West Indies vs England: Will Stafanie Taylor's mercurial side surprise the defending champions too?
West Indies (L) England (R) © Getty Images
After facing a 12-run defeat in their opening game at the hands of arch-rivals Australia in what turned out to be a stern test, defending champions England will look to resurrect their campaign against the West Indies on Wednesday in Dunedin.
Heather Knight's side gave a tough fight to the six-time champions but Meg Lanning's Australia turned out to be too strong for them. England's bowling has been riding on just a few names and when they miss their mark things become extremely difficult for them.
With just two bowlers in the top-ten of the ICC ODI Bowlers Rankings in Sophie Ecclestone (2nd) and Katherine Brunt (9th), the English bowlers have been ineffective recently and hence there are not many English names in the top ten.
When Heather Knight's side had stepped on the field against the mighty Aussies, they needed their bowlers, especially their premier spinner in Ecclestone, to restrict their batting order if not run through it. And it just didn't happen. She turned out to be the most expensive bowler as she was taken for 77 runs in her ten overs and couldn't pick a single wicket.
The duo of Rachael Haynes and Meg Lanning were really wily in their approach as they used their feet to good effect to put Ecclestone off her game. They forced her to change her length and hence she dragged it back after which they skillfully leant back and used the depth of the crease to score square of the wicket.
What adds to England's woes is that their two opening bowlers in Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole are lacking in terms of pace. The Aussie batters were comfortably able to get behind their deliveries and cut loose as they erred in length consistently. It was Kate Cross and Nat Sciver who salvaged their bowling efforts a bit and didn't allow the Aussies to sky-rocket the run rate. If England have to defend their title, then their bowlers will have to pull up their socks as they seem to have lost their menacing touch.
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As far as the batting department is concerned, it looks fairly sorted at the moment. Sciver played one of the best knocks of her ODI career and brought her side tantalisingly close to victory. Her valiant knock of 109* runs in a way defined her growing stature in the side and how she is evolving into one of the most bankable batters in the unit. Opener Tammy Beaumont and skipper Knight also looked good during their respective stints in the middle.
In contrast, the West Indies were able to make headlines by virtue of their win in a tug of war that saw the hosts New Zealand miss out by the barest of margins. In team sports, unlike Tennis or Golf, you rarely see individual performances making a big difference but then that was not the case when Stafanie Taylor's side took the field against the hosts in the tournament opener.
It took an exuberant all-round effort from Hayley Matthews and some spirited and disciplined bowling performances from the veteran Anisa Mohammed and Deandra Dottin to cause the only upset in the tournament thus far. While Matthews was clearly the most stand out performer, it was Dottin who held her nerve in the last over and dashed all hopes for the White Ferns.
Although the side from the Caribbean got off to a winning start, that doesn't mean that they have solved the jig-saw puzzle fully. They clearly struggled in the field and failed to hold on to most of the opportunities that came their way. To be fair to the Windies' bowling, they created plenty of chances but it was the team's fielding which left the door ajar for the hosts to remain in the contest.
The West Indies certainly do not look like a side that can steamroll oppositions and hence aren't being billed as one of the favourites to seal a semi-final berth. But if they can minimise their mistakes in the field then they can certainly cause a few more 'upsets'.
England clearly have the wood over the Windies. In 22 ODIs played so far, England have won 15 matches and the West Indies have won only five of them, while two matches haven't yielded any result. So although the odds are largely in favour of the defending champions, they cannot take Taylor's side for granted.
What they said:
“Not really, I think, you know, last World Cup we lost the first game against India and pretty much had games throughout. So that's just part of the World Cup campaign. I think we knew taking on Australia was going to be really tough. And I think we can take a lot from that game and how we went about it with the bat and how we're trying to chase down totals and yeah, just tighten up and build into the campaign and hopefully put in a good performance tomorrow and get that first win on the board.”
– Tammy Beaumont on the morale of the team after the opening loss against Australia.
“I mean, yes, I mean, during the game, the fall of the wickets - we had discussions about it. It was really just about not panicking. I mean, we know we started off well, we batted well, and the mentality going out there was that we can't lose this game after we started well, so I mean, even after the misfields and the dropped catches, we still got behind each other. We still supported each other. I mean, today in training, we just tweaked a few things. And yeah, let's see how it goes in tomorrow's game.”
– Chinelle Henry on their missed chances in the clash against the White Ferns.
Players to watch out for:
Nat Sciver: With the way Sciver is playing at the moment, it is hard to look beyond her and pick someone else in this section. She was the reason why England got to the point from where they could sniff victory in the opening game. Sciver took calculated risks during her batting effort and maneuvered the field with her outstanding strokeplay. She was also the pick of the English bowlers as she picked up a two-wicket haul and didn't let the Aussies fly away with the run-rate.
Hayley Matthews: Quite similar to Sciver, Matthews was the player who created a lot of impact in her side's opening game. She clearly understands her responsibility and doesn't let her game suffer due to the workload that she is currently shouldering as one of the premier all rounders in the side. Her timing was superb as she was able to read the wicket pretty well and executed her shots to perfection. Once again, the team will rely on her a lot and she will have to deliver if the Windies are to register their second win on the trot.
Overall: Played 22 matches, England 15 – 5 West Indies
Head to head in World Cups: Played four matches, England 3 – 0 West Indies
West Indies: Deandra Dottin, Hayley Matthews, Kycia Knight, Stafanie Taylor (c), Shemaine Campbelle (wk), Chedean Nation, Chinelle Henry, Aaliyah Alleyne, Anisa Mohammed, Shakera Selman, Shamilia Connell
England: Lauren Winfield Hill, Tammy Beaumont, Heather Knight (c), Natalie Sciver, Amy Jones (wk), Danielle Wyatt, Sophia Dunkley, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Kate Cross, Anya Shrubsole