Women’s T20 World Cup: What can England take from tournament?

While Australia are toasting their fifth T20 World Cup title in seven editions, England are ruing the rain.

Australia – who thumped India by 85 runs in Sunday’s MCG final – saw the weather hold long enough for them to overcome South Africa in the semi-finals, but England were not so lucky against India, with a complete washout eliminating them at the last-four stage.

As Heather Knight’s side build for next year’s 50-over World Cup in India, which takes place between February 6 and March 7 – we look at what England can take from the just-concluded tournament…

Spin spots well stocked

Left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone tops the women’s T20I rankings and may have been able to make a play for leading wicket-taker in the World Cup had England’s competition not ended prematurely. The 20-year-old bagged eight scalps in four games at an average of 6.12, with a best of 3-7 in the heavy victory over West Indies, and only three times in her 24 T20Is to date has she failed to take a wicket. If Ecclestone, who has taken 50 T20I scalps in her career, is the chief spin threat then she now has two excellent allies in leg-spinner Sophie Glenn and off-spinner Mady Villiers.

Glenn has picked up 15 wickets in 10 T20Is since making her debut at the back end of 2019 and a further eight in three ODIs, while Villiers claimed two wickets on her home England debut, two in her first appearance overseas and then one on her T20 World Cup bow. Villiers is also a cracking fielder and useful lower-order batter to boot. Villiers, at 21, is the oldest of England’s spin trio so they could be together for quite time, although Kirstie Gordon – the team’s leading wicket-taker at the 2018 T20 World Cup in the Caribbean – will be looking to break back into contention. And she is just 22.

Heather Knight rising

Knight has been captain for going on four years and was at the helm as England became 50-over World Cup champions in 2017. Yet, if you were asked to name the team’s most influential batters over recent years you might have mentioned Tammy Beaumont, Nat Sciver (more on her later) and Sarah Taylor, before the latter retired from internationals in 2019.

Knight, though, has flourished so far in 2020, passing fifty four times in her eight T20I innings, including striking a century against Thailand in the World Cup as she became the first female cricketer to score a ton in all three international formats. Knight’s 66-ball 108 versus Thailand featured four sixes, emphasising how her power game has developed. With Knight and Sciver at three and four in the line-up, whichever way round, England have an upper middle order they can rely on, with Sciver “playing the best she has ever played”, according to former England captain Charlotte Edwards.

Sciver stars consistently

Sciver was knocked into third on the run-scoring charts after the final as Player of the Tournament Beth Mooney and Player of the Match Alyssa Healy struck half-centuries for Australia. However, the England all-rounder – who managed 202 runs and hit three fifties in four innings – tops the Southern Stars duo when it comes to average, having scored her runs at 67.33. “She is just so commanding at the wicket. She keeps putting in performance after performance,” Edwards had said of Sciver after her 57 from 56 deliveries against West Indies in Sydney earlier this month. A growing role with the ball and a fine fielder, Sciver is a triple threat in this England team but it was her batting that impressed most in the T20 World Cup as she tried to rebuild after early wickets.

Opening partnership a worry

While Australia’s opening pair flourished – Healy and Mooney sharing two century stands, including one of 115 in the final – England’s did not. Danni Wyatt and Amy Jones put on 25, nought and four against South Africa, Thailand and Pakistan respectively before a re-jigged pairing of Wyatt and Beaumont added just one against West Indies, which left Sciver having to construct a platform and not build on one. With the 50-over World Cup less than a year away, the top two is something England will want to nail down.

We saw, for example, how much of an impact Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy had on England men’s World Cup win last summer. Wyatt and Beaumont opened in the previous ODI series, against Pakistan in Malaysia, and hit a hundred apiece in one game and that may be the way to go in the lead up to the World Cup, with Jones perhaps best served in a finishing role, a position from which she smashed a rapid 23 against West Indies.

Cut out the slip-ups

England could have avoided the rain-wrecked first semi-final and instead played in the second had they not suffered a defeat to South Africa in their opening game, a result that ultimately led to them finishing second in Group B. Even after being restricted to 123-8 by the Proteas, England had their chances in the chase, taking an early wicket, keeping the run rate in relative check and then reducing South Africa from 90-1 to 90-3, before being unable to defend nine in the final over.

It was a similar story in the first two ODIs of last year’s Women’s Ashes, when they let Australia off the hook and slipped to narrow defeats which set the Southern Stars on their way to a thumping 12-4 win on points. England need to improve in the pressure moments, which is surely something coach Lisa Keightley, still early on in her tenure, will be keen to address.

The game is developing fast

Not being in the T20 World Cup final was galling enough for England but even more so considering that the showpiece game was played in front of 86,174 people – a record for a women’s cricket match. The appetite for women’s cricket has surged, something England experienced themselves when they beat India in the 2017 50-over World Cup final at a sold-out Lord’s. The first standalone Women’s T20 World Cup – the men’s does not take place until October – was a raging success, save for some chuntering about the lack of a reserve day for the semi-finals, a rule that also, it must be said, applies to the men’s edition, also in Australia.

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