New-styleEng­land ‘can­winWorldCup’

The Cricket Paper - - WOMEN’S FOCUS - By Char­lie Tal­bot-Smith

ENG­LAND are now just one win away from con­firm­ing their spot at next year’s World Cup – and bat­ting coach Ali Maiden is con­vinced there is a side tak­ing shape that can win it all on home soil.

Mark Robin­son’s women have just re­turned from the West Indies where they beat the reign­ing T20 World Cham­pi­ons 3-2 in a tight, if low-scor­ing, five-match ODI series.

Natalie Sciver was the hero in the fifth and fi­nal clash, her 58 not out guid­ing them to vic­tory – the first won by the team that bat­ted sec­ond in the series af­ter los­ing the toss.

This year has been one of tran­si­tion for this side un­der Robin­son as they have learned to cope with life af­ter Char­lotte Ed­wards and with Sarah Tay­lor also on a leave of ab­sence.

But un­der new skip­per Heather Knight, they are now just one vic­tory over Sri Lanka – where they will tour next month – from con­firm­ing their spot at their own World Cup next year.

“I would say we have got the mak­ings of a team (that can win the World Cup),” said Maiden.

“Mark said to the team af­ter we had lost the (T20) semi-fi­nals that there are cer­tain things that are God-given. But there are other things that any­body can work on to im­prove – fit­ness was ob­vi­ously a big fo­cus for us.

“We have made big strides in those ar­eas and if we play smart, clever cricket we have got a re­ally good chance of win­ning it.

“We have not got a huge amount of se­nior play­ers but we do have a lot of vi­brancy and en­ergy and that can take you a long way.

“One win is the key for the World Cup but we are try­ing to win the series in Sri Lanka – we are not talk­ing about qual­i­fi­ca­tion. If we win the series then we qual­ify any­way and we want to win ev­ery game we play in.

“We have been play­ing on slow, turn­ing wick­ets in the Caribbean – I think this is the best pre­pared the team has ever been to go to the Sub-con­ti­nent and play in those con­di­tions.”

Af­ter Eng­land’s T20 semi-fi­nal exit to Aus­tralia in March, much was writ­ten and said about their lack of bound­ary-hit­ters.

The pro­mo­tion of skip­per Knight to No.3 – where she will likely stay for the Sri Lanka series – half­way through the West Indies tour was fur­ther ev­i­dence that Eng­land’s bat­ting is a work in progress.

But while the low-scor­ing clashes in the West Indies were not the best ev­i­dence of a more pos­i­tive out­look, Maiden is adamant the changes are bear­ing fruit ev­ery day.

“Bat­ting is ul­ti­mately about play­ing the sit­u­a­tion but we have tried to en­cour­age the girls to be on the front foot,” he added.

“I don’t mean that lit­er­ally but it is about try­ing to take a pos­i­tive step, even when de­fend­ing a ball.

“In the West Indies it is not about bound­aries, it was big sta­di­ums and slow pitches.

“It is about ro­tat­ing the strike, good foot­work and about try­ing to be pos­i­tive – and you can do that in dif­fer­ent ways. Look at some­one like Nat Sciver, prob­a­bly our best bound­ary-hit­ter. She does it in prac­tice and has done for the last two years now but we chal­lenged her to go out and take that game into the mid­dle and that has had a clear re­sponse.

“Nat hit one of the best shots I have ever seen, a flicked six over long off. For me it has been great to see how they have freed up and they are see­ing the ben­e­fits of that free­dom.”

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

New skip­per and new out­look: Heather Knight hits out

Coach: Ali Maiden

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