Former England international and AOC women’s cricket correspondent Isa Guha assesses the recently concluded series between England and India, and what it means for both teams ahead of a crucial year.
After being heavily beaten by England in the Twenty20 series, India surely had a stern talking to as they stepped into the ODI series revitalised. I certainly would not have predicted England being 2-0 down having to claw their way back into the series!
In the past India have always been a side to contend with on home soil, but so often under perform away from home. This series was a chance to eliminate this unwanted tag and given their beating in the Twenty20s I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen.
For me there are three players that made all the difference: Punam Raut and Harmanpreet Kaur add depth to India’s batting line-up, which alleviates the pressure on Mithali Raj, who is heavily relied upon to score the team’s runs. What stood out was their character. Each appeared to enjoy a challenge and were equally able to back it up with skill. The Indian opener, Raut, faced England’s main strike bowler Katherine Brunt (pictured celebrating an early wicket, above) with confidence and never seemed phased by her pace. Kaur often scored at a high strike rate and it was her performance, along with Raut and Raj, which was instrumental in chasing down 229 in the opening game.
Niranjana, a tall, accurate medium pacer provided much needed support to the experienced strike bowler Jhulan Goswami. She made things happen with the new ball; consistently getting it to move off the seam and in the air to create problems for the English top order. I first saw her as a 19-year-old, four years ago, where she perhaps didn’t know her game as well as she does now.
Clearly, having matured as a cricketer she proved that she can be versatile and was often called upon in the middle or at the death to break a partnership or keep things tight, thus taking a lot of pressure off Goswami. It also added potency to an already strong bowling attack with quality spin options, who were equally impressive. That was highlighted in the second game where they continually put pressure on England to come out victorious.
Obviously there were other players involved, but the way these three played gave confidence to the inexperienced players coming into the side and restored the faith of the more experienced heads.
From England’s point of view this was the perfect challenge for them. They play no more 50-over games until January 2013, when they begin preparation for the 50-over World Cup in India in February. This was the first time they had really been tested in a year. Pleasingly the girls orchestrated a fightback in which they beat the Indians in two more close games, demonstrating tremendous character and belief in their own ability.
Each game of the series was low-scoring, which was surprising considering England had been reaching scores of 250-plus with ease in the winter against the likes of South Africa and New Zealand. This may have been testament to the way each team bowled and it was fitting that the Player of the Tournament was Georgia Elwiss, England’s opening bowler. Elwiss may not have played had Anya Shrubsole been fit for selection, so it was fantastic to see her taking her opportunity to bowl in consistent areas and back up the potent spells from Brunt at the other end.
England’s batting, on the other hand, was picked apart on a few occasions. Although the girls will see it as an opportunity to have had a chance in the middle I’m sure that come the World Cup, coach Mark Lane will be urging his top four to score the main bulk of the runs.
Nevertheless, I’m certain both teams can take a number of positives from this series and focus in earnest on making the necessary improvements for an enormously important few months ahead.
Click here to read Ed Kemp’s account of the dramatic series decider