After the euphoria of 50-over World Cup glory in 2017, it has been a sobering couple of years for the England Women.
First, they were hammered by Australia in the final of 2018 T20 World Cup in the West Indies. Then they were trounced 12-4 by the same opponents in the 2019 Women’s Ashes.
The net effect of these results is that England, who were arguably the best team in the world in 2017, are now quite a long way behind Australia.
That does mean they cannot win the T20 World Cup. But it undoubtedly makes it a lot more difficult.
Current FormEmbed from Getty Images
The recent Tri-Nation Series between England, Australia and India gave the teams the ideal opportunity to hone their skills and test their ability to perform under pressure before the World Cup.
From an entertainment perspective, it was encouraging to see that the sides looked fairly evenly-matched.
However, Australia were triumphant once again, and this outcome was particularly troubling for England fans to see.
To make matters worse, England wasted a golden chance to eliminate their arch enemy in the final group game.
Sophie Ecclestone, Sarah Glenn, Katherine Brunt and Natalie Sciver all bowled superbly to help their team restrict Australia to 132/7 in their 20 overs.
In the chase, Sciver and her captain Heather Knight manoeuvred England into the strong position of 53/2 after 8.2 overs.
Then four batters – Sciver, Knight, Fran Wilson and Tammy Beaumont – gave their wickets away in very disappointing fashion to leave their innings in all sorts of trouble at 70/6 after 12.5 overs.
Despite a valiant effort from Brunt and Lauren Winfield to resurrect the chase, England ultimately fell 16 runs short of their target. It was a very sour note on which to end a promising tournament.
Good Signs for EnglandEmbed from Getty Images
England have four genuinely outstanding T20 players in their side who are somewhere near their peak now: Danni Wyatt, Natalie Sciver, Heather Knight and Sophie Ecclestone.
Three of those four played well in the Tri-Nation Series. Ecclestone bowled brilliantly throughout; Knight made excellent contributions of 78 and 67; and Sciver made important contributions with both bat and ball. It is vital for England’s chances at the T20 World Cup that all three maintain their form.
At her best, Danni Wyatt is England’s most effective T20 batter. She can take the game away from the opposition with her destructive hitting, and if she gets a big score her team usually wins.
The most memorable examples of the Sussex player’s prowess came during her two T20I centuries. In 2017, she stunned Australia with a brilliant 100 off 57 balls in Canberra. Then she produced an even better performance in 2018 as she hammered 124 off just 64 balls to power England to victory over India in Mumbai.
Unfortunately, Wyatt struggled in the Tri-Nations Series as she made scores of 4, 17, 14 and 11. These low scores will worry England, as they need her to find form during the T20 World Cup. If she does, they have a chance of winning the tournament.
The strength in depth in the England squad is also a positive sign. Glenn provided good back-up to Ecclestone during the Tri-Nations Series, while Mady Villiers is another exciting prospect in the spin department. Georgia Elwiss offers an extra option with bat and ball. Freya Davies looks to be an excellent young seamer. And Kate Cross is an experienced cricketer who would be an able deputy for any of the other pace bowlers.
Worries for EnglandEmbed from Getty Images
There are two main areas of worry for Lisa Keightley and the rest of her backroom staff: fast bowling, and batting consistency.
Fast bowling used to be one of England’s key strengths. Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt were a brilliant opening partnership and they won plenty of matches between them.
Sometimes, they are still able to do this. But Shrubsole has been struggling with a foot injury recently and has not performed at her best for a while.
Thankfully, Brunt is currently injury-free. She also showed some decent form during the Tri-Nations Series as she took five wickets in four matches. However, the veteran seamer will be 35 in a few months and she has a long history of injuries, so the next time she breaks down could conceivably be the last. Hopefully, she stays fit throughout the T20 World Cup and England win it to provide her career with a fitting swansong.
As Shrubsole may not be able to play much of the time, Brunt will need support from the talented but inexperienced Freya Davies and back-up seamer Kate Cross. Much may depend on their performances.
When Brunt suffered an injury during a warm-up match before the 2018 T20 World Cup, all-rounder Sciver stepped up and bowled superbly to help England reach the final. If she can perform well with the ball again, the team will be much stronger for it.
Inconsistent batting is arguably England’s biggest Achilles’ heel. All their top six batters – Amy Jones, Wyatt, Sciver, Knight, Wilson and Beaumont – are very talented cricketers but you can never be sure if they are going to perform well or not.
Knight is probably the most consistent, followed by Sciver. But Jones, Wyatt, Wilson and Beaumont can go several games without a score, and it would be disastrous if they all struggled during the T20 World Cup.
Taking all this into consideration, these are the most important things England’s batters must do to fire their team to glory:
- Wyatt must get at least two scores over 70 or three over 50.
- The batters must avoid sloppy dismissals wherever possible.
- Wilson and Beaumont need to be adaptable in the middle order. If the top four fail, they must play sensibly. If the top four perform well, they must score quickly.
- Knight and Sciver need to maintain their form and status as two of England’s best players.
- All the batters must bat better and score more forms against than they have done recently.
If England do all five of these things, they will have a fantastic chance of lifting the T20 World Cup trophy at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 8 March.