Heather Knight must be wondering what the guff about the rigours of high office is all about. For her first day in the captaincy job that Charlotte Edwards held for a decade she led England to a clinical seven-wicket win to go one-up over Pakistan in their series opener. In the process she became the first captain to combine a five-wicket haul and a half-century in almost 1,000 women’s one-day internationals.
For their first game since their uninspiring World T20 England were without not only Edwards but her fellow-retiree Lydia Greenway and the wicketkeeper-batsman Sarah Taylor, the latter missing due to treatment for anxiety. It was the first time Edwards – watching from the commentary box – and Taylor were both missing from the England XI in six years. Taylor will be back soon enough but even so this remains a new era by any measure, the recently appointed coach, Mark Robinson, doubling as change agent.
Edwards’s departure was explained in part on the basis that her absence would allow a new generation to flourish by taking greater ownership of the side’s fate. On day one this was illustrated by the confident 70 stroked by Tammy Beaumont at the top of the order as England accounted for Pakistan’s 165 with 109 balls to spare.
After finally finding her feet at the highest level at the World T20 in India, Beaumont’s comfort at the crease was apparent here and she recorded a maiden England half-century seven years after her international debut. Responsibility given, responsibility taken – especially after an early wobble when she lost her opening partner, Lauren Winfield, first ball.
At the beginning of the day Knight won the toss and invited Pakistan to bat, in what was the first mark of her perfect day. When bringing herself on to bowl it took only two balls for her to take a wicket, just when Pakistan threatened to mount a competitive target at the midway stage of their innings.
Knight’s introduction triggered a passage of play that proved vital, as she joined her fellow off-breaker Laura Marsh for 18 tidy and penetrative overs that netted four for 59. After returning to clean up the tail Knight had five for 26 to her name, her best for England.
Katherine Brunt’s first wicket was her 100th in ODIs and was met with a celebratory leap. It was well taken by Amy Jones behind the stumps. Jones was also under close watch having taken the gloves as Taylor’s replacement.
With England’s seamers wayward early, clocking 10 wides in their first 19 overs (15 in total), the new wicketkeeper had plenty to do yet kept a clean sheet. Her caught-behind take from a Marsh quicker ball was especially impressive.
No Pakistan partnership totalled more than 36, a wicket falling each time a stand looked ready to mature. Sidra Ameen (52) top scored, also her maiden ODI half-century, an innings which included eight boundaries that were a combination of well-timed drives and resourceful swipes. She looks the part but needs much more support.
Knight nabbed her caught and bowled, repeating that method when taking a skied top edge from her opposite number Sana Mir two balls later, a dismissal born of England’s tight spin combination, her side reduced to 107 for six. Underlining the Knight-Marsh control, 61 balls elapsed between boundaries at one stage when the two were operating.
Some lower-order resistance from Nida Dar (18) and Asmavia Iqbal (22) brought a flurry of boundaries, but the damage was done as Knight led off her satisfied charges.
Beaumont’s innings in reply was punctuated by a series of boundaries that penetrated a legside field arranged to protect against her repeated, crisp on-side flicks. She negated Pakistan’s spin attack by routinely using her feet.
With Knight in a support role, they turned the board over at will for a partnership of 96 until a leading edge brought Beaumont’s demise within sight of the finish line.
Nat Sciver joined the captain for a run-a-ball 27, finding some important early-series form. With two runs to win, a single secured Knight’s half-century to conclude her memorable first day in office.
The three-game ODI series moves to Worcester on Wednesday and concludes in Taunton on Monday and is followed by three T20 internationals next month.
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