Source: WICB Media Athelstan Bellamy

England v West Indies – What a difference three days make!

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England v West Indies – Second ODI Worcester June 9 2019 – What a difference three days make

Result: England beat West Indies by 121 runs (DLS method)

Scores: England 233-7 (41 overs)
West Indies 87-6 (28 overs)

England tied the series up with a second convincing win at New Road. Sad to relate their biggest obstacle to victory was the weather, not the opposition.

The West Indies side’s out-cricket was greatly improved on their showing at Leicester, but their batting has fallen away since the palmy days of their T20 World Cup win in 2016. Not once did they look as though they thought they could push for the (increased) target of 244.

Heather Knight won the toss again and chose to bat.

The West Indies looked a team transformed in the field: the bowling was far more accurate, the field better adapted to its needs; there were plans afoot that caused one immediate shift in power: Amy Jones was transformed from the magisterial figure of Grace Road into a prodder and poker. She has been in such commanding form in recent weeks that the bowlers deserve congratulation.

But Tammy Beaumont took over the mantle of strike-leader. She hit the only half century of the day (61) to ensure the hosts would put a decent total on the board. Sarah Taylor (23), Heather Knight (14) and Nat Sciver (35) made useful if not decisive contributions, but the game swung convulsively England’s way as the lower order used the long handle to powerful effect. First Katherine Brunt (23), then her sparring partner Anya Shrubsole (32*, two 4s, two 6s), then, following her one-stroke 6 to finish the Leicester innings, Sophie Ecclestone with 11* (one 6).

Rain twice interrupted the innings. Some wickets tumbled on resumption, but those three bowlers – all three all-rounders now? – helped set the visitors a daunting target that only increased after the second break, thanks to DLS calculations.

Frankly, the Caribbean response was a huge disappointment. Hardly ever did they show the determination to put on a display to announce: ‘We’re up for any challenge’. Without Deandra Dottin in the camp they were more dependent on their two stars, Stafanie Taylor and Hayley Matthews, than is good for them. When they got out, no Plan B was apparent in the team’s approach to their target.

Shrubsole was back on song (5-3-12-2), and Kate Cross delighted all her admirers by producing a second devastating spell in three days (4-1-4-2). These are figures to set alongside Brunt’s from the previous game.

Ecclestone and Laura Marsh (she posted her own 100, of ODI caps) then came on to offer the batters different posers, though only Marsh managed a wicket this time.

Shemaine Campbelle (29) and Kyshona Knight (14*) put up the shutters, which is one response in an overs match, but doesn’t gain many admirers

What approach had their coaches recommended? What approach will they want for the third confrontation at Chelmsford on Thursday? Their watchword must surely be ‘Onwards and Upwards’.

Tail-piece

The pieces in Mark Robinson’s jigsaw are coming together nicely, but the puzzle isn’t yet complete.

The batting line-up looks formidable on paper. He now has half-a-dozen players who are capable of hoisting a really significant score for him. Under his generalship they have raised their average total in ODIs to somewhere near 300. (And to think he used to bat No 11 for Sussex only because they weren’t allowed 12 in their side!)

But it’s rare to find all of them hitting the jackpot at the same time. This is in the nature of cricket, where form can come and go like a revolving door. But the ability of the lower order to add vital runs is an extra ingredient in the mix. And there are still batters both in and out of the current squad of 15 who might well add further ballast to the scorebook.

In the field the most exciting development is the success of Kathryn Cross. She is no newcomer, but only now can she really feel she has achieved what she always knew she had in her to contribute to the team’s success. Robinson has long been hunting for a third seamer he could rely on, not merely to keep an end up, but to take top-order wickets. Cross’ combined figures for these two ODIs read: 9 overs 2 maidens 16 runs 3 wickets.

With Shrubsole and Brunt both showing their best form in one game or the other, this places less pressure on the support pace bowling (Sciver, Elwiss, Gunn).

Both Sophie Ecclestone and Laura Marsh were capable of tying the West Indian batters in knots. As with all the other bowlers, they don’t expect the same response once the Australians come riding into town. That will be a totally different ball game, but the structures are there.

(My apologies to both spinners for denying each of them a wicket in the First ODI. Ecclestone took 3-30, Marsh 3-30)

Heather Knight has her five strike bowlers in place with several other options – including herself – when the need arises.

Now we wait to see how Robinson views the third and final ODI at Chelmsford. He can either go all-out for a third win with the same eleven, or use it to test out the four other players who have thus far been water-bearers: Jenny Gunn, Lauren Winfield, Fran Wilson and Alex Hartley. If he doesn’t use them, them they will have been merely there in case of multiple injuries.

When it comes to the Ashes, he will need to have as many players as possible pitch-perfect for the fray. In that quartet he has two batters, Winfield who prefers opening, and Wilson who is used to the middle-order. Wilson in particular has been in fine form at county level for the champions. Danni Wyatt is the one batter not to have made runs thus far.

Gunn is an established practitioner. She may have been lucky to regain a place in this squad – it came at the expense of any new face. There are several players at the level immediately below who will have been disappointed not to get the nod. One thing England don’t need in abundance is more experience: in this respect the contrast with the West Indians is stark.

Hartley suffers from the presence of a like bowler (Ecclestone) who blocks her path. They can bowl their left-arm slows in tandem for Lancashire, but for England that would be a luxury.

It has been a curious preparation for the coming Ashes. England have played the two bottom-ranked nations in the World Elite Table in turn. They were hardly stretched in Sri-Lanka in the spring; now they find themselves pitted against a Caribbean outfit who are some way short of their best.

Five years of professionalism are beginning to reap their harvest.

Teams

England: Amy Jones, Tammy Beaumont, Sarah Taylor (wk), Heather Knight (capt), Natalie Sciver, Danni Wyatt, Katherine Brunt, Anya Shrubsole, Laura Marsh, Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone.

West Indies: Hayley Matthews, Kycia Knight (wk), Stafanie Taylor (capt), Shemaine Campbelle, Chedean Nation, Kyshona Knight, Stacy-Ann King, Afy Fletcher, Britney Cooper, Chinelle Henry, Shamilia Connell.

Umpires: Sue Redfern, David Milnes