We play our best in high pressure situations, says Birmingham Phoenix skipper Amy Jones

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We play our best in high pressure situations, says Birmingham Phoenix skipper Amy Jones

Amy Jones in action for Birmingham Phoenix © Getty Images

Birmingham Phoenix weren’t one of the favourites at the start of The Hundred and at the halfway stage of the tournament, it looked like they were on their way out with only one win from five matches. Skipper Amy Jones – a novice in the leadership role by her own admission – feels getting to the point of having to win all the games helped them have clarity of thought and gave them the momentum to reach the eliminator.

After four losses in the first five matches, Phoenix rallied themselves to win three matches in a row and qualified to face Oval Invincibles in the Eliminator on Friday (August 20).

“I think it's tricky because we basically got to the point where we had to win which is a higher-pressure situation and that's when we perform,” Amy said. “We knew they were must-win games. They already feel like that from the start of the tournament, to be honest but then it gets to the point where it really is a must-win game. And that's when we have played our best. I think it’s great, will definitely be sort of clinging onto that feeling and using confidence from that.”

After they lost against Invincibles at home convincingly on August 4, Phoenix had a huge turnaround with a domineering win against Welsh Fire in their next match as they cantered home with all the wickets to spare. Georgia Elwiss, one of the senior players in the side, said they knew they were up against it and had to regroup after the Invincibles game. They drew from the confidence of the win against Fire at home and travelled to Trent Bridge to beat a strong Trent Rockets with a come from behind win.

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“There was a bit of a regrouping. We knew that we hadn't lost games by a huge margin,” Elwiss said. “And I think sometimes that's almost harder to take when you mull over the could-have-beens and what could I have done better. But the bottom line is we weren't playing our best cricket at the start of the competition.”

“We dusted ourselves down after the Oval Invincibles game. And we knew we were up against it. But we knew what we had to do. And I think the character we showed, not only in that game but in the game against Welsh Fire as well.”

Phoenix found different heroes in both these matches, Evelyn Jones and Shafali Verma thrashing the Fire bowlers in an unbeaten 131-run partnership has been one of the reasons for the turnaround according to Amy.

“That would definitely have been a turning point. We desperately needed the win and then to do it so convincingly and I think (it) gave everybody, not just the girls involved – not just Shafali and Jonesy (Evelyn) - everybody got a lot of confidence from that,” Amy said.

Phoenix will be without Verma in the Eliminator as she travelled to India to join their training squad ahead of the tour to Australia. But Amy feels there’s enough depth in the squad to make up for her absence.

“Shafali was hitting her straps; we saw how dangerous she is against the Welsh Fire and she is a big loss for us. But we are very lucky, the girls who have been running the drinks – Marie Kelly, Thea Brooks and Ria (Fackrell) – are all powerful hitters and quality cricketers. They have been unlucky not to get game, they are good enough to be playing in the tournament,” Amy added.

Evelyn has been the star with the bat for Phoenix having scored 233 runs from eight matches with two fifties to her name. She scored a match-winning 64 in their last league match against Northern Superchargers to put them in the pole position for a place in the Eliminator before London Spirit’s failure to get over Phoenix in the Net Run Rate despite the win against Fire secured them the place in the play-off.

“The last game we played, we will get the most confidence out because it felt like they were on top and cruising it. Then sort of out of nowhere obviously that the wicket of Lauren (Winfield-Hill) and Jonsey's brilliant catch on the boundary,” Amy said while praising Evelyn’s effort in that match. “It all just changed so quickly and that’s something we got (to) hold on to if it feels like it's running away from us if you just stick it and focus on each ball, it just it can change so quickly.”

Both Amy and Elwiss are impressed by The Hundred experience with the crowds, the atmosphere and the general fandom it has created among new fans and young girls. Both feel getting to play in front of huge crowds outside of the World Cup 2017 final has been exciting for all those involved.

“It's been unbelievable. I've played so much cricket throughout my career. And I think this is one of the best competitions I've played in for the atmosphere for fans getting behind it for, you know, people stopping you in the middle of Birmingham saying, 'oh, we're going to come and watch, next weekend or whatever'. People are really getting behind it. And I think it's really grown as the competition has gone on,” Elwiss added.

“And as a player, I feel very privileged to be in that position and to be able to give people something to cheer about having been through what we have the last 18 months over the world. But I think the support that we've had has been unrivalled for anything I felt in my career and I mean we don't even get those sorts of crowds at international games for England.”

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Amy, who missed out on the 2017 World Cup final, seconded her England teammate’s opinion while lauding the crowds and added that it would be great if she and Phoenix can play the final at Lord’s in front of a huge crowd if they were to get the better of Invinicbles in the Eliminator.

“I think lots of the girls have referenced that final (2017 World Cup) as being the only other time they played in front of big crowds like we've seen which I think just shows how good this tournament has been, because it's obviously not an international tournament, it's not a World Cup. And yet we have seen massive crowds and big engagement. I haven’t really thought of it in terms of like comparing it to this. But I think if we get to Lord’s, that would be just an unbelievable feeling,” Amy concluded.