Source: ICC

England v India – The Balance Sheet

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India may well look back on the recent series with more pleasure than England. Yes, they lost 10-6 by the reckoning of the points system, but their achievements must be set against a background of daunting challenge.

Playing a series abroad is a huge test of character these days. Bubbles, isolation, testing: a string of similar words have taken on a sense of extreme deprivation. And the management of women’s cricket in India has come in for loud criticism, accusations of neglect and confusion figuring prominently. Yet still the touring side came close to holding one of the strongest squads in world cricket.

They had played very little competitive cricket before they arrived. Yet still they prevented England from winning a test match that looked well within their grasp till its final fling. On the last afternoon India were 189-6 with a new ball due. Thanks to an astonishing partnership of 104 for the ninth wicket between Sneh Rana (80*) and Taniya Bhatia (44*) they finished on 344-8. That was enough to alter unwise perceptions about the two squads.

Heather Knight made a call for 5-day tests. Would she have, if her bowlers had tidied up that fourth innings for around 220? And if there is no such thing as multi-day cricket for women worldwide outside tests, where would the preparation come for such a prolonged stint?

India worried their hosts by coming back to win the last of the three ODIs at Worcester, then a T20 win at Hove meant England had to claim the last round at Chelmsford if they were to take the series.

England had recent playing experience on their side. They had been involved in the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy, which provided the high-class competition it was designed for. Few of the squad kept their standards high all through – that is hard to achieve – but Nat Sciver and Sophie Ecclestone did so, and the rest of the team provided quality support as needed.

With Sophia Dunkley finding her feet at this level they had a strong top six in the batting line-up. Lauren Winfield-Hill was preferred as opener in the early stages; she was replaced in the shortest format by Danni Wyatt whose final offering (89*) proved decisive. Only once did an innings fail worryingly, the second T20; otherwise the batting was consistent enough to set a real challenge.

Not so on the Indian side. After the newly established opening pair, Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma, numbers 3, 4 and 5 kept changing. India’s innings might have gone rocketing skywards with a more consistent line-up. Mithali Raj wasn’t quite the supreme batter she has been for so long, and critics questioned the sidelining of Jemimah Rodrigues as an option. Harmanpreet Kaur only rarely repeated her great performances of the past.

Batting is only as good as the bowling allows it to be. Here England possessed two trump cards, Sophie Ecclestone and Nat Sciver. It is rare for a captain to rely so heavily on a spinner in the crucial overs of a game; as likely as not Knight would offer Ecclestone the last over of a T20. Batters never got away from her, however many slogs they might attempt to leg.

Whether she should have been required to bowl 68 overs in the test is another matter entirely. It was worrying to see her feel her left shoulder after that toil. The fault lay with the original team selection.

Nat Sciver produced her best sequence of performances ever in an England shirt. She has a long and distinguished history at this level, but here she supported her powerful batting with consistently demanding overs. She was the deserving Player of the Series in the T20s.


The search for the perfect eleven goes on; how many batters, how many bowlers? Must the bowlers all be trusted to score centuries? How many batters must be able to take a 5-fer? Age v youth? Both selection committees had the problem of confronting choices over their longest serving players.

There was a striking contrast in the attitude to age: as English media focused on 23-year-old Sophia Dunkley’s ascent towards the big time, India were happy to include two 17-year-olds who both performed magnificently, Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh, the keeper.

Raj and Jhulan Goswami have records dating back to the early years of the millennium; neither appeared in the T20s. India were immediately short of quality quick bowling: Pooja Vastrakar was discarded after the first ODI and Arundhati Reddy couldn’t produce the goods in her place.

On the English side there are matters of concern with both bowling and batting.

Let’s assume that Lisa Keightley has her eyes fixed firmly on the long view. The year sees Pakistan and New Zealand as future opponents. Perhaps she will be more willing to experiment against lower-ranked Pakistan, but they have just beaten West Indies in an ODI in Antigua, and WI are infinitely stronger now that they were on their last tour of England.

It remains a worry that the strong English batting line-up consists to 5/6ths of players likely to retire around the same time. Which of several new faces could selectors opt for? Emma Lamb is one candidate, but after her?

Among the bowlers only the three spinners are under 25. Anya Shrubsole didn’t appear in the T20s; Katherine Brunt completed a full series. After winning a Player of the Match award in the ODIs Kate Cross was dropped from the T20s. Freya Davies has strong advocates among the pundits, but since her successes in New Zealand she hasn’t found it easy taking multiple wickets. Issy Wong was also down under, officially in a non-playing capacity, but she did appear. Not so in the series just completed. Will Keightley look beyond her and Lauren Bell as long-term replacements for the great Brunt-Shrubsole axis? There are plenty of left-arm options, but not even Tash Farrant was allowed to compete this time round. No other right-armer stands out as an obvious pick.

So the make-up of the next England squad is still most uncertain. At least that makes life more exciting.

Results in brief:

Test: England 369-9; India 231 and 344-8​  DRAW
1st ODI: India 201-8; England 202-2​​   ENGLAND WIN
2nd ODI: India 221; England 225-5​​   ENGLAND WIN
3rd ODI: England 219; India 220-6   ​​INDIA WIN
1st T20: England 177-7; India 54-3​​   ENGLAND WIN (DLS)
2nd T20: India 148-4 ; England 140-8   ​​INDIA WIN
3rd T20: India 153-6; England 154-2​​   ENGLAND WIN

Cumulative points scored (from Indian perspective):

ODIs: LLW​     4-6
T20s: LWL ​     6-10