ENGLAND v INDIA: 3rd ODI – Mankad!

It was a record-breaking day for women’s sport in North London – over at the Emirates stadium in Highbury 47,000 watched Arsenal smash their local rivals Tottenham 4-0 in the Women’s Super League; whilst here in St John’s Wood 15,000 were at Lord’s to see England nearly pull off a miracle in the 3rd and final ODI versus India.

It was a hard-fought game of cricket, with some fantastic bowling from players on both sides, but it will really only be remembered for one thing: the mankad which ended the match.

My view is that it was within the rules, and should have been given out. Although the law as it currently stands is intended to prevent “fake bowling” the wording is simply that the batter must be out of her crease at the moment the ball would have been bowled, and Charlie Dean was (just) out of her crease when Deepti Sharma mankaded her.

But I think it was a terrible moment for Charlie Dean… a terrible moment of cricket… and actually a terrible moment for Deepti.

Let’s begin with the last of those. Deepti has probably severely damaged what’s left of her career. In the short term, who of the England players will want to play franchise cricket with her ever again now? In the longer term, that moment will follow her everywhere – it will be the only thing anyone ever talks about. And I can’t believe for one moment that’s what she’d want her legacy to be – an underhand piece of gamesmanship in a match which in the greater scheme of things really didn’t matter, as India had already won the series, and almost certainly will finish the ICC Championship qualifying easily, with or without those 2 points.

It won India the game, but in Jhulan Goswami’s last ever match, where she’d been given an unprecedented guard of honour onto the field by the England players, it finished with her being booed off the ground at the end. That’s what she’ll remember from her last ever international. What a pity.

Of course, many are defending the mankad, because it was “within the laws” but actually that doesn’t make it the right way to win a cricket match. After all… bodyline was “within the laws”.

I always liked football blogger Arseblog’s take on this kind of thing: If it was done to your team, how would you feel? I think it is pretty safe to say that most India fans would have been up in arms if England had done it to Smriti earlier in the day, for example.

The issue I have with the mankad is that it isn’t skill, or even luck – it is pure trickery and gamespanship. Deepti has form on pushing the laws like this – she frequently pulls out of her bowling action at the very last moment. The bowler is permitted to do this when they are distracted, or the batter moves; but Deepti does it to try to gain an unfair psychological advantage by unsettling the batter. The mankad at Lord’s was from the same playbook – it was (just-about) not “fake bowling” – I’m not accusing her of that – but it was as close to that line as it is possible to get.

I’ve also seen a few ex-players defend Deepti, effectively saying it was moral because it was within the laws which is particularly interesting, because they don’t actually believe this. If they did, they’d have executed tens of mankads in their careers, but they didn’t… because they knew at the time it was an underhand tactic and not the right way to play.

I do accept that there needs to be some sanction for the non-striker stealing ground, but the loss of the wicket is too harsh and too controversial a penalty, because there is no skill involved. Perhaps the answer is to write the warning, which is traditionally said to be given, into the laws – so the first time the batter is not out, but the umpire notes a “tick” (as they do for bouncers) and then a second dismissal is actually out?

The real pity is that it overshadowed some brilliant bowling performances from both sides. Kate Cross has returned better figures including two ODI 5fers, but she has rarely (if ever) bowled better – making use of the slope at Lord’s to move the ball with wonderful control, making mincemeat of some of the world’s best batters in the process, taking two wickets bowled and one LBW with that movement. (Though the wicket that got Smriti was a bit of a bonus – probably the worst ball Cross  bowled in the entire series – and Smriti’s reaction was priceless: you could see her thinking “Can I review that on the grounds that such a terrible ball didn’t deserve a wicket?!?!”)

Renuka Singh also bowled a high-class spell, and looks to have come-good at just the perfect time for India, with the retirement of Jhulan. She might not be the quickest, but speed isn’t everything – just look over to James Anderson in the men’s game, who Renuka reminds me of a little.

But the best ball of the day was from the spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad to Danni Wyatt – it turned exquisitely, just enough to beat the bat, but not too much to beat the off stump – the second time in the series Wyatt has been dismissed by an absolutely unplayable delivery.

But no one will remember any of this.

They’ll just remember the mankad.

ENGLAND v INDIA: 2nd ODI – England Canter-Buried

One year ago, almost to the day, a rampant England smashed New Zealand for a glorious 347 at Canterbury, before bowling the White Ferns out for 144 to win by over 200 runs – a result that New Zealand captain Sophie Devine memorably described afterwards as “one of those games that you just flush down the dunny”.

Today it was England’s turn to be on the receiving end of a hammering, as India took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series – the first time since 2007 that England have lost a home ODI series to anyone except Australia.

