England players brush off lockdown rustiness with notable performances before Windies series
“Frustrating, didn’t want the World Cup to end this way but not much you can do about this.”
That was Heather Knight’s reaction after England’s T20 World Cup semifinal encounter against India was abandoned due to rain resulting in their ouster from the tournament.
Close to six months later, the England skipper returned with a bang scoring a majestic, unbeaten 91 steering Western Storm to their first win in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy. In fact, she was one of several England players who managed to shake off their lockdown blues with some exceptional performances.
Following an unexpected break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, England were the first to resume training towards the end of June in preparation to host South Africa and India. However, with both the Proteas and Women in Blue, opting out due to travel restrictions, England will now play West Indies in a five-match T20I series starting September 21.
The 24 players who were involved in England’s training camp in Derby were all released for the opening two rounds for the Rachael Heyhoe Flint trophy, and their positive performances will count for plenty ahead of the squad announcement expected soon.
It’s been a brilliant 2020 for Knight on an individual level as she carried her form from the T20 World Cup where she scored 193 runs in five games including a maiden century.
After guiding Western Storm to victory in their opener against South East Stars, the right-hander followed it up with another 80-ball 67 against Southern Vipers. With a strike rate of 88.26, Knight’s form will definitely give England great confidence as they prepare to play their first competitive match in six months.
Sophia Dunkley, too, shined for South East Stars, especially in their game against Sunrisers with a 116-ball 97 besides picking up three wickets. Her teammate Bryony Smith has also been a revelation with the ball for Stars picking up four wickets at an economy of 3.66 with a best of 3-25 against Sunrisers.
Sophie Ecclestone, known primarily for her acumen as a bowler, impressed for Thunder with the bat, scoring 74 runs in two games including an unbeaten 60 and could be a bonus for England down the order. Meanwhile, England coach Lisa Keightly will be relieved to see Danielle Wyatt amongst the runs back in form at the top. The stylish right-hander hit two consecutive half-centuries and was also involved in two century stands for the opening wicket alongside Vipers skipper Georgia Adams.
Her delicate strikes on the off-side were surely something England missed during the T20 World Cup in Australia back in February-March and the recent two outings come as a confidence booster for the 29-year-old as she prepares to take strike against West Indies.
Meanwhile, Wyatt’s ODI opening partner, Tammy Beaumont, who turned out for Lightning, also managed a fifty in game two of the tournament.
“It was great to be out there again. I enjoyed playing for Lightning and seeing what the other girls could do. There was some good cricket and some promising performances from the youngsters. The standard and the quality could only get better and better now, and that’s exciting for domestic cricket and ultimately it’s exciting for England,” Beaumont said.
The trio of Katherine Brunt, Natalie Sciver and Lauren Winfield, who played for Northern Diamonds, proved their mettle as well, lighting up the opening weekend of the competition. While Brunt destroyed Central Sparks with a 5 for 20 on the opening day of the tournament, before Winfield hammered a rapid 72 to seal an easy win, Sciver made up for any disappointment in the first game with a majestic 116-ball 104 against Lightning on Monday (August 31).
Teenage sensation Issy Wong, who has been on England’s radar for quite some time now, once again impressed with the ball. Her opening spell of 7-1-23-3 against Thunder in game two was the perfect example of how devastating she can be when she gets things right. She bowled fast and straight, attacking the off-stump consistently, while also happy to use the odd bouncer.
There is no clear indication as to when England are likely to announce the squad for the five-match T20I series against West Indies. While it is expected that a majority of the T20 World Cup squad will retain their places, the likes of Wong, Dunkley, Lauren Bell and Katie George have certainly done their reputations no harm.