Zestful England driven to create history at home
One of the teams that will really fancy their chances heading into the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham are Heather Knight’s England. They have had the best possible preparation leading into the global event as they comprehensively defeated South Africa at home.
They find themselves in Group B alongside New Zealand, South Africa, and Sri Lanka and given the kind of imperious form they have displayed of late it will be very difficult for other teams to hinder their campaign.
Intimidating opening pair
In Danielle Wyatt, England already had a feared ball striker right at the top of the batting order in T20Is. But the team management decided to go in with an ultra-aggressive approach and hence promoted Sophia Dunkley (who has a strike rate of 116.42 in T20Is) to become Wyatt’s accomplice in leading England’s belligerence at the top.
England skipper Knight had dropped hints of opening with Dunkley ahead of the T20I series against the Proteas and illustrated reasons for the same.
“In terms of T20, Sophia is definitely an option to open the batting. She’s done it a little bit here and there, and been really impressive in how she goes about doing things. She’s naturally a very quick scorer and wants to hit boundaries and take things on, so she’s certainly an option for us at the top end.”
Wyatt has had a spectacular stint opening the batting for England in T20Is. She has opened on 66 occasions thus far and aggregated 1627 runs at a blazing strike rate of 128.00. Among openers with a minimum of 200 runs in T20Is, Wyatt has the fifth-highest strike rate (128.00).
In Natalie Sciver and Knight, England have two vastly experienced batters who embellish their middle order. Both batters are adept at switching gears and it makes their combination lethal. While Sciver has played for England in 94 T20Is, Knight has featured in 88 games.
Even if the duo of Dunkley and Wyatt misses its mark in a game, England can still aim to score more than 160 because of their two experienced middle-order batters.
Balanced bowling attack
England have one of the most balanced bowling attacks in the tournament. In Kate Cross and Katherine Brunt, they have pacers who come with a lot of T20 experience in their kitty and the management has also included Issy Wong for her pace to hurry the batters.
In the spin department too, the hosts have two world-class spinners in Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn. Both bowlers are currently ranked first and second on the ICC T20I bowlers rankings respectively. Being entirely different in terms of craft, they complement each other really well and hunt in tandem.
Lack of a marauder down the order
England’s decision of blooding in both their dashers in Wyatt and Dunkley at the top has created a void down the order. The format of T20 cricket requires every team to have a big hitter down the order – someone who can obliterate bowlers at the death and tonk the ball many a mile.
And in the case of England, they do not have someone who can really execute the same down the order. On paper, they have the experience of wicket-keeper batter Amy Jones lower down but she has a strike rate of 119.70, which is not enough to send chills down the spines of opposition bowlers.
Tammy Beaumont was a notable omission when England announced their 15-member squad for CWG. The intent was clear – ultra-aggression instead of security.
Beaumont’s omission means that England won’t have a player with the experience of 99 T20I caps in the team. Often in global tournaments with challenges galore, you need experienced heads to help you navigate through them, and therefore the ouster of Beaumont might cost England.
If we had to single out one team that will be massively benefit with Birmingham being the venue for the Commonwealth Games 2022, then it would be England. England are highly familiar with what the conditions in Birmingham will have on offer.
Having not won any of the T20 World Cups thus far, skipper Knight has the opportunity to win the tournament and drive home the bragging rights of being the champions of the inaugural edition (in terms of CWG 2022 being the first Games to include women’s cricket).
The new-look England team has done exceedingly well thus far. Beating South Africa 3-0 in the T20I series was the kind of result Knight’s side wanted leading into a global event like the Commonwealth Games.
But playing in such a gigantic event, living under the pressure of being a part of the English contingent, and also the pressure to do well at home might hurt their campaign.
The way they dismantled the Proteas at home has given high hopes to the English fans but will the team benefit from the weight of all those expectations or will it impede their campaign? Only time will tell.