England did the right thing by opting to bowl having won the toss – as our analysis published earlier today shows, women’s ODIs between the top sides are more likely to be won by the team batting second, and attempting to defy gravity by choosing to bat first doesn’t usually end well. The fact that India won today doesn’t change that in any way.

Sometimes however you come up against a performance that takes on a life of its own. Australia found that out in the 2017 World Cup semi-final, and England found it out today, as Harmanpreet exploded like a volcano in the death overs – hitting her last 43 runs off just 11 balls, at a strike rate touching 400, to finish with 143 off 111 balls.

If this had been a frame of snooker, England would have conceded at that point – no one has ever successfully chased even 300 in a women’s ODI (though South Africa did once unsuccessfully pass 300 in a chase) and England weren’t going to do it today.

In fairness, they didn’t totally collapse – they cantered along at a pretty reasonable rate, and were actually “ahead” at 25 overs, albeit having lost one more wicket.

But it was “ahead” in 72-point finger-quotes – we didn’t believe it and they didn’t believe it – from the moment Harmanpreet left the field at the end of India’s innings, we were just waiting for reality to catch up with what everybody already knew – India had conquered Canterbury and England’s cathedral had fallen.

England’s white ball record this year reads: Played: 30; Won 16 (53%); which is actually… not great of itself, especially when you realise that fully half of those wins were against South Africa – Payed: 9; Won: 8 – against everyone else, their record is: Played: 21; Won: 8; Lost: 12. Not great at all.

To be fair, if there is a time to be losing games, this is probably it. 2½ years out from the next 50-over World Cup, England are starting to build a new side around the next generation of players, with Alice Capsey at the heart of it – the way she went out today and played with such positive intent, despite clearing being in some pain from the injury to her finger sustained whilst fielding in the deep, was remarkable. But as The Ed. put it: “Capsey Gonna Capsey”. (And equally… just at the point where you thought she was going to push on and play a really big innings, she was caught going for a big heave, because… well… Capsey Gonna Capsey!)

England’s other two youngsters, Freya Kemp and Lauren Bell, both took a battering today, but to a certain extent “that’s life” as a bowler in the modern game. For every performance like Harmanpreet’s today, or Smriti’s last week, there’s a bowler or two with a badly bruised ego; and they’ll both be back, hopefully at Lord’s on Saturday – the way for the management to respond to today is definitely to show faith in them, not to drop them.

Fingers crossed then that the weather plays along, and our big day out at Lord’s this weekend is everything we’ve been hoping for, for England’s first “normal” match in the capital since 2013. (They were scheduled to play India there in 2014, but the match was rained off without a ball being bowled.) It will be a good test of England’s ability to draw the kind of crowds we’ve seen for The Hundred, and which have encouraged the ECB to schedule not one but two Women’s Ashes matches in London next summer – though the official ticket site currently suggests that it is far from a sell-out with “plenty of tickets” still available, so… we shall see!

NEWS: Women’s Ashes To Feature Five-Day Test

The ECB have today announced the fixtures for the 2023 Women’s Ashes series – and the big news is that the Test at Trent Bridge will be held over five days.

The Test will be only the second in history ever to be played over five days, following on from repeated disappointment after a series of recent rain-affected draws – the most recent against South Africa in June.

The multi-format series will look similar to recent Women’s Ashes with one Test, three ODIs and three T20s – however, in a departure from previous series, the Test match will be played at the start, with the T20 leg in the middle, and the ODIs wrapping up the schedule. Two of the T20s will be played as evening games in London, at The Oval and Lord’s – the first time the Women’s Ashes has been played at these grounds.

It had previously been suggested that the question of a fifth day for women’s Tests was in the hands of the ICC, but the decision to host a five-day Test appears to have been taken by the ECB independently – there is no mention in today’s press release of any change to the ICC’s overall women’s Test match playing conditions.

It is also the first time ever that the Women’s Ashes fixtures have been announced at the same time as the Men’s Ashes fixtures, with the ECB running a new joint advertising campaign with the tagline: “One Epic Rivalry, Two Epic Ashes.” This marks an interesting point of difference from Cricket Australia’s strategy which aims to give the Women’s Ashes its own window, and to market it separately from the equivalent men’s series.

The full fixture list is below:

June 22 to 26 – Test match, Trent Bridge

July 1 – T20, Edgbaston, 6.35pm

July 5 – T20, Kia Oval, 6pm

July 8 – T20, Lord’s, 6.35pm

July 12 – ODI, Bristol, 1pm

July 16 – ODI, Ageas Bowl, 11am

July 18 – ODI, Taunton, 1pm

ENGLAND v INDIA: 1st ODI – England Don’t Like To Be Beside The Seaside

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.

NEWS: Amy Jones To Continue As Captain For ODIs Despite Beaumont Recall

Amy Jones will continue as England captain for the three ODIs against India, despite Tammy Beaumont’s recall to the squad.

