England paid the price for a slow start with the bat to go down to a comprehensive defeat in the first ODI versus India at Hove.
Batting first after being put in by India, they scraped together just 26 runs off the powerplay, losing both openers in the process – Emma Lamb for 12 off 26 balls (strike rate 46) and Tammy Beaumont for 7 off 21 (strike rate 33). One of the worries coming into this match was that most of the England line-up were being thrown into an ODI having played nothing but short-form cricket for the past two months, but ironically both Lamb and Beaumont played in the RHF Trophy last weekend – Lamb in particular making a decent 63 off 82 against Vipers.
There’s nothing wrong in principle with making a watchful start, but this was well short of “watchful” as Beaumont and Lamb allowed India’s opening bowlers to dominate the powerplay – Meghna Singh returning 1-18 and Jhulan Goswami 1-8 from 5 overs each.
Alice Capsey played an “interesting” cameo, as if she wasn’t quite sure how to approach her innings – scoring 1 off her first 6 balls, smacking 10 off the next 6, then drifting her way to 15 off 26 balls, before hitting out again, and falling to a good catch by Harmanpreet at midwicket.
England reached the halfway point at 91 for 4 – leaving themselves far too much to do in the back-half of the innings, although they did pick up the pace, with Alice Davidson-Richards playing a solid knock, which allowed Sophie Ecclestone and Charlie Dean to play with a bit more freedom at the other end to get England past 200. Dean was the only England player to hit at a strike rate of over 100.
But 227 wasn’t likely to be enough unless England could take key wickets early-doors and they were going to have to do so without their two best bowlers from the T20 series – Freya Davies and Lauren Bell. There’s a certain logic to picking Kate Cross for her experience, a certain logic to picking Issy Wong as a wildcard, and a certain logic to picking Alice Davidson-Richards for her batting… but picking all 3 at the expense of your two “proper” opening bowlers, when the key Indian wickets are their top 4, is baffling selection.
And India took full advantage.
With no real threat coming from the opening bowlers (Shafali Verma got herself out) Smriti Mandhana and Yastika Bhatia drove India forwards to 59 off the powerplay. Yastika in particular played one of the best knocks of her career – shot for shot, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between her and Smriti, which is probably about the biggest compliment it is possible to pay to a left-handed batter. From that position, it really takes the pressure off the rest of the line-up – when the required rate is barely more than 4 per over, you know that you can play low-risk cricket – run the odd single, and take the boundaries when they come – and that’s what Smriti and (after Yastika was dismissed) Harmanpreet were able to do.
England needed to take wickets, but they seemed stuck on pre-agreed bowling plans, which meant Ecclestone was introduced too late – presumably saving up overs for the death… despite it being obvious that India were never going to reach the death: after that start, they were always going to either get the runs easily or get bowled out. Equally, they had also clearly pre-ordained that Capsey wasn’t going to bowl, so they persisted with Alice Davidson-Richards and Emma Lamb, when Capsey’s slower pace would have offered something genuinely different.
2007 was the year England last lost a bilateral home ODI series to anyone other than Australia – but unless they do something different on Wednesday, that’s going to change this week. That starts with selections – Bell and Davies have to play, giving England a proper opening attack. That doesn’t mean they will win the game – when it’s Smriti and Shafali at the other end, the odds are never in your favour – but it gives them a chance.
As for the batters, there aren’t a lot of selection options – Maia Bouchier is the only other batter in the squad – but there are opportunities to move things around – perhaps bringing ADR up the order with an explicit role as the anchor, and bringing Dean up above Jones into a proper batting position at 5. Canterbury has some mixed memories for England – Ellyse Perry’s 7-fer, but also Tammy Beaumont’s 100 setting up a 300+ total last year. India have shown today that England will need to be at their best to level the series – if they aren’t, they’ll lose it.