Tammy Beaumont (left) and Nat Sciver steered England to victory
ODI: England (202-2) bt India (201-8) by 8 wkts
The Test may have finished last week but no-one told India. Early wickets can be cause for a period of consolidation but not the entire innings. In this era of women’s cricket, and of England, who bat right down and powerfully so, a target just beyond 200 was never going to be competitive.
After 15 overs at Bristol, England were 82 for one; at the equivalent stage, India had been 45 for two. England brought up their hundred in the 19th over; India’s took more than 32 to achieve. And, after an impressive bowling display from the hosts, England’s Tammy Beaumont and Natalie Sciver showed India exactly what modern batting should look like. They stroked, struck and danced their way to unbeaten run-a-ball knocks of 87 and 74 each, as England cruised to an eight-wicket win.
“India were definitely under par on that pitch,” said Beaumont, post-match. “And our bowlers did exceptionally well to keep them to just 200. Having batted on it I thought it was a really good wicket, after it stopped swinging. [England’s top four] are all naturally attacking batsman and we all like to go as close to an 80 strike rate plus, so once we’re in we score quite naturally.
"I’m not surprised [at India’s total] because our bowlers have been making it hard work all season. Getting those two big scalps in the first ten overs meant that after that we could really contain. So no, I’m not really surprised."
England bowled well, set their fields carefully and took their catches too. Credit to them. But India never looked in the mood. They have capable, experienced and intelligent batters but used none of these resources on Sunday. On paper, Mithali Raj and Punam Raut depart as their side’s top-scorers but in practice these were innings which not so much anchored but dragged down India with them. All out for 200 is one thing, batting out 50 overs for it: unfathomable.
For every Indian batter who entered the crease the field was manoeuvred to the nth degree. Bowling plans were set, and executed well, England appearing to have identified a weakness to the short ball in many of India’s players. The only moment of jeopardy for the hosts, really, came right at the start as England were faced with the novel ODI opening prospect of Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma, the latter making her debut in the format. The two most clean strikers in India’s line-up, Mandhana and Verma have the potential to take the game if not away from a team, but right to them. We’ve seen this in other formats already, no doubt we will here soon.
Katherine Brunt delights in taking the wicket of Shafali Verma
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Not on Sunday, however. If Katherine Brunt bowling to Verma was the headline tussle in last week’s Test, and one which the Indian batter, with her 159 runs across the two innings, came out the better of, Sunday was Brunt’s revenge. A sharp bumper and Brunt had her woman, Verma dismissed for 15 from 14. That Verma was the only visiting player to have an innings strike rate exceed 100 provides a neat summary of what soon ensued.
England bowl as a pack. They come in twos, sometimes threes but at every time of asking they were there to support each other. The addition of Sarah Glenn, the one change from England’s Test line-up, gives them a balance which perhaps they had lacked in the longer format. Sophie Ecclestone, whose three wickets for 40 provided the best returns of that England pack in a sight now so familiar it’s hardly a point to mention, now had another spinner for support. It worked. A note in despatches for Kate Cross, too. If Brunt and Anya Shrubsole are one pair, and the spinners another, Cross and Sciver are now the de facto first change foil. If it was Sciver last week, it was Cross this, who persisted with a frugal, irritating line, her one wicket coming at the expense of just 23 runs.
In cricket you can sense pressure. It emanates around the ground, makes your hair stand on end and can destroy the confidence of batting line-ups in an instant. Sometimes, you can almost see it. For India, Harmanpreet Kaur embodied it. As she walked to the crease half way through India’s innings, with the score at just 83 and her captain crawling at the other end, it was as if she felt that she had no choice but to lash out. Out of form and out of luck, however, Harmanpreet has scored just 25 runs against England at an average of eight since the 2017 World Cup. This is a problem. As is India’s mindset. In mitigation Mithali may have felt that without her innings India may have sunk further still, but hers is a team stuck in the 20th century facing one roaring through the 21st.