England Women’s head coach Lisa Keightley is excited by England’s evolution in limited overs cricket as they prepare to take on New Zealand in a three-match T20 series which begins on Wednesday.
England prevailed 2-1 in their one-day international series against the Kiwis, having secured an unassailable lead courtesy of emphatic wins by eight and seven wickets respectively in the first two ODIs.
The tourists were denied a series sweep in Dunedin as Amy Satterthwaite struck a magnificent unbeaten hundred to guide New Zealand to a seven-wicket triumph, as Amelia Kerr also starred with 4-42 and an unbeaten 72.
This ended New Zealand’s 11-match losing streak, while also denying England an 11th consecutive win across all formats, but Keightley was delighted with her side’s performances, in her first ODI series since taking charge last January.
“The first game; I don’t think we could have played much better,” she told reporters in a virtual press conference.
“I’ve been really pleased that we’ve been able to try a few combinations and looking forward, not to be as predictable as potentially we have been, looking at the conditions, who it suits from what end; all those sort of things have been really helpful.
“I think we’re pretty set with our batting order. I like what we have. Obviously, today wasn’t the best day, but to be honest I’m not sure we would have elected to bat if it was a game that really counted.
“We had an eye on the T20s. We had a middle-order that hadn’t really had much cricket. Unfortunately, on the slower pitch they probably didn’t execute as well as they’d like and we didn’t score enough runs.
“I think for having a hit and getting the batters out first in an innings going into the T20s, it’s just given some players a bit more time in the middle.”
England’s middle-order batters were largely redundant in the early stages of the series, with Tammy Beaumont registering three consecutive half-centuries and amassing 231 runs throughout the series.
Beaumont carried her bat in the final two matches of the series, and Keightley heaped praise on the England opener, and the impact she’s had on her team-mates by establishing a solid foundation.
“In the first two games we had great partnerships. Tammy Beaumont showed her dominance in this format,” Keightley added.
“It’s been brilliant for her to score as many runs as she has. She has been a real anchor for us and that’s allowed Heather [Knight] and Nat [Sciver] to play a few more shots and take teams on a little bit more.”
“I’m really excited how Amy Jones went out and batted in the second ODI. Nat Sciver is getting better and better every game. Heather Knight at No 3 sets a good base.
Keightley also heaped praise on England’s bowling attack, which didn’t include vice captain Anya Shrubsole, who has been sidelined with a knee injury.
Shrubsole has been an instrumental part of England’s success across all formats over the last decade, but her absence has given others the opportunity to underline their international credentials.
“From the bowling point of view I think we’ve really improved each game,” the 48-year-old continued.
“We’ve been able to give players more experience at ODI level. Sarah Glenn hasn’t played much, Freya Davies hasn’t played much, Tash Farrant has only played a handful of games.
“Not having Anya Shrubsole around is very new – she’s always been part of the bowling line-up for England for a number of years; it was good to expose some players to see what they could do.
“I’ve been new in the role and obviously haven’t had much experience around the girls playing 50-over cricket, so it’s been great for me to have a look at the players, to see what our strengths are and areas to improve and to start to build a brand in 50-over cricket that we want to play.”
England will return to New Zealand to defend their World Cup crown in March 2022 and with an Ashes tour in Australia also on the horizon, Keightley admits it was invaluable to sample the conditions.
“It’s been really helpful. You can’t repeat what you do in any other country except playing in the country. The conditions here were really interesting.
“The pitch had quite a lot of fluffy grass but hard underneath, and we saw how much it swung and the extra bounce that we had, so from that point of view I think that experience is really good.”
However, England’s immediate focus is on the impending T20 series, and having dismantled West Indies 5-0 in the shortest format of the game last summer, Keightley insists she wants her side to ‘punch first’.
“We want to punch first and take it to teams early, that’s obviously with Dani [Wyatt] and Tammy [Beaumont] up top. That’s their role, to put pressure on the bowlers as early as we can. We want to be able to hit boundaries.
“To do that sometimes you have to take high-risk in T20 cricket, so it’s a balance of when you do that. We want to really stretch ourselves and try and get some really big scores and tell our players to go out and play with freedom.”