Thursday, 20 October 2016

England claim series win in West Indies

Well it wasn't very pretty, but sometimes you have to win ugly, and that is exactly what England managed to do in Jamaica.

After a horrible batting collapse allowed the West Indies to take the fourth ODI, and the two ICCWC points with it, England came back with a solid performance to win the final ODI comfortably, winning the series 3-2 and taking four of the six ICCWC points.

It means they only need one more point in Sri Lanka (in November), or for South Africa to lose one of their three ICCWC games against Australia (also November), to be sure of qualifying for the World Cup next year (assuming the Pakistan v India series does not happen in the next 10 days, which looks unlikely). Put it this way I don't think anyone will offer you odds against them getting there.

Make no mistake this was an important series for England. They were tested. Slow pitches, hot conditions, spinning wickets, some top quality players in the opposing side, and lumpy outfields. They lost two games that they probably should have won, but they showed they have some character by winning that final ODI. That will stand them in good stead as they move forward.

It was an excellent series for Alex Hartley, who seems to have stepped into the number 1 spinner slot, ahead of young Sophie Ecclestone, and probably Laura Marsh. Marsh is much more of a containing bowler, whereas Hartley is a wicket-taker. She took 13 in the five games and bowled with great control and accuracy AND she spins the ball. Without Anya Shrubsole a lot fell on the shoulders of Katherine Brunt. At times it looked like the pressure told, but she is a gutsy cricketer and usually came good when she needed to, which is tough for fast bowlers in the heat and on slow pitches. Generally England will have been pleased with all their bowlers, who gave very little away. Both games that England lost were down to their batsmen.

Overall Coach Robinson will have been pleased with his openers - Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield. Winfield had scores of 79 and 51, and Beaumont finished with scores of 57 and 34 after a poor start to the tour. She looked in good touch in games 4 and 5, having adjusted well to the conditions. Both now need to look beyond nice 50s, to big hundreds.

Number three is obviously still an issue. Georgia Elwiss had this slot for the first three games, as she did in the summer against Pakistan (where she had scores of 12, 17, and 77). Here she made 3, 16 and 3 batting at three, and then 9 and 5 coming in at number six. Having failed to grasp her opportunity at the top of the order she may find that she loses out to Fran Wilson in the middle order for the trip to Sri Lanka.

The number three slot was taken by skipper Heather Knight for the last two ODIs. A position she had not occupied in her previous 57 innings. After a golden duck in the first ODI she scored a frustrating 26, 22, 36 and 29. No-one will be more frustrated with those scores than her. She will know that she needs to turn these starts into big scores and get her side over the line in run chases.

Nat Sciver got two scores of 58, the second one not out in the final ODI, which was the sort of mature knock that her coach will have been willing her to make. It is sometimes difficult to remember that she is relatively new to the England team. She has only batted 22 times in ODIs and she has a healthy average of over 40 - the best in the England team. She is yet to record three figures for England, but this will come. She is maturing nicely in the England middle order.

Which brings us to Danni Wyatt and Amy Jones. Wyatt is the cheeky, chirpy, bubbly character from Stoke. She is a good athlete, smart in the field and has a rocket arm, but she has now played in 44 ODIs, and in 35 innings her highest score is just 44, which she scored on this tour in the first game at Trelawny Stadium. She followed this with 7, 17, 0 and 12. She bats for the team, but she seems to find ways to get out. She is an enigma.

As for Jones she kept well in four of the five games, but contributed little with the bat. She has been around quite some time, but has had relatively few opportunities in the middle (just 12 innings in nearly four years). She has the shots in her locker and needs to target spending more time at the crease, as she did in the first ODI with Wyatt. She has had big shoes to fill following on from Sarah Taylor, but given an extended run she could prove herself just as capable.

And finally a word about Heather Knight's captaincy. She looked comfortable making the decisions and used her bowling resources well. There were a few opportunities where she could perhaps have had more attacking fields, but the more she skippers the better she will get. Winning this series in the West Indies without her vice-skipper on the pitch, will be a feather in her cap.

Will this England team win the 2017 World Cup? They have the capability to do so, but it is a question of whether they have the self-belief. It is likely to come too early for this developing team, but I wouldn't write them off. If they can get on a roll early in the competition then they will be in with a shout.



  1. Given the low scores made in the series as a whole, runs were more valuable than normal. They were definitely at a premium. This makes Winfield's 79 in the 3rd ODI more akin to a century under normal conditions, and scores in the 30s like Beaumont's and Knight's more like 50s.

    Personally I think the days when 100s can even realistically be made on these pitches, especially Trelawny, are past. You won't find many players more dominant or in-form than Stafanie Taylor, and even she couldn't manage it. Who could? The tracks are too low and stodgy, the outfields too big and slow. When you have par-scores of 150 to 200, centuries are going to be very rare indeed, and as England showed, actually fairly unnecessary to win. I'd rather have 2 batsmen scoring 60s than a century and a duck. Perhaps players don't have the patience any more and are more concerned in batting for the team which means taking risks when it might be better for them personally, not to. Either way it was enough of a challenge to bat out 50 overs, that's for sure.

    In my opinion no players did themselves any harm on this tour, and many enhanced their reputations. Obviously Hartley and Brunt were the stars with the ball, but Marsh, Ecclestone and Gunn did well too. Even some of those who struggled a bit with the bat, like Elwiss, Wyatt and Jones, often looked good for the short time they were at the crease. Wyatt fielded well, Jones kept wicket well and Elwiss took a couple of important wickets for very few runs. She has a golden arm, like Knight but with a bit more pace. It's another string to her bow. Elwiss has batted well at 6 before and I see no reason to move her. I agree Wilson would come into the side ideally, but if Wyatt is not going to bowl I think Fran should replace her if anyone, not Elwiss. This gives the middle order more solidity.

    Knight's scores of 4 successive 20s / 30s represent a reasonable return for me. She played pretty well in tough circumstances and again showed her solidity. It was a bit frustrating to get herself out too often, but on 2 of those occasions she'd done well enough, anyway. If you look at some of the West Indies player's scores ,they don't make pretty reading either. I think the players need to be compared to their direct peers in the same situation and not previous performances in different conditions. In this series, England came out on top.

    It's easy to say England threw away the 2 games they lost, but remember they had done pretty well to get into those strong positions in the first place. To be honest I'm more surprised that we actually dominated all the games enough to be in a position to win them at all. That's better than never being in games from the start, which was a risk at either end of the series. Thankfully for England, this risk never materialised.

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