When in Mount Maunganui you have to climb Mount Maunganui don't you? Well I thought I ought to give it a go, especially seeing as some of the girls had managed it too. It was well worth it. The views are spectacular and photos hardly do them justice, but below are a couple just to show you what you can see from the Mount.
The walk up gave me a bit of time to mull over the first two ODIs. England were below par in all three departments in the first game - bat, ball and field. The run outs of Heather Knight and Charlotte Edwards - two of three players who were in form with the bat courtesy of Aussie domestic cricket - were criminal. But the pressure came from the fact that the Kiwis had batted first and had got runs on the board. True they did not have as many as they should have done. Having been 157/0, 240/8 was a poor return, but having won the toss England should have batted.
This ground is renowned as a batsmen's paradise and England were misled by the green tinge on the grass that was on the wicket. Having played on the next door track in the one and only warm-up game (should they have played more?) and racked up 342/9 you would have thought they would have had the courage of their own convictions and batted first. TMS's Charles Dagnell thought they had done the right thing, but just bowled badly. I don't think that was the case. The seamers did not bowl that well, but there was next to nothing in the track. No life and no movement.
So we found ourselves at 51/3. When the top order fail the middle order need to step up, and, once again, they failed to do so. England really miss Arran Brindle in this regard. She had an ability to hold things together, particularly if Charlotte Edwards had gone early. Had it not been for the hard-hitting of Anya Shrubsole and Dani Hazell England would have finished with only 140 on the board.
In the second ODI England looked sharper with the ball and considerably better in the field (the run out of Bates by Edwards was a huge blow to New Zealand), but the batting was again poor with the exception of Edwards and Taylor.
It is the batting that England need to try and strengthen somehow. The four players on tour who did not play in the first two games are Amy Jones (keeper/bat); Laura Marsh (spinner/bat); Danielle Wyatt (bat/erstwhile spinner) and Kate Cross (seam bowler). England could look to replace either Lauren Winfield or Lydia Greenway with Jones, Marsh or Wyatt. Personally I would like to see Jones given a chance in place of Greenway, but I don't think England will do this. I think the compromise might be to play Marsh instead of Jenny Gunn.
There are two pluses here. She is another spinner and spin might be just what you need on a low, slow third-time track. She will also strengthen the batting. Gunn has slipped to 8, behind Katherine Brunt. Marsh is an accomplished bat, although her stats for England are not that great. England have never really known where to bat her, but I would suggest at 7 she would be an asset.
I would also play with the batting order slightly. I would like to see Sciver at 3, Taylor at 4 and Winfield at 5, and perhaps even a bit of flexibility in the order if the batting situation changes. If they make a good start then Taylor may be a better option at 3. If they make a poor start then perhaps she should drop down to 5. She likes to play with freedom, rather than being "responsible".
Having said all that England may well go with the "don't change a winning team" mantra. That would be the easy option, but at some stage England's middle order needs a bit of a shake-up. Unfortunately there is no real pressure on the batsmen from the seven players who trained in the winter, but failed to make this trip - Tammy Beaumont has had plenty of chances to nail down a place in the side; Tash Farrant is no bat; and Georgia Elwiss only ever bats at 11 for England in ODIs (10 ODIs and 10 times at 11). She is actually better than that. The four non-contracted players are Beth Langston, Fran Wilson, Jodie Dibble and Sonia Odedra - none of whom it seems are pressing for a batting spot.
It will be interesting to see what happens for the third ODI, and then for the two additional ODIs at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval, in Lincoln. I don't want to remind readers but we have the Aussies coming to see us this summer.