Jones had previously stated that she was unsure about taking on the role in the longer format, saying on Monday: “I’m not sure I’ll be throwing my hat in the ring. I think fifty overs is a whole other ball game.” It had been widely mooted that Beaumont, who is a former England Academy skipper and led the Welsh Fire in this year’s Women’s Hundred competition, might feel more comfortable taking up the reins in the ODIs.

However, the ECB appear to have opted for continuity, with Jones presumably set to continue filling in until Heather Knight returns from injury.

As well as Beaumont, Charlie Dean and Emma Lamb also find their way back into the squad, after missing out during the Commonwealth Games; while (of those who featured in the T20s v India) Bryony Smith and Sarah Glenn have been omitted.

That means that Alice Capsey and Freya Kemp have both earned maiden call-ups to the ODI squad – Capsey effectively making herself undroppable after a winning innings in the T20 series decider at Bristol on Thursday.

Interestingly, Maia Bouchier – despite being included in the ODI squad – has been released to play for Southern Vipers in Saturday’s RHF Trophy match against Diamonds, which will decide which of the two teams progresses automatically to the final.

The full England ODI squad is below:

  • Amy Jones (captain)
  • Tammy Beaumont
  • Lauren Bell
  • Maia Bouchier
  • Alice Capsey
  • Kate Cross
  • Freya Davies
  • Alice Davidson-Richards
  • Charlie Dean
  • Sophia Dunkley
  • Sophie Ecclestone
  • Freya Kemp
  • Emma Lamb
  • Issy Wong
  • Danni Wyatt

ENGLAND v INDIA: 3rd T20 – Capsey Digs England Out Of The Hole

At 70-0, chasing a low-ish 122, England were going along nicely at 70-0, two balls shy of the 10 over mark. Danni Wyatt, who had been happily playing second-fiddle to Sophia Dunkley, didn’t quite get everything on a pull down the ground and was caught in the deep. With the batters having crossed, Dunkley retained the strike with a single off the final ball of the 10th over to face Radha Yadav at the other end, with just a single required to add another international half-century to her trophy cabinet.

It should have been the moment to put the cherry on top of the cake, but instead Dunkley lost it completely – playing and missing at 6 dots from Radha, like a woman who’d totally forgotten how to bat. Alice Capsey jogged a single off her first ball to give Dunkley yet another chance to pass 50, but instead of just nurdling a straight delivery from Pooja Vastrakar into the off side, she tried to heave it over midwicket, missed it completely, and was about as comprehensively bowled as it is possible to be.

Dunkley was later named Player of the Series, having topped the run charts, but it was a series of performances that showcased her vulnerabilities as well as her talents – one minute she’ll be scoring all round the ground, the next she’ll look like someone who has accidentally wandered onto the field having taken a wrong turn on her way to the pub.

Amy Jones soon followed, playing down the District Line to a ball that took the Hammersmith & City, and England were suddenly in a bit of a hole – literally, a hole on the “Trend”.

Thank goodness then for Alice Capsey, who dug England out the hole and showed… yet again… why she is the most exciting young player we’ve seen since Sarah Taylor first emerged onto the scene 15 years ago at a similar age. Capsey ended with 38 not out off 24 balls – finishing the job for England for the second time in the series, after her 32 not out in the 1st T20 in Durham.

The assumption when Capsey was picked to debut in the T20 series against South Africa just two short months ago would surely have been that she would play the T20s, but give way for the ODI series; but how can England drop her now? Especially without Nat Sciver and Heather Knight (who sat quietly and surprisingly anonymously in the crowd this evening).

It would have been a much more straightforward chase for England if it hadn’t been for Pooja Vastrakar (19 off 11) and Richa Ghosh (32 off 22) battling away at the end. India had looked to be heading for a total south of 100 but Pooja and Richa put up some fight in the last 3 overs to get India past the 120 which is the bare minimum these days in this format.

First Ghosh turned Issy Wong’s pace against her in the 18th, hitting the speedster for 3 consecutive boundaries, before Sophie Ecclestone stepped in and presumably suggested that she try taking pace off, which Wong did for the last two deliveries of the over, conceding only two more singles in the process.

Then in the final over, it was Vastrakar’s turn to do some damage – hacking 15 off Freya Davies, who didn’t do a lot wrong, but still had to watch the ball disappear twice to the boundary.

With 122 on the board, India had a chance, and although it got quite cool by the end of the evening, it didn’t dew-up in the way it had done in Derby, so the gods weren’t totally on England’s side. But then… as we’ll probably find ourselves saying a few times in the next ten or fifteen years… who needs gods when you’ve got Alice Capsey.

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.

