Experience told as England Women brushed South Africa aside in the first of three T20 internationals, at Chelmsford, writes Raf Nicholson.
It would take a long time to list all of Charlotte Edwards’ records in women’s T20 internationals.
At Chelmsford yesterday, as she walked out to do the toss – which she won, electing to field – she was captaining in her 77th T20I. It puts her far out in front of anyone else, man or woman, in terms of her captaincy experience in the format.
She was also playing in her 79th T20I. That puts her second on the list of most T20Is played by any cricketer, man or woman.
That kind of experience in this format by a captain puts a team at an enormous tactical advantage. Edwards knew yesterday, when she came out to open the batting for her side, that they were chasing 90, and while most would see that as a not exactly formidable total, it has sometimes proved to be a difficult one to chase in women’s T20Is. After all, back at Melbourne and Sydney in Australia in January, England managed totals of just 98 and 101 in their 20 overs.
Edwards also knew she was in form, while many of those coming in below her were not: she hit 108* in the last ODI her team played, at Scarborough, while her partners at the other end continually got themselves out. “My experience is counting now,” she said after the game. “That’s why when I get in, I’ve got to stay in and take the team home.”
Experience? Here is another stat for you: the 19th ball Edwards faced last night was the 2,000th ball she has faced in T20 internationals. Once again, she is the first cricketer, man or woman, to reach that landmark.
And it helps that she knows how to bat. (The power of understatement!) This is a player who reached 2,000 T20I runs during the World Cup in Bangladesh in March – again, the first cricketer, man or woman, to do so. Her innings yesterday was a series of clinical straight and square drives to the boundary, as she raced to 62* in 54 balls.
She took her side home to a nine-wicket victory, with 39 balls remaining.
It helps that Edwards is also captaining what is possibly the most experienced T20 side ever in world cricket. The England XI which took the field yesterday had a combined total of 524 T20I caps. Edwards is surpassed in T20I caps only by her former vice-captain Jenny Gunn, who now has 80 caps to her name. Lydia Greenway, with 72, is fourth on that list.
By contrast, last night’s South African XI have a combined total of 328 T20 caps. It was a factor which was not lost on captain Mignon du Preez. “If we had to pair us up,” she said after the match, “most English have probably played double the amount of games we have, and I do think with such a format the amount of games you play definitely helps…You’re more experienced with difficult scenarios.”
Her team’s lack of experience in the format was evident in the way they batted. They hit just seven boundaries in the entire innings – and two of those came off England misfields. Dane van Niekerk (36 off 54 balls) and du Preez herself (28 off 41 balls) seemed quite happy to remain at the crease and nurdle singles through the gaps. That is not how you play Twenty20 cricket. By the time the risks came – a missed attempted sweep by van Niekerk off the bowling of Dani Hazell, which saw her bowled, and a run-out as du Preez hit the ball straight to Natalie Sciver at mid-wicket, leaving her partner Lizelle Lee a yard short of her ground as the direct hit came in – there were only three overs left to acquire runs.
This was, of course, the first international match South Africa have played since 14 of their players were awarded semi-professional contracts earlier in August. “We’re still a young squad, still building and working together, fairly young. Hopefully in a few years’ time we can be a force to be reckoned with,” said du Preez. For the South Africans then, this series is about building for the future, and gaining match experience against a top side.
It is probably fair to say, after last night’s display, and as they go on to face England again at Northampton on Wednesday and Edgbaston on Sunday, that they could do worse than learn from the way the vastly experienced Edwards is batting at the moment.