ENGLAND v NEW ZEALAND: 1st ODI – Inspire & Entertain!

This was supposed to be the harder of England’s two home international series this summer, representing a sterner test than Pakistan, who were dispatched without winning a game back in May. But if that was the plan, nobody seems to have told New Zealand, who folded like a paper plane – England winning by 9 wickets with 172 balls left in the tank.

With England having… how can we put this diplomatically… shall we say “anticipated” a spin-friendly pitch, they went into the game with all three spinners plus two seamers, meaning one of the batters had to step out, and that one was Alice Capsey – the first time she’s missed an ODI when she’s been fit since her debut in September 2022.

It’s a big call to leave out your most talented young player, going into a series England have admitted they are planning to use to experiment a bit, with a top six averaging 31 years old and only one player under 30 – 25-year-old Maia Bouchier. But is is also very on-brand for England’s current management, who aren’t particularly interested in the future beyond their own tenures – they presumably believe that Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt will still be around for the next 50-over World Cup, and after that… who cares?

The theme of the Pakistan series earlier in the summer was mainly that whilst England didn’t play well, Pakistan played worse, and England therefore came out on top. At least here, England can say that they put in a decent team performance. In particular England’s bowling against Pakistan lacked bite, and on more than one occasion they couldn’t find the penetration to finish off their opponents even when they were on the ropes. That meant we were all looking for a response in Durham, and it is fair to say we got it.

New Zealand got off to a bit of a flier, but once wickets started to fall, they tumbled. The only weak link in the attack today was Lauren Bell, who Tammy Beaumont felt compelled to make excuses for in the press conference. It is now an open secret that Bell is trying to add away-swing to her repertoire, and she did bowl one very good ball moving away from the right-hander, which probably deserved a wicket, but unfortunately the other 17 deliveries she got to send down today were a bit of a mess. It’s like she has totally ghosted the deliveries that were working for her, in favour of a dashing new delivery that she can’t actually pin-down to a date, let alone a situationship; and… I just hope it’s worth it.

That aside, England’s bowlers were top-draw today. I have been sceptical of Lauren Filer in the past, but she outbowled Lauren Bell when Storm played Vipers at Bristol a couple of weeks back… and I said so… and she did it again today, so… I’m saying so again! She wasn’t on a sixpence with every delivery, but she does seem to be exercising increasing control without sacrificing the pace which is her key weapon.

The first of New Zealand’s two collapses started with the run out of Georgia Plimmer, who was hit on the boot by a straight drive from Kerr who had already committed to the run. The ball ricocheted to Maia Bouchier at short midwicket, who threw the ball in before Plimmer could reach the striker’s end. The commentators banged on about how unlucky Plimmer was, but I thought this rather downplayed an absolutely outstanding piece of work from Bouchier to effect the dismissal, because the ball didn’t go “straight to her” (long, hard stare at Nick Knight) – it went three yards to her left, so she had to move, pick up the ball, switch hands and then throw the ball in (which she did all in one graceful movement) right on the money for Amy Jones to finish the job.

It was definitely the best thing Maia Bouchier did all day, which is saying something because she went out and played a fantastic knock in partnership with Tammy Beaumont to turn the win, which was by that point inevitable, into a rout. Bouchier seems to be a player that thrives on confidence, and right now that confidence is obviously sky-high – her and Beaumont were clearly having fun out there, and it was fun to watch – England were finally inspiring and entertaining. Maybe there’s a slogan in there for the next marketing campaign?

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