England were overwhelming victors in the first Royal London ODI against India at Bristol.
India must look closely at their tactics throughout the game. In neither innings did they present a positive and carefully conceived approach.
When they batted, young Shafali Verma provided the aggressive intent you expect. After she got out to an undignified skied slog (23-1), the tempo slowed to a worrying level. The England strategy was to bowl tight and be patient. No close catchers at the start meant fewer gaps from Verma and Smriti Mandhana to exploit.
Tied down by accurate bowling, Mandhana eventually attempted an unwise cut to Shrubsole and was castled (27-2). That brought Punam Raut and the captain together. They added 104 runs to the card off 169 balls as though they were settling in for another 4-day game. Nat Sciver and Kate Cross proved as mean as the opening pair, and Heather Knight could (possibly) relax in the knowledge that any late surge by India would still prove insufficient.
And she had two prize slow bowlers to introduce. Sophie Ecclestone offered a few short balls that were dealt with, but finished with 3-40 to show her value to the team. All eyes were on Sarah Glenn, as she was introduced one game late in the series. She didn’t take a wicket and bowled more loose deliveries than expected, but nerves are excusable after that earlier omission.
Both the senior quicks took a couple of wickets and kept their prey watchful. Kate Cross bowled a very tight line and captured the vital wicket of Raut (32).
Raj either couldn’t or wouldn’t up the pace. She gathered runs at her own pace, leaving Knight wondering whether it was worth trying to dismiss her. Only in the latter stages did she turn closer to all-out attack, but by then too many wickets had fallen and too few overs remained. Ecclestone snaffled her for 72.
On a true (and unused) Bristol track a total nudging past a double century was unlikely to cause English batters palpitations.
Shikha Pandey twice struck Tammy Beaumont on the pad in her first over. Calling for a review proved unwise. Lauren Winfield-Hill got away to a faster start, but succumbed to an old fault, trying to cut without moving into line. (17)
Beaumont and Knight are a comforting pair for English spectators to view. Beaumont was in prime form and Knight finds it hard looking ruffled. They struck fours, ran quick singles, turned ones into twos: all the basics the Indians had neglected.
Ekta Bisht had the delight of bowling Knight (18) as she essayed a cut, but that brought Nat Sciver to the crease (83-2). After a couple of faulty shots she struck the ball powerfully to accompany Beaumont all the way home. They added 119.
Beaumont gave a very good impression of a batter ranked No 1 in the world. She had a shot for every occasion, from the late cut to the paddle. But she indulged little in the fancy stuff: her cover and straight drives were a delight; she swept often and well.
She finished things off with a straight six in the 35th over.
What was happening in Indian ranks?
The finger of blame has to point at the captain, and indirectly to the management. Batters 3 and 4 (Raut and Raj,) played dot ball after dot ball. After the break fielding positions hardly altered as the batters exploited gaps and unwise bowling lines. Raj stands at mid-off, looking like the reverse of the proactive skipper. The contrast with Heather Knight, a shining example of an aggressive extra-cover, could hardly be greater.
In cricket captains tend to be senior players and batters. Hence Mithali Raj. She has a batting record second to none, but as a captain is she what her young team-mates need?
It will be fascinating to see how the Indian team performs second time round.
In truth the bowling line-up looks less than menacing on this tour. Jhulan Goswami is India’s Brunt, an outstanding bowler the nation has not yet felt able to replace. But the rest of the attack was only occasionally dangerous. It’s especially strange to see English spinners outperforming Indian ones – through the past millennium it’s been the other way round. The three in use today, Ekta Bisht, Deepti Sharma and Harmanpreet Kaur, went for a combined 1-122.
For that matter, will Lisa Keightley be minded to make any adjustments to her eleven? Since points are at stake (2 today), the answer is a pretty certain No!
Perhaps she might be persuaded into one tiny change come game three.
Result: England (202-2) beat India (201-8) by 8 wickets
England: Winfield-Hill, Beaumont, Knight (captain), Sciver, Jones (w-k), Dunkley, Brunt, Glenn, Ecclestone, Shrubsole, Cross
India: Mandhana, Verma, Raut, Raj (captain), Kaur, Sharma, Pandey, Goswami, Bhatia (w-k), Vastrakar, Bisht
Umpires: Sue Redfern, Graham Lloyd