England favourites against underprepared West Indies in opening international of the English summer
The wait is finally over. After approximately 200 days of almost no action, England will host West Indies in the opening game of the five-match T20I series on Monday (September 21) – the first major international series since cricket stopped in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Incidentally the last time these two teams played an international was also against each other during the T20 World Cup when the Heather Knight-led side prevented the Women in Maroon from reaching the knockouts with a strong 46-run win. West Indies will have their task cut out on this tour too as they have won just one game against the hosts in the UK in six attempts – a stat the Stafanie Taylor-led side surely want to change.
West Indies have kept almost the same squad that went to Australia earlier in the year with the addition of uncapped Guyanese left-arm bowler Kaysia Schultz and youngsters Shabika Gajnabi and Karishma Ramharack. The 18-member squad arrived in England on September 1 and has been in the bio-secure bubble all throughout. “It feels like we are at home,” Taylor said in the pre-match virtual conference on Saturday (September 19).
Taylor, who was the side’s highest run-getter in the T20 World Cup, has been among runs hitting a 52-ball 71 in the first intra-squad practice match earlier in the week. Another big name, Deandra Dottin, who returned to action earlier in the year following a nine-month injury layoff, also appears to be in promising form scoring a useful 41 at the top of the order.
Opener Lee-Ann Kirby also hit an unbeaten 85 in the second intra-squad practice match and is to open the innings with either Britney Cooper or Hayley Matthews, both of whom have chipped in with small contributions. Dottin can also be an option.
With no Anisa Mohammed in the side (she opted out of the tour), the onus will be on the likes of Afy Fletcher, Matthews and Taylor to share the load of the spin department. Ramharack may also be an option after the right-arm off-spinner proved economical during the practice games.
The wickets in Derby are known to assist the seamers and the likes of Shakera Selman, Aaliyah Alleyne and Shamilia Connell will play a big role if West Indies want to make a good start to the series. Connell has been among the wickets picking up four in two games while Selman and Alleyne have taken two and three respectively.
While there are certainly plenty of promising signs for the visitors, it is likely they will be a tad rusty heading into the first game of the series with only two weeks of practice under their belts.
The hosts on the other hand, are looking like a well oiled unit with all the players in good touch. Having resumed training in late June and also played a fair few matches, England go into the series more prepared than their opponents.
Although they only played in the first two rounds of the 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy (as preparation for the West Indies series) almost all of them performed either with the bat or ball. However, it remains to be seen how fast the players switch to T20 mode.
England announced their 16-member squad for the series last week with Sophia Dunkley and Katie George added to the side that played in the T20 World Cup. Allrounder Georgia Elwiss missed out due to a back injury.
The extended break didn’t seem to have any effect on Heather Knight as the England skipper picked up from where she left off in the T20 World Cup. She registered scores of 67 and 91 not out also picking up two wickets for the Western Storm. Opener Danielle Wyatt took looked to have worked on her mindset during the lockdown as the right-hander not only hit two back-to-back half-centuries but was also involved in consecutive 100-run opening partnerships with Georgia Adams for Southern Vipers.
Just like their opposition, England too have a couple of options to pair up with Wyatt – Amy Jones and Tammy Beaumont. Natalie Sciver, who raked up a brilliant 104 against Lightning, will come in at one down followed by the skipper.
Lauren Winfield, Dunkley and Fran Wilson have also been amongst the runs in the intra-squad games, leaving England with a problem of plenty when it comes to picking their batters.
Following a fifer in the opening round of the RHF trophy, Katherine Brunt will spearhead the pace attack which also has Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Kate Cross, Freya Davies and George. Top-ranked Sophie Ecclestone, Sarah Glenn and Mady Villiers will look after the spin department.
While England will undoubtedly go into the match as favorites – considering the amount of practice and preparation they have got compared to West Indies. But one can’t take their eyes off the Caribbean side. They might have got just two weeks of preparation but can’t rule them out. In all, it’s going to be a cracker of a contest. With nothing to lose and no crowd pressure (match to be played behind closed doors), the players are going to express themselves freely.
England: Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Katie George, Sarah Glenn, Heather Knight (c), Amy Jones, Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Mady Villiers, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.
West Indies: Stafanie Taylor (c), Afy Fletcher, Hayley Matthews, Aaliyah Alleyne, Cherry Ann Fraser, Natasha McClean, Shemaine Campbelle, Shabika Gajnabi, Chedean Nation, Britney Cooper, Sheneta Grimmond, Karishma Ramharack, Shamilia Connell, Chinelle Henry, Kaysia Schultz, Deandra Dottin, Lee Ann Kirby, Shakera Selman.