Now back in England it is time to reflect on England's tour of New Zealand before looking forward to the Ashes Series that starts in July.
England will point to the fact that they won the ODI series 3-2 and that they won the T20 series 2-1, but they lost the ICC Women's Championship ODI series 1-2 (the first three ODIs), thereby only picking up two points in their ICCWC campaign. They were disappointing in their first game. Quite simply most of them had had no game time. Of those that had (Edwards, Taylor and Knight) two were run out before they got going with the bat, which left the misfiring middle order horribly exposed. It failed as it was to do again in the third ODI. If there is a lesson to be learnt it must be that more, and better, warm-up games are needed.
By the time the T20s started England looked a more confident side, with Lydia Greenway back to her best in the field with two great catches. New Zealand's batting was dire. In the second T20 England failed to find the boundary outside the powerplay and only managed to post 122/5 thanks to a blistering 30 from Heather Knight at the end of the innings. It was still not enough though as Bates, Priest and Devine combined to level the series.
And so on to the Bert Sutcliffe Oval in Lincoln for the last T20 and two more ODIs - England won them all, comfortably. This is how it should have been all tour as England are a better side than New Zealand. Just as the ECB are looking at the structure of the game here in England, so too are the New Zealanders. They used to be one of the best teams in the world, but they have slipped badly over the last seven or eight years. They may fail to qualify automatically for the 2017 World Cup if they don't pull their metaphorical socks up. As a result I understand a root and branch review of New Zealand women's cricket is on the cards, with the support of Sir Richard Hadlee no less. Watch out for more news during their off-season.
Sarah Taylor batted beautifully in both the final ODIs. She is a dream to watch when she can contain her natural enthusiasm for scoring runs in the early part of her innings. It was also great to see Nat Sciver finally come good. I have always been impressed by the time she has to play the ball. I wonder if this may be her breakthrough innings. I hope so. I know England think very highly of her. She now needs to deliver on a more regular basis. The frustration was that these were the two ODIs which were outside the ICC WC competition. It was a case of what might have been.
Below are my thoughts on the individual performances of all the players on the tour, with a unique WCB player rating score out of 10. It is not scientific in any way, shape or form. Just my view of the player's overall performance.
Has bowled with all the heart and determination we have come to expect of her, but without any great reward. Perhaps erred too short on occasions. Batted well in the first three ODIs and was promoted to 7 above Gunn. Promoted to 6 above Marsh, Jones & Wyatt for the final T20. Fielding has been a bit hit and miss. (7)
Opening over in the T20 was a poor one and she was lucky to get the chance to come back on and bowl. Not really given much of chance until the 4th ODI, when she grabbed it with both hands (5/24). Her 7 ODI wickets in two games meant she was equal top ODI wicket-taker (with Rebecca Grundy who played four) Bowled with good pace but got little movement. (7)
Had a good ODI series (averaged 53.75), but a poor T20 one after the first game. She continues to be the model professional, with bucket-loads of application and concentration and a burning desire to win. Did well not to be hugely distracted by the hoo-ha surrounding her 200th match as captain. (8)
Lydia looked out of sorts at the beginning of the tour and batted without any conviction in the first two ODIs, which lead to her being dropped for the last one. She came back into the side for the T20s and two great catches in the first T20 seemed to invigorate her. She batted more positively and without constantly resorting to the sweep/slog sweep/reverse sweep. Remains an asset in the field. (6)
Bowled with decent accuracy in the first two ODIs, if without a great deal of penetration. She was injured before the third, and then missed the three T20s, before coming back for the fourth ODI where she claimed a career best 3/36. Still a work in progress and yet to see her really rip a ball, but seems to be trusted by England - she has bowled her full allocation of overs in her first 10 England appearances (7)
After the first three ODIs this was looking like a disastrous tour for Jenny. With her batting looking ropey she dropped down to number 10 in the order, and her bowling not looking much better. She was dropped for the first two T20s and then came in for the third ahead of Kate Cross (perhaps surprisingly). Her first over went for 13, but she came back better & picked up a couple of wickets. In ODI 4 she managed a record-equalling 4 catches - 2 of them excellent. Disaster became disappointing (5)
Became England's leading T20 wicket-taker in the 3rd ODI (overtaking Holly Colvin), but has not looked like a wicket-taker in the 50 over game and has had some ragged spells. Scored some useful tail-order runs in the first two ODIs (6)
Just when she had her chance to shine she pulled a fetlock. Due to bat at number 3 in ODI 4 she injured herself in the field and missed out on a track where Taylor (coming in at 3) scored 89*. Good positive attitude with the bat in ODI 3, but then dropped again for T20s, until T20 2 when she was listed to bat at number 9. (6)
Seems the vice-captaincy has allowed her to grow in confidence. Now asked to open the bowling in the T20 games and even the odd ODI. She doesn't bowl many bad balls, but you felt that by the last couple of ODIs the Kiwis were getting the measure of her bowling and beginning to hit her over the top. Struggled with the bat in the ODI series with exception of ODI 3, but looked extremely positive in the T20 series - her 30 off 15 balls in T20 2 was a revelation. Now needs to be regarded as a serious T20 batsmen and useful bowler. Named T20 Player of the Series due to three consistent performances (8)
Good to see Laura back and apparently fit. Batted well in ODI 3 with Katherine Brunt. Stayed there but kept the run rate up with good running. Bowled three decent spells in the T20s, but now seems to be fourth in line in the current spin-bowling pecking order behind Knight, Hazell and Grundy. (7)
Perhaps one of the major disappointments of the tour until the last ODI. Had talked up her own batting in the press prior to departure but failed to deliver until her best ODI score of 65* in ODI 5. Always looks quite comfortable, but seems to find ways to get out. Run out at the bowler's end in T20 3 was the most unfortunate. Only bowled two overs on the tour. Apparently her action is being remodelled - you'd guess due to some form of injury caused by her current action. (6)
Looked to be struggling in ODI 1 and again in her first over of ODI 2, which went for 12. She was withdrawn immediately, but was brought back with the Kiwis in trouble at 59/3. Two wickets in two balls in her comeback over led to two more later, including a beautiful inswinging yorker to remove Devine and she finished with 4/36. She mopped up the tail in T20 1 to have figures of 3/6, but did not play after T20 2 due to sickness and an injury problem. Batted well in the first ODI (7)
Showed in ODIs 4 and 5 exactly what she is capable of, if she has her head in the right place. Ran out Edwards in ODI 1; wandered across her stumps 6th ball in ODI 3 to paddle sweep and was bowled; tried to reverse sweep in T20 2 but edged through to the keeper. Incredible onslaught to finish ODI 4 - 4,4,4,4,1,4,4,.,4,1 - 30 in 10 balls. It can't happen every time she goes out to bat, but you can't help feeling it should happen more often. Named ODI Player of the Series (8)
Looked scratchy in the first three ODIs and despite 48 off 59 balls in the 2nd T20 was not very convincing in the number 3 slot, in either format. Injured in T20 2 and therefore took no further part in the tour. (6)
Seems to have been brought along just to make up the numbers. Listed to bat at 8, 7 and 8 in the three T20 she was selected for and asked to bowl just 1 over. Made selection for the last ODI and asked to bat at 4. Missed her chance by only scoring 7. (6)
And so it will soon be time to think about the Ashes series. Before that the England Academy are due to tour in Dubai in April where they will take on the Australian Shooting Stars (Aussie Academy). The Academy tour party is due to be announced shortly and those in the Winter Training Squad, that missed the New Zealand tour, are likely to get a chance to prove their worth. Will anyone be able to prove they should be considered for the Ashes squad? More on that tour as and when it happens.