England’s women look back on bright summer but bigger tests await

England’s clean sweep against West Indies may have been handed to them via two no-balls from Shakera Selman at the end of a rain-reduced five-over slogathon, but they will be pleased with their showing in the series after easily winning the first four matches by margins of 47, 47, 20 and 44 runs.

Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Any concerns that Heather Knight’s side might be rusty after a six-month absence from international cricket proved largely unfounded, thanks partly to the unexpected opportunity for England players to take part in the first two rounds of this summer’s regional competition, the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy, three weeks before their series was due to start.

Related: England beat West Indies in five-over slog to seal women’s T20 clean sweep

Four England batters – Knight, Tammy Beaumont, Amy Jones and Nat Sciver – finished with more than 100 runs in the series, showcasing the depth of England’s top order. Jones in particular, after hitting a 30-ball half-century in the fourth match, looks to have made the No 5 spot her own, having dropped down from her previous opening role.

“The mindset of having intent and looking to score is really important,” the coach Lisa Keightley said after the fifth game on Wednesday. “We’re nowhere near at our best, but from the five games the players are working out what that looks like for them, and how we can punch first and take it to teams earlier than we have in the past.”

With the ball Sarah Glenn, the leg-spinner who was so successful in Australia during the T20 World Cup, once again displayed her uncanny knack of taking crucial wickets at crucial moments: she finished as England’s leading series wicket-taker, with seven scalps at an economy rate of 5.6, including Stafanie Taylor (twice), Hayley Matthews (twice) and Deandra Dottin (once). She also contributed handy runs with the bat at No 8, and according to Knight was actually due to open the batting had the fifth match been a full 20-over game.

“She’s been fantastic over the last 12 months,” Keightley said. “Her and Sophie Ecclestone throughout the T20 format have really changed the game for us, and made us competitive in that middle phase to take wickets.”

For West Indies, there will be a certain amount of relief as they board their chartered flight home from Derby. On the one hand, the series provided the chance to reunite as a squad for the first time since March – thanks to the tremendous efforts of the England and Wales Cricket Board, and Cricket West Indies. On the other hand, the way Stafanie Taylor’s shoulders sagged at the moment when Knight won the toss and yet again elected to bat first ahead of the fourth game on Monday was telling, her body language saying what her words could not: we no longer believe we can win a game.

Somehow – and this will be increasingly difficult in a world where future squad training opportunities are limited by the travel restrictions in place across the Caribbean – West Indies need to recover the swashbuckling confidence which brought about their famous 2016 World Twenty20 win. We caught glimpses of it this series – notably when they reduced England to 96 for six in the second match, and to 25 for five on Wednesday – but the batters could not back it up when they needed to. You won’t win many series when only one of your players – in this case Dottin – looks capable of scoring any runs.

Credit should go to West Indies in one department: almost every player in their squad got at least one outing across the series. England – who stuck with a conservative selection policy throughout – need to seriously question why, even 18 months ahead of a World Cup and with no Championship points at stake, they refused to give the 35-year-old Katherine Brunt’s replacement-in-waiting Freya Davies the chance to bowl more than one over across five matches, while fellow seamers Katie George and Kate Cross remained on the bench throughout. It feels shortsighted to say the least.

Heather Knight poses with the Twenty20 series trophy after England’s victory against West Indies.

© Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Heather Knight poses with the Twenty20 series trophy after England’s victory against West Indies.

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