Changed gameplan reaps rewards for Natalie Sciver

Natale Sciver celebrates her fifty. © ICC

Natalie Sciver has revealed that a rethink of her gameplan lay behind a career best T20I score in the third match against West Indies at the County Ground in Derby on Saturday (September 26).

The timing was as perfect as that shown throughout her innings. Playing in front of a huge terrestrial television audience, Sciver answered Heather Knight’s plea to put on a show for the cameras. It was an innings for the big occasion played by England’s biggest star.

Sciver had begun the series with ambitions to be the gamechanger for her team across formats and becoming the top-ranked allrounder in the world. However, her first two innings ended in cheap dismissals. On both occasions she fell for single-figure scores, attempting an expansive attacking shot.

Ahead of the third match, she sought out skipper Heather Knight and coach Lisa Keightley to discuss taking a different tack.

England have adopted a go-hard approach this series – a strategy that worked in the opening game thanks to a brutal 62 from Tammy Beaumont. In the second match though, England’s top six were all back in the dugout with only 96 on the board. Sciver recognised that she needed to pace her innings and ‘build her way in’, something she did to perfection in game three. On a slow, often sticky wicket, she went through the gears, ensuring she was there to accelerate in the final overs.

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She dealt harshly with the bad balls, dispatching anything short or overpitched to the boundary. She struck the ball cleanly, crisply – her placement and timing a key feature of her innings. On the occasion she didn’t get a poor delivery, she was content to run hard between the wickets, take the ones and twos and keep the scoreboard moving without taking too many risks. Her half-century came off 40 balls.

In the opening game, a catch off a slog-sweep ended her brief innings, while on Wednesday (September 23) she was stumped charging down the wicket. Stafanie Taylor was the grateful bowler each time. On Saturday, Sciver took the attack to Taylor from a position of strength, hitting 17 off the West Indies captain in the penultimate over, dispatching three consecutive deliveries for 4, 4, 6. She was dismissed, eventually, in the final over for 82 off 61 balls.

“I think I was just going a bit too big, too early,” Sciver said after England’s 20-run win on Saturday. “Which is something that we are working on as a team. But I think for myself to build into it [my innings] is probably the easiest thing.”

Sciver was England’s leading run scorer in the T20 World Cup after being promoted to number three in the order. In this series, with England’s emphasis on scoring more quickly upfront, they have been unable to benefit from Sciver’s strokeplay towards the back end. That is, until yesterday.

In part it was due to necessity. Tammy Beaumont and Danielle Wyatt fell early with only 13 on the board in the third over. Joined by her captain, Sciver knew it was important to play the situation and rebuild.

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“Me and Heather came together and knew that we needed a partnership. So, our risk levels, would be a bit lower. But I think in general that’s how I wanted to play regardless of the wickets going down in the powerplay already.”

“When you go in the first six, you feel like you need to get away fast and make use of the two fielders out, but as long as I can run well, run the singles well and get it out into the outfield and when I do get my chance to hit a boundary I take it. In the first few games, I got a bit caught up in going too boundary focussed first. It’s difficult because hitting boundaries is fun!”

In the second game, England reached a competitive total thanks to Sarah Glenn and Katherine Brunt combining in a 46-run partnership for the seventh wicket. Sciver admits that England’s momentum had suffered because none of the main batters were still there towards the end of the innings.

© Getty Images

Natalie Sciver played herself in before expanding her range in the back-end of the innings. © Getty Images

“We said before the game that we wanted someone in the top five to be there, to stabilise it really. The 19th over was a big one, because it was easier to hit with the wind into that pocket where I scored probably about 60 of my runs. I guess it was a bit more tactical in that way.”

Deandra Dottin was again the outstanding player for West Indies and her 63 off 56 balls was the tourists’ highest score for the third match running. For a time, during Dottin’s 48-run partnership for the third wicket with Hayley Matthews, West Indies looked like they could mount a serious challenge with Taylor still left to bat. However, when Brunt removed Dottin in the 17th over though, the game was all but over. Sciver made certain by restricting West Indies to just four off the 18th, leaving them too much to do.

She was glad though that England’s bowlers were put under pressure ahead of potential winter series against Australia and New Zealand.

“When we play, we want to keep our standards high, no matter who we’re playing and make sure that we we’re practising to play against the best in the world. So, it was important for us to make sure that we did the right things and got over the line.”

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“It was good because as a bowling unit, we were under pressure a bit more. They came out with a different order. Then Deandra scored some runs again. She’s their big player, but so far, we’ve managed to contain her to about a run-a-ball. So, we were pleased to be under the pump a little bit with the ball but come through in the end.”

England were keen to be ruthless and wrap up a series win at the earliest opportunity in front of the television cameras.

Yesterday’s game was played in front of a huge audience, the first time women’s cricket was broadcast live on BBC Television since 1993. Sky Sports Cricket also showed the game live as well as streaming it free-to-view on their YouTube channel. With the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy also being broadcast on Sky, the weekend is a highlight of the ECB’s celebrations for #WomensCricketMonth… Sciver clearly relished batting on such a big stage.

“It’s been a good day. Being on mainstream TV doesn’t come around that often. So, yeah, I’ve been waiting for the BBC to play my best!” she laughed. “Hopefully, we’ve got some big numbers watching and we’ve inspired a few people today to pick up a bat and a ball.”

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