RHF TROPHY: Vipers v Thunder – Thunder Fail To Get Over The Hill

Southern Vipers beat Thunder at the Ageas Bowl by 4 wickets with 3 overs to spare, having dug themselves out of yet another hole with the bat.

Chasing 204 to win, Vipers had been 100 for 5 in the 26th over after set batter Paige Scholfield (31) was trapped LBW to Shachi Pai. Vipers super-fan Syd had his head in his hands and it looked to be as good as over.

But Vipers being Vipers, they found a middle-order pairing to rescue them from disaster…

This time it was Emily Windsor, who had done exactly the same thing a week ago against Southern Vipers Brave in the final of The Hundred; and Chloe Hill, who had ALSO done the same thing six weeks ago, in the last round of RHF Trophy games against Sunrisers.

Windsor and Hill have had very different Augusts. Windsor played 4 matches for Invincibles in The Hundred but was called upon to bat just once – her thrilling 13 not out in the final the difference between a win and a loss for Invincibles. Her Vipers teammate Charlotte Taylor, sitting in the crowd at Lord’s, reportedly did not know who she should be cheering for when Windsor came to the crease.

Hill, meanwhile, was not picked up by a Hundred franchise. She spent August captaining Worcestershire Rapids in the 50-over West Midlands Regional Cup – ideal preparation for the RHF Trophy. Some may consider county cricket unimportant but for players like Hill, who draw on their experience at county to produce match-winning performances at regional level, county cricket remains a crucial link in the pathway chain.

Thunder were without their premier bowler Alex Hartley – who is commentating in the men’s Test at The Oval this weekend – but it wasn’t their “second string” bowlers that Vipers chose to target. Hill took on the bowling of Deandra Dottin, who offered up short ball after short ball for her delectation.

“I don’t mind a short ball!” Hill laughed after the match. “She bowled in my area and if a bowler’s going to bowl in my area, I’m going to play shots regardless of who they are.”

“The first four that went off her, I was like ‘ohhh, that felt good!’”

Thunder will have paid good money to have Dottin rejoin them for the final three rounds of the RHF but on today’s performance, it could have been better spent. Having scored just 5 runs with the bat, she went on to concede 36 runs from her 6 overs – the most expensive bowler in the Thunder attack.

For Thunder, then, a day that started well – with Emma Lamb (63) and Ellie Threlkeld (79) both putting in good days at the office – ultimately ended in disappointment. After today’s loss, they are now out of contention to make the final three and gain a place in the play-off.

Vipers, meanwhile, are now officially qualified alongside Northern Diamonds, who enjoyed a bonus-point win against Western Storm; with South East Stars still in pole position to join them.

ENGLAND v INDIA: 1st T20 – Dunkley Takes The Rocky Road Home

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.

 

NEWS: Bell Called Up As Brunt Sits Out India Series

Lauren Bell has been called up to the England squad for the T20 series versus India, replacing Katherine Brunt, who will sit out of both the T20 and ODI series to (in the words of head coach Lisa Keightley) “maximise her mental and physical recovery off the back of what has been an intense year so far”.

Bell made her Test and ODI debuts against South Africa earlier in the summer, but was overlooked for the Commonwealth Games. However, she has now won selection off the back of an excellent Hundred, having placed third in the our bowling rankings and finished with 11 wickets, including 4-10 for Brave v Rockets – the best return in the competition.

With Heather Knight not expected to return to action until later in the year following her hip op, Nat Sciver will again captain the side, which is otherwise unchanged from the Commonwealth Games squad, with the 3 “Young Guns” – Alice Capsey, Freya Kemp and Issy Wong – all retaining their spots; and no return for either Lauren Winfield-Hill, who was one of the leading batters in The Hundred, or Tammy Beaumont.

There’s also no call-up for Em Arlott, despite outshining fellow Phoenix Issy Wong in The Hundred; and no backup wicket keeper in the squad.

Although obviously a reserve keeper could be drafted-in for the India series, this won’t be the case at the up-coming T20 World Cup, so England would appear to be taking a bit of a gamble on Amy Jones not getting injured, given that the plan presumably is that the World Cup squad will be this squad, plus Knight and Brunt, with one of the other fast bowlers missing out.

Full Squad

Nat Sciver (Northern Diamonds, Captain)
Lauren Bell (Southern Vipers)
Maia Bouchier (Southern Vipers)
Alice Capsey (South East Stars)
Kate Cross (Thunder)
Freya Davies (South East Stars)
Sophia Dunkley (South East Stars)
Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder)
Sarah Glenn (Central Sparks)
Amy Jones (Central Sparks)
Freya Kemp (Southern Vipers)
Bryony Smith (South East Stars)
Issy Wong (Central Sparks)
Danni Wyatt (Southern Vipers)