England must solve opening crisis to improve chances at 2020 T20 World Cup

Although England racked up 176/2 during their crushing victory over debutants Thailand in their second match at the 2020 T20 World Cup, concerns remain about their batting line-up due to the poor form of openers Amy Jones and Danni Wyatt.

In their last six competitive T20 matches, they have scored just 92 runs between them, which is an average of just 15.33 per match. This is clearly nowhere near good enough, and it is a trend that could cost England dearly if it continues.

Here is a recap of England’s first two matches at the 2020 T20 World Cup:

Knight leads by example as England bounce back against Thailand

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Heather Knight led the way with a superb century as England got their T20 World Cup campaign back on track with a comprehensive 98-run win over Thailand.

The Three Lions captain made an unbeaten 108 as she shared a T20 World Cup record partnership of 169 with Natalie Sciver, who finished 59 not out. Their exploits enabled England to post 176/2.

England then produced a clinical bowling display to ensure Thailand got nowhere near that score. Anya Shrubsole took 3-21, Sciver 2-5 and Sophie Ecclestone 1-11 as they restricted their opponents to 78/7.

Batters let England down during defeat to South Africa

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While the thumping win over Thailand was encouraging for England, their previous performance against South Africa was disappointing from a batting point of view.

In that match, Natalie Sciver’s 50 was the only significant contribution as the Three Lions laboured to 123/8 in their 20 overs.

To their credit, the England players bowled and fielded well to force the South African chase into a final over.

Ecclestone was particularly impressive as she took 2-19, and she was backed up well by the other four bowlers, Shrubsole, Sciver Katherine Brunt and Sarah Glenn, who were all economical.

Although the fielding performance will have pleased the coaching staff, it arguably makes the batting display even more irritating. This is because, if England had scored 20 more runs, or even 10, they would have had a great chance of starting their T20 World Cup campaign with a win.

What’s going wrong with England’s batting?

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The most obvious issue concerns England’s openers. Danni Wyatt is enduring a rotten run of form, while Amy Jones has not yet proved she is the right woman to bat alongside her.

Solutions for poor form are never clear, so the only thing Wyatt’s coaching staff and teammates can really do is try and ensure she is in the good state of mind to go out there and score runs the next time she bats. One good innings could still kick-start a good tournament for the Three Lions’ most destructive T20 batter.

In the case of Jones, the solution for England is potentially a change in the batting order. The coaching staff and captain have decided that sending Jones in first and putting Tammy Beaumont in the middle order is the best approach for the team.

But have they made the wrong call? Beaumont is one of their best batters and she has not spent much time at the crease in the last six T20s she has played.

This seems like a waste of her talent. The Kent player is a better batter than Jones and she has more experience of major tournaments. At the 50-over World Cup in 2017, she played nine matches and finished as the leading run scorer and player of the tournament. Then she played in five matches at the 2018 T20 World Cup.

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By contrast, Jones only participated in five tournament matches prior to the 2020 T20 World Cup. With this in mind, surely Beaumont would be a more reliable opener for England? If they make the change, it might also have a positive effect on Wyatt, who has opened many times with Beaumont for club and country.

Furthermore, it would mean that England’s four best batters occupied the top four positions in the order, which is probably the most sensible approach to T20 cricket. Jones could then come in at five and Fran Wilson could move down to six, where she is equally comfortable.

If the Three Lions want quick runs from their middle order, they can continue to bring in Brunt earlier than her stated slot at seven. While it would be harsh to deprive Jones of batting time in this way, it is a better than not giving Beaumont a chance to bat and wondering if she would have done better than her teammate.

Changing the order might also improve England’s prospects in the middle order, as their current set-up has only brought limited success. In their six T20 matches so far in 2020, the only scores of note are Beaumont’s 37 against India and contributions of 39 and 20 not out from Wilson. Equally, returning Beaumont to the top of the order might reduce the Three Lions’ reliance on the batters occupying positions five to eight.

 

 

 

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