Batting in focus as New Zealand look to draw level

New Zealand team © Getty Images

When New Zealand arrived in England, the main focus was on their struggles in recent times and the discourse had some merit with them winning only one of their last 15 ODIs before this series. Despite these numbers, they gave a good account of themselves in the first two matches, but like many middling sides, fell away at the back end and allowed the hosts to come back to win those games.

There was a sense of déjà vu and a series loss felt inevitable when New Zealand found themselves in trouble once again in the third ODI on Tuesday (September) at the face of a moderate target after the bowling unit skittled England out for a third time in a row. But they didn’t throw in the towel as Maddy Green played a key role to guide the chase home with an unbeaten 70 off 106 balls.

“Our bowlers have been going exceptionally well in all three games, and bowling a really quality side out three times in a row is no mean feat,” Green said at the post match media interaction. “From a batter’s point of view, to finish the job and make sure we got a win was really satisfying, and I hope that it gives the batting unit as a whole real confidence that we can beat these guys.”

Lea Tahuhu has been exceptional with the ball for the visitors and led the bowling attack with aplomb on her return from the injury lay-off. She is the leading wicket-taker in the series with eight wickets at an average of 14.62 from the three matches. The 30-year-old was went on to take her maiden five-wicket haul in the format on Tuesday and if that wasn’t enough, she came back to smash a few runs when the chase looked iffy to take New Zealand home in style with a six.

Green was effusive in her praise of the right-arm pacer and added that Tahuhu should have been the player of the match instead of her for the relentless bowling performance against the hosts.

While Tahuhu grabbed the headlines, other New Zealand bowlers have been impressive as well. From experienced Sophie Devine to debutant Molly Penfold have contributed in helping them bowl England out in all three matches. With the bowling attack settled, it was only a matter of time for the results to come in their favour if the batters turned up.

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Amy Satterthwaite didn’t have any support in the first game while no one went past the 30-run mark in the second. With Green batting through on the night at the Grace Road, the support she received from Satterthwaite, Brooke Halliday along with Tahuhu’s finishing touches, New Zealand finally got over the line and have something to show for their efforts in the series.

Although New Zealand will be pleased with the fact that they managed to win the match despite little contribution from Suzie Bates and Devine with the bat, they would want the experienced duo to come good in the fourth match of the series when they take the field in Derby on Thursday (September 23). It remains to be seen if Lauren Down keeps her place as the opener alongside Bates, otherwise the tourists won’t be making any changes to their batting line-up.

As far as the bowling is concerned, Penfold made a good account of herself with Jess Kerr sitting out of the third ODI with a niggle. New Zealand won’t lose their sleep even if the swing bowler fail to recover in time. Hannah Rowe, who was rested for the third match, might return in place of Hayley Jensen.

“We have been working really hard, and it is nice to see it come off with a win. Having said that, we are still 2-1 down, all to play for on Thursday and the final game as well,” Green added.

That brings us to England, despite their good run in the format, The hosts have been bowled out inside the fifty overs during all the five occasions they had to bat first prompting skipper Heather Knight to raise concerns about the batting.

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In the first match, it was Knight’s 89 that helped England to the score of 241 and in the other two games, they had early collapses and it was the lower order that lend the score some respectability. In-form batters Tammy Beaumont and Natalie Sciver (she was rested in the third game) haven’t set the stage on fire and the middle order comprising of Amy Jones and Sophia Dunkley didn’t fare much better either.

“As a top order we were pretty disappointed in that dressing room not being able to put together a total. But we know the talent we’ve got in that batting line-up. We’re going to have to find a way to turn it around quickly,” Knight said.

Katherine Brunt continues to be as reliable as ever with the ball, but her meaningful contributions with the bat have been instrumental in the series so far and other pacers like Kate Cross and Natasha Farrant have also been among the runs. But Knight don’t want them to take the burden of the batting and hoped the recognised batters will take up the responsibility in the last two matches.

“They (the lower order) have been desperate to work really hard on their batting. I am really pleased for them, as a batting group we don’t want to put them in that position too often, we want to score the majority of the runs,” Knight added.

With Danielle Wyatt scoring an unbeaten 63 in the lower order in the second match, England would resist the temptation to open the batting with her in place of Lauren Winfield-Hill, who had two starts in three innings, and there are no other changes likely in the batting order or line-up with Knight backing them to come good.

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Ahead of the series, Knight talked about the workload and resting Sciver from the third ODI was in line with this thought and Anya Shrubsole hasn’t made an appearance so far with England managing her injury. So, it remains to be seen if Brunt will be rested once again with Sciver expected to make a return to the XI. Charlotte Dean’s performance in her debut series also might continue to keep Sarah Glenn away from the line-up.

Will the bowlers once again reign supreme at the County Ground in Derby or can the top order from both sides turn up to make it the contest of batters come Thursday?

Squads

England: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Freya Davies, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Sophie Ecclestone, Natasha Farrant, Sarah Glenn, Amy Jones, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danielle Wyatt

New Zealand: Sophie Devine (c), Amy Satterthwaite, Suzie Bates, Lauren Down, Claudia Green, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Jess Kerr, Katey Martin (wk), Leigh Kasperek, Molly Penfold, Jessica McFadyen (wk), Thamsyn Newton, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu