Kate Cross, more than just numbers

England seamer Kate Cross can't contain her excitement after dismissing Smriti Mandhana. © Getty Images

How do you quantify something that is intangible? How do you measure discipline? What about the extent to which a bowler makes life tough for a batter? Or how said bowler puts a lid on the scoring? Because numbers often act as a measure for the tangibles. And those numbers suggest that Kate Cross picked up just one wicket across two innings in a Test match where England accounted for 18. They also suggest she has just one five-wicket haul to show in 28 ODI innings before Wednesday (June 30).

In England’s tour to New Zealand earlier this year, Cross returned a wicket each in each of the two outings she had. It’s a separate tale that she then had a good start to the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy, picking up two three-fers in the first two rounds of the competition.

So purely going by numbers and recent outings in international cricket, Cross should not have played the first ODI, let alone star in the second. After all, waiting in the wings were young Freya Davies, a wonderful swing bowler who proved her worth in New Zealand, and international returnee Natasha Farrant, the left-arm seamer who has the ability to hoop the ball in to the right-handers. No one would have complained had either been picked, but it may have meant England were too focussed on numbers while selecting their XI.

Cross played a huge part in keeping India’s scoring under control in the Test which ended in a thrilling draw. She bowled ten maidens across both innings, the second-most among the seamers in the game. She managed to generate enough movement to keep the batters guessing.

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However, at the County Ground in Taunton on Wednesday (June 30), Cross, who is used to doing the “boring, rubbish job” of “bowling up the hill or into the wind”, added the tangible measure that vindicated the choice and the faith of the team management, bagging her second ODI fifer and reiterating her value to the England side.

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India were cruising along at 55 without loss after 11 overs when Cross was handed the white orb in the second ODI. She did not take time to make an impression, dismissing Smriti Mandhana off her fifth ball. Cross didn’t give Mandhana the width she was looking for and had her drag one on to her stumps. The right-arm seamer then got rid of a nervy Jemimah Rodrigues, whose attempted flick ended in a leading edge to mid-on.

At the other end, Sophie Ecclestone managed to see the back of Shafali Verma and the experienced hands of Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur then had to lead India’s rescue act. They took their time, kept the English bowlers at bay for 102 balls and managed to add 68 runs before Cross was brought back.

‘Mrs Consistent’, as Heather Knight referred her after the match, struck gold by dismissing her doppelganger, Harmanpreet Kaur, caught and bowled. While Cross’ last two victims to complete the fifer were Deepti Sharma – flicking one straight to deep square leg – and Sneh Rana – whose dismissal was akin to Rodrigues’, one of the telling moments of her spell came just before.

Cross had overstepped and batter to face the next ball was Raj. And what delivery did she resort to for the free-hit?

“We knew that a few of the Indian batters didn’t like the short ball. Nat (Sciver) has been bowling it really well in the Test and first ODI,” she explained after the match.

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Kate Cross

Kate Cross bowled a bouncer on a free-hit, that caught Mithali Raj by surprise. © Getty Images

Yes, a bumper! Raj, like most others, was surprised and copped the ball flush on the helmet in her attempt to pull. That blow would later keep her out of the second innings.

“I had the field set for it anyway,” added Cross. “We’ve spoken as a bowling unit about having the variety of deliveries that you can bowl to different fields. So you got options when you’re running into bowl which is good. When you’re bowling to the likes of Shafali Verma, who can put you under pressure, it is good to have variations. Thankfully I executed it and hopefully Mithali is okay.”

Cross finished with five for 34 in her ten overs on what she termed “a special day”.

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Cross is not only consistent, but she is also confident. Although it was just her second ODI fifer, the right-arm seamer admitted that she didn’t feel like she “needed one”.

“I kind of felt like I was due to have a day out which feels probably sounds a bit arrogant. But I think I know I have been bowling really well recently, which is one of the reasons why I got to start in the XI in the last ODI. I knew that I had the confidence of the coaches and they were behind me.”

The 29-year-old also spoke about constantly evolving and learning new things, like her teammate Katherine Brunt.

“I am still hungry to learn new skills. When you get in this team you want to stay in this team. So you got to still develop and that is something that Katherine Brunt, who is a role model for a lot of bowlers, has done in her career.”

For a change, Cross stole the headlines – along with Sophia Dunkley – from Brunt and Anya Shrubsole. The outing also ensured that the tangibles were taken care of.