England Women have some of the best players in the world at their disposal and this gives them a great chance to do the double and follow up their historic 50-over World Cup win in 2017 with glory at the T20 World Cup.
Most of the players should feel confident after the summers they have enjoyed. Some, like Tammy Beaumont and Sophie Ecclestone, performed superbly in the international matches against South Africa and New Zealand in June and July. Others, most notably Natalie Sciver, saved their best displays for the Kia Super League.
All three of the players just mentioned will have important roles to play in the T20 World Cup, as they are vital components in the following three key areas that are likely to define whether England are successful:
The Openers – Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt
Openers are vital in every form of cricket, but never more so than in T20. Their task is to set the tone and make the most of those six vital power play overs at the start of the innings. If they get going, they have a great chance of making a big score. But if they get out cheaply, they put pressure on the middle order.
England’s opening pair is arguably the best in the world, so they will need to produce their best form for the Three Lions to lift the World Cup.
Beaumont was named player of the tournament at the 2017 World Cup after she scored 410 runs in nine matches. She was also the shining star of England’s summer in 2018 as she hit three hundreds and two fifties during one of the best spells of her career.
The Kent opener was the player of the series against South Africa after scoring two hundreds to help the hosts fight back from 1-0 down to win the series 2-1. She went on to torment South Africa twice more by blazing a spectacular 116 from 52 balls as England racked up a record T20 score of 250-3 and then following it up with 71 three days later.
At the other end, Danni Wyatt is one of only two women in world cricket to have scored two T20 hundreds. Both of them were spectacular too. The first came from just 56 balls in the final match of the 2017 Ashes and drew England level at 8-8 in the series. The second was even better, as the Stoke-born batter pummelled 124 from 64 balls to ensure chased down a record 199 to beat India.
It has taken Wyatt a while to find her feet in international cricket, but she now looks comfortable at the highest level. Before her hundred in Australia, the opener had only scored one fifty in 51 innings. Since that breakthrough, she has scored a second century and two further fifties. It is a remarkable improvement, and if she continues her upward curve at the T20 World Cup, England have a real shot at glory.
The Star All-Rounder – Natalie Sciver
In an interview for the November issue Wisden Cricket Monthly, Sciver was asked if she can become the best player in the world. She replied, ‘I think that I could be, and I want to be, but I’m not there yet.’
It was an answer that revealed a quiet confidence in her ability, as well as a humble recognition that there is still plenty of hard work to be done to get to that level.
The very fact that it is even possible to seriously consider such a question speaks volumes about what Sciver is capable of. She is very good at all aspects of the game: batting, bowling and fielding. She can hit the ball out of the park, find the gaps in the field and finish off a run chase. She takes crucial wickets, runs people out and holds onto superb catches.
In short, there is not a lot the all-rounder cannot do on a cricket pitch. If she is to become the best in the world, she will need to be more economical with the ball so she can bowl longer spells. She will also need to be consistent with the bat. But she is not far off the best, and that is a wonderful place to be for now.
If England are to win the World Cup, they will require the Sciver who, almost single-handedly at times, led Surrey Stars to victory in the Kia Super League. In the 11 matches her team played, the Stars skipper scored 362 runs at an average of 45.25 and a strike of 143.65. She also took 10 wickets and rescued her side from dire situations on numerous occasions.
The Surrey all-rounder is likely to have two main roles in England’s batting order. If the openers perform well, she will have to come in and score quick runs to bolster their total. If the openers struggle, she will have to build an innings to ensure England post a competitive total if batting first or chase down their target if batting second. Either role could be vital.
Sciver is likely to be less crucial with the ball as the Three Lions have plenty of options to choose from. Nevertheless, if she can chip in with important wickets, it will be a great help. Her fielding is always important to the team and often sets the tone for her teammates.
The Spinners – Sophie Ecclestone and Company
Slow bowling is vital in T20 cricket. When batters are going crazy and trying to hit every ball for four or six, a team needs its spinners to come on and induce a false shot which will lead to a wicket.
England’s premier spinner is Sophie Ecclestone, who was England’s best bowler this summer. She took 20 wickets in 11 matches across the two formats and her best performances were 4-18 in four overs and 3-14 in eight overs – both against New Zealand.
It was a wonderful run of form, but there is lot of pressure on the 19-year-old to continue to hit such heights at the T20 World Cup. Her consistent performances for Lancashire Thunder in the Kia Super League suggest she can do it, and England rightly have a lot of faith in Ecclestone, but it is still a big ask.
It will ease the burden on Ecclestone if England’s other spinners can contribute wickets and keep a lid on opposition run rates. Danielle Hazell, 30, has been there and seen it all before so she will know exactly what to do.
However, the Three Lions’s other spinning options are all uncapped at international level: slow left-armer Kirstie Gordon was the leading wicket-taker in the Kia Super League with 17 scalps, fellow leftie Linsey Smith took 11 wickets for Loughborough Lightning and all-rounder Sophia Dunkley grabbed six for Surrey Stars with her leg-breaks.
A World Cup is a big stage for these three youngsters to be making their debut and, if they fail to perform, questions will surely be asked of Head Coach Mark Robinson, who elected to leave two more experienced players, Laura Marsh and Alex Hartley, at home.