England made sure they didn’t repeat the embarrassment in the opening match of their ODI series back on June 9 against the Proteas. They took on the White Ferns at Headingley, buoyed the strong performances displayed in the T20 series.
Mark Robinson chose an XI different in three respects from that early game: Danni Wyatt, Anya Shrubsole and Jenny Gunn gave way to Lauren Winfield (on her home ground) , Katie George and Georgia Elwiss. Winfield had to wait turn, coming in No 7; but Elwiss became a star turn later in the bowling stakes.
The problem touched on in earlier reports, lack of depth, proved a central factor on another hot day. Both sides put up excellent opening stands, England 111, New Zealand 70. But once England had rid themselves of the White Ferns’ two outstanding’s bats, Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine, their innings subsided.
Contrast England: even Tammy Beaumont (40) was left in the stalls by an Amy Jones (63) full of stroke-play and aggression. But when both had returned to the hutch by the 26th over, the score simply mounted skyward. Even Sarah Taylor (26) wasn’t needed to ensure a daunting total of 290-5. The skipper, Heather Knight (63), continued her imperial form, and the rest of the middle order played with a freedom associated more with Australians on home soil.
For much of the innings the scoring-rate made you think the pitch wasn’t totally reliable, but soon enough the ball was being hit to all parts. Nat Sciver (37) and Katherine Brunt (30*) ensured a sound start wouldn’t be wasted.
Of the New Zealand bowlers, it was again the youngest, Amelia Kerr, who showed the highest promise with her well-controlled leggers. She snared Sarah Taylor for the second time with a googly – quite an achievement – and bowled the only maiden of the innings to complete an analysis of 10-1-36-2. This is a special talent.
After the break – an ice-bath might have been the appropriate way to spend it – the gap in team-strength showed even more clearly. Four of the White Ferns bowlers had gone for over 6 runs per over. Only Katie George suffered the same indignity for England, and she was making her ODI debut as a replacement for the great Anya Shrubsole.
England had to keep their nerve as Bates and Devine set about their task with customary skill and power. Rescue came from less likely sources. After Knight had tried Brunt, George and Ecclestone, she turned to Elwiss for inspiration. The result: two quick wickets, and a huge game swing. Sciver came on to provide the same penetration from the Football Stand end, and the tables had turned convulsively. 70-0 disintegrated into 75-4. Though a few later batters hung around for quite a while, England’s final run-rate of 5.80 looked increasingly beyond reach.
Laura Marsh came on as last change to find some disconcerting turn and take three wickets; George claimed her maiden wicket in ODIs to clinch the match. She has work ahead to achieve the feats of England’s established opening pair, but she possesses most of the ingredients.
With her usual modesty and self-criticism, Suzie Bates laid the main blame for her team’s defeat on the inability of her and her trusty opening partner to post enough runs. This ignores the sad fact that New Zealand at present don’t’ have the firepower in the middle order to mirror English exploits. Two batters can’t be expected to provide such a percentage of the total runs every time they go to the crease. Amy Satterthwaite has yet to find her form on this tour.
England are their own severest critics. In the field, much of their work was admirable, especially two catches in the deep: Ecclestone clung on to a skier coming over her right shoulder as she ran towards the crowd; then George outdid that with a remarkable tumbling catch behind the bowler. This effort must stand alongside Jones’ second catch at Bristol as one of the best of the summer.
Against that there was some early inaccuracy, mis-fields, overthrows and dropped catches that all the crowd knew they would have taken with their eyes closed. The English squad are capable of such high standards that it is a shock to see these occasional failings. Nat Sciver was awarded Player of the Match (37 runs and 3-18). She was the fielder guilty of dropping a sitter.
So this series of three games has started far more predictably than its South African counterpart last month. The crowds at Derby and Leicester next week must hope that New Zealand will catch fire to provide the Kiwi resolution always expected of them. Meantime English players will be going all out to prove their right to be first choices in a highly competitive squad.
New Zealand 148
Lead photo shows Georgia Elwis bowling for the England Academy bowls during the friendly T20 cricket match between England and England Academy.