England Women were dominant in the first ODI at Scarborough in a return to form that suggested they’re far more comfortable playing over one day than four, writes Raf Nicholson.
It was a miserable day at Scarborough, weather-wise, for the hardy spectators who made it to a freezing cold ground to watch a rain-affected England victory, by 42 runs, according to the D/L method.
For England though, despite the weather, it was a happier day all-round after their miserable performance at Wormsley last week.
There were several factors at play. Opening with Heather Knight and Charlotte Edwards restored the stability at the top of England’s batting which they had so lacked in the Test match last week: both looked assured and fluent, as they fought their way to a fifty apiece – higher scores than any of England’s top seven managed at Wormsley in either innings. Knight in particular, flushed with the success of her unexpected 3-28 during India’s innings, looked to have put her 1 and 0 from the Test far behind her.
In the end, the runs came easily, as England finished on 153-3 after 31.3 overs, with the game foreshortened by yet more rain.
The toss, today, had gone with England, meaning that they were able to put India in and chase – something they are often more comfortable doing. Anya Shrubsole, with the new ball, struck twice early in India’s innings, dismissing Thirush Kamini, out caught behind wafting at a ball outside off-stump, and Karu Jain, caught at first slip by Heather Knight playing at an inswinging ball. India were already 13-2 in the sixth over before the first of many breaks for rain sent the players running off the field.
England, too, had a changed bowling attack going into this match, with Katherine Brunt returning to the international fold for the first time since the Perth Test back in January. On a pitch which offered little movement both she and Natalie Sciver bowled straight and full, though both finished wicketless. The Indians could not just wait it out, as they had in the second innings at Wormsley; and their runs simply accumulated too slowly throughout their innings, with the rate barely pushing above four an over.
England’s excellent performance in the field also helped to restrict India. In difficult conditions, with cold hands and a slippery ball, they continually cut off runs both on the boundary and diving around in the infield. The run-out of Smriti Mandhana typified this: as she wandered down the pitch backing up, looking for the single, a throw-in from Jenny Gunn at square-leg saw her dismissed by a yard, having made 74. It was the vital breakthrough, and it was followed by a neat stumping by Sarah Taylor and a further run out, as India finished their innings eight down, with 193 on the board.
This, ultimately, was where the differences between the two sides looked at its widest: one thing professionalism, and the extra training which accompanies it, can surely do is to make you sharper in the field. India, by contrast, looked shoddy, with several fumbles helping England acquire runs even more rapidly.
Ultimately, England’s performances in the field, and with the bat, reflected the renewed confidence of a team who were reverting to a format which is far more natural to them: the 50-over game. It took just 53 balls for Knight and Edwards to bring up England’s 50: gone was the tentative prodding of the Test match. Even a tumble of wickets towards the end could not undo the positive strokeplay of the openers, in a top-order partnership which is clearly a winning formula.
Perhaps the one bright light in an otherwise gloomy day for India was the performance of Mandhana with the bat, despite that run-out: it is striking that her 74 is higher than anyone from either side managed in the Test match. This is a player who is just 18 years old and who has played in only five previous ODIs, and none outside Asia. Her beautiful strokes to all corners of the ground, and her confidence in taking the attack to the England quicks from the get-go, show that the future of Indian women’s cricket is bright.
It is England, though, who have begun the new ICC Women’s Championship – the qualifying route for the 50-over World Cup in 2017 – with a victory, and two points to the good. And it is England who today looked comfortable, and happy: this is the cricket they know, and this was a spectacle which felt somehow much more worth watching than that collapse on day one at Wormsley. That much is undeniable, even to those of us who so desperately want to keep women’s Test cricket alive.