England to an overwhelming victory in the first T20 on a cold, damp night at The Riverside – the most northerly cricket stadium in England.
Dunkley played just one scoring shot off her first 11 balls, which included a reprieve when she was caught behind off a no ball in the first over. She was dropped in the powerplay by Shafali, who slipped on the skiddy surface on the ring, and then dropped again shortly afterwards – a much tougher chance to Harmanpreet on the boundary.
That final drop, on the first ball of the 9th over, however proved to be something of a turning point – it ended up going for 6, and in the 11 balls that followed England plundered a further 26 runs, including two more 6s struck by Alice Capsey to turn the required rate from 5 to exactly 3 in the space of two overs. With 9 wickets still in hand, it was then only a matter of when not if, and helped by some terrible fielding from India – who must have felt like they had accidentally landed in a different country to the hot, dry one they’d left at the end of the Commonwealth Games in early August – Capsey and Dunkley carried home the win with 7 overs to spare.
Capsey was really superb again, finishing with 32 off 20 balls – a Strike Rate of 160. It wasn’t quite 100% flawless – there was a moment early on when she hammered one straight back down the ground at a very grabbable hight, and probably should have been caught and bowled by Pooja Vastrakar. It was more than slightly reminiscent of the way she was dismissed by Nonkululeko Mlaba against South Africa in the Commonwealths, and on that occasion she expressed a degree of disbelief in the press conference afterwards on the grounds that she had “absolutely middled it”, but at this level you do expect the bowlers to take those chances.
Overall though Capsey’s ability to hit big boundaries – and these were properly big boundaries compared to the ones we’ve seen over the past month in The Hundred, with the rope all the way back at The Riverside – combined with her enthusiasm for running 1s and 2s, continues to underline her status as the most exciting young cricketer in the world, to which we can only say… we told you so!
England’s win was particularly impressive because India had actually put on a fairly decent total – 132 is slightly short of the typical first innings score in a T20 between the top 5 sides these days (146 is the average), but given the pretty horrendous conditions it looked competitive; and with England missing both their “backbones” in Heather Knight and Nat Sciver, India must have felt they were in with a decent shot at the innings break.
England handed a T20 debut to Lauren Bell and a recall to Freya Davies – outraging the Sky commentary team, who obviously wanted to see Issy Wong in place of Davies – but I think it was the right call. The mainstream cricket media has placed Wong on a pedestal but it is one she is struggling to balance on, and after her poor return in The Hundred (just 2 wickets in the competition and rarely trusted to bowl her full allocation) she needs to actually start delivering on the pitch if she wants to become a regular pick for England going forwards.
That’s what Sarah Glenn has continued to do, in her quiet unassuming way, and she reaped the rewards in Durham with her best T20 international figures of 4-23. Aged 23, Glenn already has more than 50 wickets for England, in under 50 matches, at 1.3 wickets per match. 44 of those wickets have come in the T20 format, putting her well on the way to one day passing the magic mark of 100 T20 wickets, which so far only Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt have done for England.
Leg-spinners are cricket’s artists: Amelia Kerr is Bridget Riley bending your eyes in both directions at once; Alana King is Frida Kahlo blowing doors open by sheer force of moxie. Sarah Glenn is none of that, perhaps because she isn’t much of a spinner at all – there’s a grain of truth in the joke that her stock delivery is the one that doesn’t turn, while her googly is the one that doesn’t turn the other way. But she’s obviously got something going for her, and that something is that she understands her own game and through her consistency she forces the batters to play her game along with her. And it’s difficult to argue with the results.
From an Indian perspective, the key is going to be ensuring that this result isn’t the start of a mental disintegration which turns this tour into South Africa 2022 Mark 2. It shouldn’t be – while there was no standout performance, and they missed the rock steadiness of Jemimah Rodrigues in the middle overs, the total was still a decent team effort. But with this England batting line-up, a bit like the current men’s Test side, when it goes right, it goes very, very right, and India were just on the wrong end of that tonight.
I thought it was a very good England performance and a poor India one. I think India were half-expecting the game to be called off (either for the damp outfield or the lack of other sporting events going on) and just weren’t as up for it as England were. Unlike football though, at the start of a new season which can afford to postpone matches, the cricket season is now running out of time to complete the scheduled matches in playable weather and so can’t afford postponements. And the conditions, although very tricky, cold, damp and almost treacherous at times in the field, were playable as England showed.
I thought England fielded very carefully and generally did well with restricting runs and extras, which was shown to be the case by India’s later efforts. The conditions were difficult – skiddy and damp. Notice that India looked much less well prepared for the conditions and didn’t appear to have the towels the England players did to dry the ball between deliveries.
This is a series India should have been expecting to win, yet they’re now playing catchup after a very dodgy start. With no Knight or Sciver and England’s batting order looking in fragile form, coupled with the success over England in the CG, the stage was set for them to rattle though England’s order and succeed here. So Kaur’s words after the game that they gave 100% rang a bit empty for me, they seemed to give up after about 8 or 10 overs of the chase.
All England’s top three did well, Dunkley getting some luck early on with 2 dismissals-that-weren’t. I think Dunkley’s only problem is she maybe has yet to adjust fully to the opening role – even in the powerplay sometimes the best way is just to get a couple of singles first, feel bat on ball, but too often we see Dunkley try and hit the cover off the ball before laying a bat on it first. Wyatt often starts more sedately and it’s a method that can work well.
Capsey is a force of nature that can’t be denied – she should come out to bat in a cape because she certainly seems to have superpowers. A phenomenal talent who has hit the international ground running.
Glenn was excellent all round, coped with the conditions impressively. I also thought Davies bowled well, she was unlucky too, having Dunkley drop not too difficult a chance off her bowling early on. Bell’s first over was good but her second I felt too full, she went for most of the runs there but dragged it back well with her third. India made a respectable total through committee, though didn’t really build enough big partnerships, so finished a bit short. But, and it’s a big but – the game was really lost in the field afterwards where they just weren’t good enough.