Tuesday, 28 June 2016

New professional England look the part

I'm not a huge fan of post-match interviews. I find them generally bland, boring and full of meaningless platitudes - "we will take the positives from this defeat", "we are massively excited for this that and the other", "we are massively disappointed about this that or the other" - you know the sort of thing. I have to say that unless pushed I generally don't even bother to go and set up the mini recorder as I know I am not going to bother to use any of the quotes.

Yesterday at Taunton I deigned to attend both of the post ODI series press conferences - the first with centurion Tammy Beaumont and 5ferer Katherine Brunt, and the second with new England skipper Heather Knight and Head Coach Mark Robinson. It was worthwhile.

England had just cruised to a 202 run win over Pakistan in the third ODI (gratefully grabbing all 6 ICCWC points offered for the series), thanks to 168* from Tammy Beaumont, five wickets from Brunt and a yawning chasm in class between the two sides (scorecard). That is not to denigrate Pakistan, who have only played in England once before (three years ago), cannot play any international cricket at home, and are only just coming to terms with women playing cricket at all. They knew England were in a state of flux when they left Pakistan and they saw a glimmer of hope for an upset. Mr Robinson and his band of merry girls snuffed out that glimmer at Leicester, and then proceeded to bury it further and further underground at Worcester and Taunton. For the first time in three years England looked "professional". In hindsight it was perhaps the worst time for Pakistan to have come to England.

But it could all have been so different if you go back to the first ODI at Leicester. England were chasing Pakistan's 165 - their highest ever score against England (at the time); Lauren Winfield had gone first ball; new number three Georgia Elwiss had been bowled for 12; England were 33/2; Tammy Beaumont (whose ODI average was just 17.25 from 23 games) and new skipper Heather Knight (nerves jangling) were at the crease. The pressure was really on. We had seen this scenario before. It did not bode well. 90 minutes and 20 overs later England were 129/2, Tammy Beaumont had her first international half-century and England were on their way to a 3-0 series win. As Robinson said in his post-series interview that was a pivotal moment.

And so back to those post-series interviews - The first thing to say is that the only people who were there were myself and Syd and Raf (from CRICKETher). We were the written media at the game (except for Adam Collins for the Guardian and Cathy Harris for The Times). We even had front row seats in the Press Box! It seems the Red Tops weren't that interested in the post-Lottie era if it didn't mean disaster.

First up Tammy and Katherine. Tammy couldn't stop smiling and Brunt was well.....Brunt. She is a no-nonsense, plain speaking Yorkie. They were both gracious in victory and about their personal achievements of the day, but more they both looked and sounded content and perhaps a little relieved. They both mentioned how hard the squad had been working over the last eight weeks, and for once I believed them. Asked about her slower ball when she was on a hat-trick, Brunt slapped her forehead with her hand. "Nobody knew on the pitch that it was a hat-trick ball. You get caught up in the moment. I'm just happy that I got that fifth one (wicket). What a schoolgirl error. That's really embarrassing!" She slumped her head onto the desk in mock shame. But it was towards the end of the interview that Brunt perhaps summed up where England are right now, after the recent upheaval. "I couldn't be any more inspired. It's sparked something in me. Making me want to push myself and stick around for a while longer yet." And speaking of coach Robinson she said "He's just brought the best out of everyone". It is what he seems to do.

And so on to the man himself and his new skipper. Robinson is another Yorkie and he is happy to chat and is honest and forthright in his views and his opinions. I like that. It also keeps ECB Media Manager Beth Barrett-Wild on her toes! He was rightfully proud of his team. "There was lots of pressure going into that first game" - not half? "Winning the first game was a big release. You have got to give the girls a lot of praise for how brave they have been. The girls have been relentless. It is the way that they have played. They deserve a lot of praise. We are an emerging team"

Robinson put all his faith in the girls he selected for this series. They repaid him in spades. It could not have worked out better for him and the new captain. Tougher challenges will lie ahead, and there will no doubt be some off days - that is sport! For now it is right to enjoy the series win, look forward to the T20s and then to get back to work for the West Indies tour in October. I have no doubt that Robinson and his happy crew will be doing just that.


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