Heather Knight challenges England’s batters to adapt aggression to 50-over format

Pakistan

Heather Knight says that England will not deviate from the positive batting approach that helped to deliver a 3-0 clean sweep in the T20I series against Pakistan, but has challenged her players to adapt to the more varied rhythms of the 50-over format when they take the field for Friday’s first ODI against the same opponents in Derby.

Knight’s 49 from 44 balls at Edgbaston last week was instrumental in rescuing her team from an ignominious 11 for 4 in the first T20I, but she said she took huge confidence from the varied manner in which England posted competitive totals in each match. A series of cameos delivered a 65-run victory at Northampton before Danni Wyatt’s 48-ball 87 set up a series-best total of 176 at Headingley.

“They were three quite different innings, weren’t they?” Knight said on the eve of the ODIs. “The fact that we posted pretty good totals each time was a really pleasing thing. Knowing different ways to punch out a score is really important. That’s a good sign, and I think it’s a real strength of ours, that depth we have in our batting.”

In particular, she credited the manner in which the team came to terms with the slower pace of Pakistan’s bowlers, whose nagging accuracy allied to some slow surfaces made it hard for England’s batters to line them up. With the T20 World Cup coming up in Bangladesh, Knight said it was all valuable experience for the team to have been able to bank.

“The response from the top-order from that first game was really good, they worked out a little bit more about how they were going to be aggressive,” she said. “I feel like it’s a really good learning for us about how we’re going to approach those bowlers on potentially slower wickets, because you have to work out the method that you’re going to do it, and that’ll be slightly different for every player.

“As a team, we always want to be positive,” she added. “Our aim as batters is to be aggressive when we can, but in ODI cricket, you have a little bit more time to read situations and cope with the ebbs and flows of the games. There’s obviously a lot of space to be aggressive, and that’s really important, but you’ve got to do it for longer and be a bit more calculated in terms of the times you pick to be aggressive and the times that you might have to soak up a little bit of pressure. But I’m really excited to see how we go.”

One player who is well attuned to the ODI tempo is Tammy Beaumont, back in the squad after watching the T20Is from the Sky Sports commentary pod, and likely to open alongside Maia Bouchier with Wyatt slipping into the middle order. Kate Cross is also included in the 50-over squad, and can expect a key role as a senior seamer, especially with Nat Sciver-Brunt unavailable as a bowler for the first match and likely to have a limited workload thereafter, as she recovers from a long-term knee issue.

“I feel like Maia’s earned that place in the T20 side and deserves a little bit of a run after the way she performed in New Zealand,” Knight said. “But in terms of ODIs, Tammy’s one of the best openers we’ve ever had, so we’re really pleased to have her back, and I know she’s eager to still keep improving and still keep getting better, which is a really good sign for a player of her stature.”

With Sophia Dunkley on the sidelines at present, but making a strong case for a recall with her form for South East Stars, Knight acknowledged there was “a huge amount of competition” at the top of England’s batting, which is “only going to keep pushing those individuals to keep getting better”.

She recognised, however, that the switch to the ODI format could come with challenges, particularly for the younger players in England’s line-up who – given the global focus on T20 cricket – are becomingly increasingly unfamiliar with the flow of 50-over cricket. In particular, she cited Alice Capsey who, at the age of 19, has played 129 T20 matches for club and country but just 31 List A games, of which 12 have been for England.

Capsey has endured a tricky run of form of late, with just one score above 25 since March – and even that innings, 31 in the second T20I, was a streaky affair containing five boundaries in one over and little else for the rest of her 33-ball innings. Nevertheless, she claimed the Player of the Match award after picking up two important wickets with her offspin, and Knight said that her ambitions to become a genuine allrounder could only heighten her value to the team.

“It just shows the contrast of the amount of T20 cricket that young players are playing, as opposed to one-day cricket now,” Knight said. “Alice is still working out the tempo that she wants to go at. She’s had success in dominating the powerplay and she plays that role well in franchise leagues around the world, but it’s about expanding her game, and learning to adapt to different situations. She’s still only 19, so that’ll come with time and volume of cricket played.

“Alice does want to become a genuine allrounder. She’s working really hard on her offspin, so that gives her another option – not just in the top six batters, she could potentially play as an allrounder at seven and look to be in a place where she can perform consistently in that one-day team.”

One further dilemma for Knight could be the balance of her spin attack. All three of Sophie Ecclestone, Charlie Dean and Sarah Glenn are now fixtures in the T20I side, and each currently occupies a top five slot in the ICC rankings. But with the potential need to play another seamer, while still maintaining the depth of England’s batting, one of the trio could be required to sit out.

“There’s obviously a slightly different balance with Nat not bowling,” Knight said. “Our three spinners have been a huge strength of ours, and it can be really hard to fit them in the one-day team. It’s something that we haven’t really done, but it’s so hard to leave one of them out there.

“They all add different things: Sarah’s consistency, Charlie’s got the best strike-rate of all time at the moment in one-day cricket, and Soph’s the best in the world. We’re looking at how we squeeze them in, but also get the balance right in terms of having enough batting.”

Although England’s primary focus is the T20 World Cup in October, Knight was mindful of the fact that the ODI version is looming in 2025 as well. That, however, is a challenge for another day.

“The international schedule is such that there’s always a big tournament on the horizon not too far away,” she said. “For me, it’s about improving as a team, be it in the T20 format or the one-day format, and each player should be pretty clear on what exactly it is that they need to be better at.

“I want us to focus on what we’re doing now. What we’re facing is Pakistan. We’re trying to do the best that we can against them, and ultimately win the series and win it ruthlessly.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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