Jamie Ramage from Worcester
Losing the World Cup Semi-Final hurt South Africa. Whether they have spent the last 11 months plotting revenge is probably overstating it. What they showed in this Royal London ODI is that they are still a competitive team that can cause any side problems. They have a bowling unit that can destroy sides, West Indies can testify to that.
Here at Blackfinch New Road, they have not lost their hunger to get amongst the wickets. Tammy Beaumont struggled to find the fluency that saw her named as a Wisden player of the year. In contrast, Amy Jones who timed the ball with ease, two back-foot fours in the first over showed why she is at the top of the order at the expense of more experienced players like Danni Wyatt.
With the score on 20, Jones with 19 of them- Shabmin Ismail made the breakthrough that would see England subside. Jones missed an attempted pull through mid-wicket only to see the top of her off-stump dislodged.
Sarah Taylor soon followed lbw also to Ismail, while there was no doubt about that decision Heather Knight can fell somewhat aggrieved that she was also awarded lbw it looked as if she got some bat on it. She was convinced enough not to be looking in the umpire’s direction when the decision was given.
It left England 29 for 3. In the next ten overs that became 64 for 6. Whereas Knight was unlucky, Wyatt’s shot was not one that merited the situation. However, it is the sort of shot that saw Wyatt have such a productive winter. There could be an argument that she should be opening and with Jones as a balance to that it could work.
It brought together Katherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn and they steadied things even though the score didn’t move much. When Gunn and Anya Shrubsole were dismissed things looked bleak for England at 97 for 8. Laura Marsh came in and the positive intent from both batters put the pressure back on the South African bowlers.
Suddenly the score was rocketing along. Brunt was finding the boundary and the two batters ran well between the stumps. They put on 51 for the ninth wicket which is the partnership record for England against South Africa.
Sophie Ecclestone the number 11 looked composed as she hit Ayabonga Khaka for 4. Khaka had earlier taken the wicket of Beaumont with her first ball of the game and finished with figures of 3 for 42. It was Brunt’s second ODI fifty, an important inning and has shown just how important her batting has become over the last year.
A remarkable comeback looked on the cards, at 189 for 9 England had given themselves something to bowl out. It would not be an easy task.
There is no keeping Brunt out of the game and in the third over she bowled Laura Wolvaardt, the 19-year-old opener who has scored runs against England in the past. When Sune Luus was stumped by the fast hands of Sarah Taylor in the next over, the improbable looked on.
Lizelle Lee was joined by her captain Dane van Niekerk. They both assessed the conditions well, not taking any undue risks but still making sure the scoreboard ticked over. Together they added 113 for the third wicket, it was enough to surpass their previous third-wicket partnership against England between Wolvaardt and Mignon du Preez at Bristol last year.
Brunt and Shrubsole beat the bat on several occasions but Lee and van Niekerk stood firm. Shrubsole bowled van Niekerk but not before she had scored 58 from 79 balls. Lee continued and du Preez added able support, although it took her 12 balls to get off the mark. There was confusion when Lee looked to have been caught by Brunt at long-off and had left the field before being recalled as replays suggested it might not have been taken cleanly.
Both batters continued to make sure of a seven-wicket victory which in truth their bowlers set up. Lee finished on 92 not out which is the highest score by a South African in an ODI against England. Du Preez finished with 36 not out.
Attention now turns to Hove on Tuesday where South Africa will look to secure a series win. England will, however, look to come back strongly from this as they have done so before in the last year.