Women’s World Twenty20: England must find form with the bat

 

England should beat Sri Lanka in the Women’s World Twenty20 today and progress in a competition for which they are one of the favourites. But then something similar was expected of them in the 50-over World Cup last year, and it all went badly wrong.

Then, in Mumbai on a turning pitch, England made a highly serviceable 238 for 8 before Sri Lanka got off to a rapid start and finished the match with a six off the final ball of the last over. England’s challenge for the title never fully recovered.

A reprise in Sylhet today is unthinkable, but England’s apprehension in this tournament shows little sign of waning. After losing to West Indies they have beaten both India and Bangladesh comfortably enough without showing any of the spark of champions.

Charlotte Edwards, their captain, was insistent after they had despatched the host nation by 79 runs that her team were improving. “I think we are getting better with each game, which is a nice place to be in tournament cricket,” she said.

“I’ve played a lot of World Cups and it’s about peaking at the right time. Our bowling and fielding has been outstanding throughout the competition.” She politely neglected to mention the batting, which has been hesitant, underachieving and much too reliant on herself. The middle order has looked particularly tense, and appears to have felt the pressure of dot balls.

Although Edwards failed against India, England were chasing a mere 97 to win, and she was easily the top scorer against both West Indies and Bangladesh. Sarah Taylor, the team’s classiest batter, has been promoted to open for the first time in this tournament. She has yet to settle fully to the role, and it has slightly exposed the early middle order. Tammy Beaumont has looked tense at No 3, having spent the bulk of her career at six or below.

With the experienced Lydia Greenway and the rapidly advancing Natalie Sciver in the engine room there is abundant potential, but in this tournament so far it has not been realised. The bowlers have been outstanding for England, led by Anya Shrubsole, who has figures of 2-25, 3-6 and 2-17 so far.

If England win today, New Zealand are likely to lie in wait in the semi-finals in Dhaka, probably on Thursday. To go further than that England have to start to discover some self-belief.

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