Winfield-Hill or Wyatt – Who should open with Beaumont in ODIs for England?

From left to right: Lauren Winfield-Hill, Tammy Beaumont, Danielle Wyatt. © Getty Images/ Women's CricZone

Tammy Beaumont has been a run-machine in ODIs for England in recent times. She has averaged in excess of 50 since the 2017 Women’s World Cup. In 2021, she has scored four half-centuries in seven ODIs and continued her good form in the first ODI against New Zealand on Thursday (September 16), where she missed out on a fifty by six runs.

In the last four years, Beaumont has had three opening partners – Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danielle Wyatt and Amy Jones. Jones opened the most times (18) followed by Wyatt (8) and Winfield-Hill (6). In the last World Cup, Beaumont and Winfield-Hill opened in seven innings and added 247 runs together.

With Jones, Beaumont has added 942 runs at an average of over 52. However, Jones is now donning the gloves for England and hence has moved down to No. 5, which was deemed the right move and she has flourished in that role.

During England’s tour of India in 2018, Wyatt was asked to open with Beaumont and the pair responded with successive 70-run returns. After the series, England shifted to the pair of Beaumont and Jones before returning to Beaumont-Wyatt in late 2019. They shared a massive 188-run stand in the first ODI against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur.

At the time, the duo, who open regularly in T20Is for England, seemed the way forward for the 50-over World Champions, with them banking on Wyatt to have the effect Alyssa Healy has had for Australia at the top of the order. But Wyatt’s lean run in international cricket before the series against India – since her maiden ODI ton in 2019, she had crossed the 30-run mark across formats only twice in 21 outings – saw her left out of the ODI squad against runners-up of the 2017 World Cup.

As a result, Winfield-Hill, who showed promising form in domestic cricket, was given another opportunity to open alongside Beaumont. Winfield-Hill, on her part, is yet to register a big score. However, each time the 31-year-old walked out to bat, including in the one-off Test match against India, she has looked assured in her stroke-play. She also earned praise for her approach from India’s Vanitha VR.

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Even in the first ODI against New Zealand in Bristol, she began confidently, driving Jess Kerr through cover, smashing Sophie Devine to long-on and then reading the length quickly and rocking on to the back foot and crunching the pull shot towards mid-wicket. The innocuous mode of dismissal notwithstanding – she was caught behind trying to flick a ball off her pads – Winfield-Hill should still be the opener England invest in looking ahead to the World Cup.

With Wyatt, there is a tendency for her to blow hot and cold. Purely based on numbers, it appears she is yet to crack the code in ODIs. In 77 ODIs thus far, Wyatt has 1046 runs at an average of just over 19. In the same number of games, Beaumont had 2715 runs at an average of 45.25. Winfield-Hill, meanwhile, already has 1018 in 47 innings.

Wyatt has been around for over a decade now; so there is no dearth of experience either. She has been tried in middle and lower-middle-order roles, too, but with little success. With the selection to the England squad increasingly focussing on performances in domestic cricket, the pressure on Wyatt is manifold.

The likes of Emma Lamb, Ella McCaughan, Georgia Adams to name a few have been raking up the runs in domestic cricket – both in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy as well as the Charlotte Edwards Cup. Lisa Keightley has laid emphasis on rewarding domestic performances, and Charlie Dean, Maia Bouchier and Lamb making their international debuts against New Zealand drives home the point. With attacking and consistent options at their disposal, the clock is ticking faster for Wyatt, despite Heather Knight insisting that the 30-year-old features in England’s World Cup plans.

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Danielle Wyatt hasn’t quite been able to replicate her success from T20Is in the ODIs. © Getty Images

Beaumont’s terrific form with the bat does indeed have a role in deciding her opening partner. With her getting off the blocks pretty quickly, Winfield-Hill becomes the perfect ice to the fire that is Beaumont. After the five-match ODI series against New Zealand, England have two series of three ODIs each – against Pakistan and Australia – before the World Cup early next year. And that could be well the time for them to let Beaumont and Winfield-Hill settle in their role yet again.

It could perhaps be time for England to look past Wyatt as an ODI player. The short-term option could be to have her as a backup opener till the World Cup to keep Winfield-Hill and Beaumont on their toes. However, the fact that Wyatt was recalled to the ODI setup for the series against Kiwis means that England are not keen on shaking up the top order months before the quadrennial event. And that could mean that Wyatt might indeed be in with another shot at making the spot her own.

With hardly six months to go for the World Cup, being in a quandary with respect to the combination is something that the defending champions can ill afford. The current series against New Zealand could well decide the direction of their thinking. And thus, it is not an ‘open’ and shut case yet for England.