ENGLAND v INDIA: 2nd T20 – Smriti of Angels

“You can’t bowl there to Smriti Mandhana!”

“Or there.”

“Or there.”

Let’s face it – you can’t bowl anywhere to Smriti Mandhana – not when she’s in the form she was in tonight, hitting 79 off 53 balls – carving England to shreds in the 2nd T20 at Derby.

India overall looked a different team tonight. After their complaints about the conditions up in Durham on Saturday, the weather was much more clement – 4-5℃ warmer in Derby than it had been in Durham – and starting an hour and a half earlier at 6pm makes a big difference too at this time of year – walking out in sunlight rather than darkness.

England chose to bat first – as they’ve done so successfully in T20s at this ground recently, averaging 162 (discounting the West Indies game reduced to 5 overs per side in 2020) and winning six from six.

But they were soon in trouble here – Dunkley again looked at sixes-and-sevens early on against Renuka – leaving one she should have played, and playing one she should have left. She then tried to make up for it by charging Deepti’s first delivery – totally missing it, and handing Richa Ghosh a straightforward stumping.

The following over, Renuka bowled a Jaffa to Wyatt who edged to slip; Capsey ran herself out getting overenthusiastic about a third, having already run two; and suddenly England were 3 down in the powerplay for not-very-many. (16, to be precise!)

Amy Jones and Bryony Smith were left trying to rebuild, and basically wrote-off the rest of the powerplay, getting to the six-over mark both on 7 at strike rates of under 100. They then did start to play a few shots, Smith hitting a couple of boundaries to get her strike rate (just) over 100 but both were dismissed by the half-way mark, with England 60-5 and Freya Kemp at the crease for only the second time in her brief England career – the first having ended 1 not out in the death throes of England’s ill-fated bronze medal match at the Commonwealth Games.

Those of us who have seen Kemp play in domestic cricket know she can hit a cricket ball a long way, so she has the ability, but the test here was one of temperament… and it was a test she passed with straight As. There was no point in her trying to do anything other than play her natural game – even if she’d been able to nurdle her way to 20 off 30 balls, that wouldn’t have helped anyway. England needed to put runs on the board, and Kemp did exactly that – finishing 51* off 37.

Interestingly, the role being played by Kemp was the one originally written for Sarah Glenn – who England almost opened with once in a T20 against the West Indies here at Derby, until plans changed when the weather reduced the game to a 5 over thrash. Glenn was earmarked by then-coach Mark Robinson as a “pinch hitter” who could come in and smack quick, hard runs, while also offering a few overs with the ball, but somehow she never got her opportunity with the bat, and now she plays as a pure bowler, coming in at 9 with no one expecting very much when she does.

But Kemp got the opportunity today that Glenn never really had; and with Maia Bouchier chipping in another 34 off 26 to add to Kemp’s heroics, England got to 142 – a bit below par, but it was something to bowl at.

Or… it would have been something to bowl at, if not for Smriti Mandhana.

We’ve seen some remarkable performances from some remarkable players over the years – Alyssa Healy’s swashbuckling masterpiece in the T20 World Cup Final at the MCG; Meg Lanning’s “Terminator” in the Women’s Ashes at Chelmsford; Harmanpreet’s “Harman Monster” at this ground in the 2017 World Cup semi-final. But none of those players – great as they are – make cricket look quite as easy as Smriti does when she’s in full flow, and the groove she found tonight was classic Smriti.

There was one shot – an effortlessly graceful cut for 4 off Kemp – that summed it all up: it wasn’t just that she didn’t bother running, it was that she didn’t even really bother looking – she knew it was gone from the moment it struck the bat. When she’s on that kind of a roll, there’s no delivery you can bowl to her; no field you can set – she’s the master chef, and you’re the fish… and you’re getting fried!

All of which sets things up nicely for a series decider at Bristol later this week. After South Africa’s capitulation to England earlier in the summer, it’s enjoyable to have a genuinely competitive bilateral series on our hands.

I’d expect England to be unchanged – this is the shape of the team they are planning to take to South Africa for the T20 World Cup, and they’ll want them to have every possible minute in the middle over the next few months.

The one player who looks like she needs a rest is Sophie Ecclestone; but I’m guessing neither she nor England would agree, or she wouldn’t have got an NOC to sign up for WBBL, which was announced earlier today. Nevertheless, she looks exhausted, having played literally everything this year – Ashes, World Cup, Regionals, Fairbreak, T20 Challenge, South Africa, Comm Games, Hundred, and now India, with WBBL and the West Indies tour to come. Something is going to have to give at some point, as it has with Nat Sciver – it’s just a question of whether you manage it, or try to ignore it until it all comes crashing down – either way, it’s a choice, which I hope England don’t make by default… but let’s face it, they probably will.

6 thoughts on “ENGLAND v INDIA: 2nd T20 – Smriti of Angels

  1. Never before have I felt less confident about England’s second match of a series when it came on the back of a thumping win in the first! Just knew it was a matter of time before the loss of an early wicket exposed the brittle batting line up. It was always dubious to argue before the Commonwealths that Beaumont was not one of the best T20 batters available to England. To argue that she still doesn’t warrant a place when Knight and Sciver are unavailable defies belief, and I can only assume that the management won’t recall her now because they think they would lose face by doing so. Just ask India – and all the Commonwealth teams – if they would rather be facing her or not.

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    • Keightley explained Bell’s selection as being based on her The Hundred form. If this were so (and I’m not suggesting her statement was actually true but still, she said it) then Beaumont wouldn’t have stood a chance of T20 selection based on her The Hundred form.

      In relation to your statement that Beaumont is one of the best T20 batters around – well that depends how you measure ‘best’. She has the worst T20 scoring rates amongst England’s top order batters – hence, presumably, why Dunkley was elevated to opener in an attempt to get a better Powerplay start. I’m not defending the decision – merely offering possible explanations.

      A silver lining for the Beaumont fan club is that she will almost certainly return for the ODI series and may even be captain (probably a toss up between her and Cross for that role)

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      • Thing is England seem to have 3 less players in their squad than India. Why not bring in LWH, Beaumont, Lamb or numerous other options, it couldn’t do any harm.

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  2. India’s win wasn’t just down to a great innings from Mandhana though – mention must be made of England’s poor bowling (and not just to Mandhana but Kaur too) and fielding at times. England bowled far too many boundary balls – and the length was all over the place with too many deliveries either in the slot or dragged too short. Rarely was a good length hit. What India and Mandhana did particularly well was limit Jones’ options by taking down Smith, Kemp and Capsey early on. They all went for plenty in their first over, meaning that Jones was reluctant to give them a second. The pick of England’s bowlers was probably Freya Davies, whose first 3 overs were very good. It is very rare to see Wyatt drop a catch in the outfield and that was a straightforward one by her standards. The loss of Kaur could still have made it tighter at the end at that stage, too.

    While there was little solace to be taken from the bowling performance, and making what ultimately looked like the wrong call at the toss (it got damp and slippery near the end and England didn’t deal with it as well as in Durham this time around) there were positives to take from the batting innings. The early loss of wickets was a setback, and the less said about Capsey’s run-out the better, but at least the run rate didn’t overly suffer – and the partnership between Bouchier (who played brilliantly was well) and Kemp was wonderful to watch. Kemp is an excellent striker of a cricket ball and very powerful down the ground. England might have ended up 15 or 20 short of what they could have got, but even that would have required better bowling in order to secure the win.

    Not much confidence that we can edge the series in the last game now. This game was almost a role-reversal of the first, although England thankfully didn’t capitulate as badly (especially in the field) as India had in Durham. If both teams play at least OK, India look better though – one main reason being (apart from no Knight/ Sciver) that England still have the same old tactical problems as they have done for a couple of years now against India, namely how to get Mandhana out, or at least stop her scoring quickly (the Aussies bowled her round her legs don’t you know) and how to stop Sneh Rana getting ridiculous figures against us. Those 2 must love playing against England, and until England change that, it’s going to keep being tough.

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    • History suggests the way to beat India is to get them 3 wickets down relatively quickly (I know this is not a trivial exercise) because they rarely show the sort of lower order batting performance we saw from England. Today’s match is probably 50-50 (which is kind of a good thing).

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  3. A few reasons why Ecclestone might not be quite as tired as Sciver… she hasn’t been in the same leadership roles, or batted for as long periods, and also spin bowling doesn’t take quite as much out of you as seam. But she still deserves a break I agree…

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