Natalie Sciver’s stellar 2016 saw her scoring 495 runs at 55 in ODIs, including five half-centuries. With England hosting the Women’s World Cup this summer, their premium allrounder is ready to dominate on the biggest stage.
The fact that England Women coach Mark Robinson and Nat Sciver disagree about her standout moment from last year is interesting. For Sciver, it was her all-guns-blazing 33-ball 80 against Pakistan at Worcester. It contained six sixes (an English record) and led England to 378-5 (another national record) from their 50 overs. Carnage.
For Robinson though it was her two match-winning efforts in the West Indies. Two half-centuries put together in tricky chases on tough pitches with the team relying on her. “She won two games of cricket for us,” he explains, “that’s so impressive.”
Their respective choices might say something about the joy of hitting a ball a long way, or indeed about the pressure and responsibility a coach always feels, but either way it’s notable that Sciver can now do both. She can blast it and she can work it – she can change a game and she can win a game. Her stock as a cricketer has never been higher, and there’s never been a more important time for the women’s game.
It’s a big year for the England team. They host the World Cup and with it have a golden opportunity to light a fire under the sport in this country. Like Steph Houghton’s Lionesses in 2014 and Kate Richardson-Walsh’s Olympians last summer, there is the potential to unlock millions of new fans. There’s just the small matter of success first. Sciver is excited about what’s to come.
TESTS: 3 matches, 122 runs at 20, 1 wicket at 71
ODI: 32 matches, 837 runs at 44, 8 fifties, 23 wickets at 22
T20I: 37 matches, 470 runs at 17, 35 wickets at 17
“I’ve not played in a 50-over World Cup before but from what I hear it’s a very special event,” she says. “For it to be in England as well, that doesn’t come around very often. We’re lucky to be playing at home, in front of our own fans and I think we’ve got a good group of players to compete with the best teams in the world and try and win the thing.
“It’s been a crazy 12 months for us. The plan is to be No.1 in the world again. Whether that’s this summer or next summer I don’t know but the last 12 months have been really exciting and has showed us all how good we can be and where we can go.”
For Robinson, showing the team how good they can be has been a major part of his brief. He has focused on instilling self-belief and an element of know-how. “Nat’s an instinctive cricketer who wants to play with freedom, and that’s great, but we wanted to make sure she had a little bit more structure. She picks things up ever so quickly, which is important, and the more you understand, the more self-aware you are, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to cope in a high-pressure situation.”
After a period of rebuilding, this summer’s World Cup will see the pressure ramped up on Sciver and her teammates. Their No.1 aim is winning the trophy – and the expectation is for them to get to at least the final.
Sciver will be a huge part of their run – influential with the bat, the ball and in the field – and there are sure to be hundreds of youngsters desperate to imitate her in the garden if England can go all the way. That would be great thing for cricket in this country.
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