T20 WORLD CUP – England v Pakistan: Table Mountain

The sheer cliffs of Cape Town’s Table Mountain make Newlands one of the most stunning grounds in world cricket, as they loom majestically over the city.

In front of a crowd starting to build ahead of the “main event” later, when South Africa take on Bangladesh with a semi-final place at stake for the hosts, England too loomed majestically over Pakistan, monstering the challengers to win their group in emphatic style.

You have to feel for Pakistan – they’ve palpably come on from the side that came over to England in 2016 for Heather Knight’s first series as captain; but England (and, to be fair, Australia and India) have made their own strides in that time, and the gap now looks wider than ever.

We arrived at the ground before the toss, to see Freya Davies warming up with the bowling coaches – a sure sign that she was going to play – but assumed (incorrectly) that she’d be coming in for Katherine Sciver-Brunt, after the latter’s much criticised performance in the last game. However, it was Lauren Bell who missed out, with KSB retaining her spot to have the opportunity to redeem herself and secure her place in the XI for the semi-final and (if they get that far) the final.

It was a one-off opportunity to impress for Freya Davies, but those “opportunities” are so often a poisoned chalice and so it proved, with Davies taking 0-28 while KSB walked away with 2-14, despite a string of deliveries which Meg Lanning or Beth Mooney would have deposited into the stands, if not the brewery which neighbours the ground. (A braver man than me might point out the incongruity that KSB’s 0-39 v India is “just one of those things” while Davies’s 0-28 will almost certainly means she is dropped… but I am not that man.)

Of course it was all irrelevant anyway – Pakistan didn’t have a hope in Hell’s chance of getting anywhere near England’s 213 – their second highest ever total in T20 internationals.

Despite not making runs today, it is Alice Capsey that is the key to England’s approach with the bat, which has been building towards one of these monster scores all tournament. The new normal is that you go hard from the very first ball… and if you get out, so be it – the next batter goes just as hard… and the next too. It is the approach that Capsey pioneered in the first season of The Hundred, and it will be her legacy as she develops into a great player set to change the way women play the game.

It wasn’t Capsey’s day today though – England lost wickets in the powerplay, including hers, but the point is that they didn’t let it derail them, striking at 10-an-over in the early middle phase. Again, in the late middle phase, they lost two wickets, but Amy Jones came in and smashed 47 off 31 balls, denying Nat Sciver-Brunt what looked like a nailed-on maiden T20 century with one of the most impressive innings of her career, including her signature stroke – that effortless lifted pull over midwicket into the crowd, which we’ve seen so often from her in regional cricket, but which she has struggled to replicate for England.

NSB’s form continues to be spectacular, and surely one day she will get the hundred that she might in other circumstances have made today. It says so much about her though that she was prepared to share the strike with Jones in the death phase. Some players thrive on selfishness, and that’s ok too; but NSB is the ultimate “team player” who doesn’t seem remotely bothered by personal milestones, even as she passes so many. Player of the Tournament is surely hers now, whether or not England go on to win the thing.

And that’s the question: can they go on to win it? Normally, I’d be the first to say that we shouldn’t read too much into a performance against Pakistan, who slightly went to pieces in the field, and batted like a team that knew they were on death row. But the batting performance today was so impressive, that you have to believe they can. If they can get past South Africa, their likely semi-final opponents, doubtless abetted by a roaring, partisan crowd, on Friday.


One thought on “T20 WORLD CUP – England v Pakistan: Table Mountain

  1. England were another level and it was a dream performance again from the batters, and the bowlers. The complete performance – or as close as you’ll probably get! I’m almost running out of superlatives for NSB, but this was a very special innings. Her power and placement have been sublime all comp, but the way she moved the field around and exploited the gaps behind square on the leg side was outstanding. Then later even with fielders there, she still found the boundary. It was a “monster” performance as you say. And that’s not to mention Wyatt and Jones and how excellent they were.

    England have the best spin attack and also the best batters to score quick against spin… but it’s not a foregone conclusion that England will reach the final. SA will be a tough opponent that will cause England a few issues on Friday I think, buoyed by a fanatical home crowd. England must keep up this level of performance to give themselves the best chance.

    What you say about Capsey … not sure I’m quite there yet. She is brilliant, obviously, especially in T20 but there is still a possibility that she could become a scorer of many great cameos rather than many great innings of real substance. Not trying to diminish a wonderful young player at all, but there haven’t been any “monster” scores yet, and until there are, perhaps we should keep our expectations in check and see what happens?

    Davies was unlucky, and should have had better figures. I think the start didn’t help, with a borderline wide given and then back foot no-ball trying to come round the wicket. There wasn’t much wrong with her bowling at all. I think England could play any 2 of Davies, Bell or Cross and they would most probably do a good job. If KSB is going to play as perhaps seems likely now, I hope she has another game like this one rather than the India game. Worth mentioning though that her fielding has been absolutely brilliant all the way through.


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