In the end England won the first ODI against the White Ferns by a distance, but there was considerable discomfort along the way.
England 241 (Knight 89)
New Zealand 211 (Satterthwaite 79)
England won by 30 runs
Here are some points arising:
Has the settled series-squad had its day?
On 10 September Lisa Keightley announced the names of the fifteen players who would dispute the five ODIs against New Zealand.
Nobody was surprised by that, even if the odd selection or omission may have raised an eyebrow.
The question is: when will a fixed squad for a home series no longer be seen as sensible and necessary?
With so much top-class cricket going on this season the selectors haven’t been short of evidence to sift. Could they not have broken the traditional pattern and picked a squad for, say, three games only, giving themselves flexibility for the last two?
They are concerned about player-welfare in a busy programme, but are stuck with those fifteen players.
The eleven picked for the first ODI at Bristol were: Knight, Beaumont, Winfield-Hill, Sciver, Jones, Dunkley, Brunt, Dean, Ecclestone, Cross and Davies. Omitted were: Farrant, Glenn, Shrubsole and Wyatt.
Replacements wouldn’t always be like-for-like. Tash Farrant is a prime example, as the only left-arm pace bowler. The alternative spinner, Sarah Glenn, provides a different challenge from both Sophie Ecclestone and Charlie Dean.
Only Danni Wyatt would be a more or less straight swap for Lauren Winfield-Hill, but her more aggressive approach to batting is seen as better suited to the short format.
If the selectors wanted another opener of less mercurial temperament they might opt for Eve Jones, who adds the enormous advantage of being left-handed. A bowler’s life is so much easier when faced with eleven right-handers such as England paraded at Bristol.
Protection of the Innocent
Why does England policy insist on protecting debutants from enemy fire? It happened to Bryony Smith. It happened again to Charlie Dean here at Bristol.
She – like Smith at Chelmsford in 2019 – was listed to come in at No 8, but in the tension of the moment her entrance was delayed till after Sophie Ecclestone and Kate Cross. ESPN lists her as a batting all-rounder; she has batted at No 4 for her hub, but, according to English tradition, had to be spared. So she entered the fray with seven balls left and departed two balls later. How did that help a budding talent? The two who preceded her mustered 10 runs between them, so perhaps that’s the reason.
On a less than reliable pitch England’s vaunted batting line-up suffered two embarrassing collapses. First we must congratulate the Kiwi bowlers on their overall performance. Lea Tahuhu in particular made a stirring return to the international scene (2-32).
England descended from 109-1 to 140-5 in eight overs, then from 228-5 to 241 all out inside three overs.
Much has been said about the quality of England’s top six, but Nat Sciver for one finished with her bat at an inelegant angle as she played on to Tahuhu. Both Lauren Winfield-Hill and Sophia Dunkley were strangled down the leg-side, a dismissal that arouses more sympathy than condemnation, but indicated that they were not quite on top of their game.
Once more a decent total was due to a handful of batters, led by the splendid Heather Knight (89).
The second collapse was a lesson in how to haste slowly.
Bowling ups and downs
In an uneven bowling performance by England, Katherine Brunt (four maidens to start!), Nat Sciver, Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone did splendidly. The same cannot be said for Freya Davies and Charlie Dean. The captain allowed the debutant eight overs of off-spin; she took an all-important first international wicket, but proved expensive (1-53).
What might Mady Villiers’ figures have been? We can’t tell because she has been discarded – without getting an extended chance to show her worth. So the hunt for the best off-spinner continues.
Davies again failed to convince, only occasionally bowling a really telling delivery. An excellent slower ball did for Tahuhu but came late in the day.
The White Ferns’ fragile batting line-up was exposed once more with six single-figure totals, but the last two wickets contrived to add 68 runs and cause flutters of anxiety in the home team and crowd.
So we wait to see how Keightley reacts to this showing. She may stick to the approved policy of no-change or be more ruthless and give those four reserves their chance straightaway.
Next fixture: Sunday 19 September, New Road Worcester, 11.00 start