How are England shaping up with a year until their one-day World Cup defence?

By Jack SkeltonBBC Sport
England opener Tammy Beaumont raises her bat so salute the crowd after passing 50 during the ODI series against New Zealand
Tammy Beaumont scored 71, 72 not out and 88 not out in three ODIs in New Zealand to move top of the world rankings

England could have been celebrating their first day as back-to-back world champions now if it were not for the coronavirus pandemic.

The women's 50-over World Cup was scheduled to conclude on Sunday before it was postponed by a year and will now take place from 4 March to 3 April 2022 in New Zealand.

Instead, England have just completed a successful limited-overs tour of New Zealand, winning both the one-day international and Twenty20 series.

So how are they shaping up with a year to go until their World Cup defence?

All-round strengths

England opener Tammy Beaumont became the world's number one ODI batter after hitting 231 runs in three matches as the tourists won their first ODI series in a year 2-1.

The top order is particularly strong, with captain Heather Knight and Nat Sciver playing crucial knocks, while all-rounder Sciver also took five wickets, backing up opening bowler Katherine Brunt, who remains a key threat.

England have a fine spin attack, with slow left-armer Sophie Ecclestone and leg-spinner Sarah Glenn, who are both 21, impressing again and promising 22-year-old off-spinner Mady Villiers, who took 3-10 in the final T20 win, yet to make her ODI debut.

"The strength in depth is what makes England dangerous," 2017 World Cup winner Alex Hartley told BBC Sport.

"The way Tammy went about each of her innings showed the practise she's been putting in, in the nets and with the psychologist as well. She puts so much value on her wicket.

"With the ball, Katherine is still one of the world's best and England have got a really strong spin attack that is young enough to keep improving."

Areas of concern

England fast bowler Katherine Brunt gestures during the second ODI against New Zealand
England struggled to take wickets in the final ODI in the absence of rested fast bowler Katherine Brunt

Opener Danni Wyatt scored only 63 runs across six matches in both formats in New Zealand, but Hartley said she is backing her to rediscover her form, and England's plan for Wyatt to be "aggressive from the start" will naturally not always come off.

The third ODI defeat showed how England's top-order strength can have a downside as a middle and lower order who had lacked time at the crease struggled, with the tourists bowled out for 220.

England were also only able to take three wickets in the third ODI when Brunt, 35, was rested and Hartley said the main thing they will want to work on is developing wicket-taking options beyond Brunt and seamer Anya Shrubsole, 29, who missed the tour with a knee injury.

"Katherine most likely will play in the World Cup, but if there's an injury and she's not there or Anya isn't, then England need a seam bowler who can attack and take wickets up top," said Hartley.

"Tash Farrant, Freya Davies and Kate Cross are the main options, while Issy Wong who is 18 was also out on tour - she's really fast but I'm not sure she'll be ready in time for the World Cup.

"If England can back Farrant, Davies and Cross and get them more game time, then they have got a fantastic bowling unit."

How will Keightley mould her side?

Victory over New Zealand was Lisa Keightley's first ODI series as head coach since succeeding Mark Robinson in October 2019, while England's next ODI series is still unknown, with their limited-overs summer schedule still to be confirmed.

In 29 completed ODIs since the 2017 World Cup final, England have lost nine of 19 matches batting first, compared to only three out of 10 while chasing, with Keightley admitting they would not have elected to bat first in the third ODI if they had not already won the series.

Hartley said Keightley will continue to look for England to bat first if they have already won a series, but that "setting a total isn't necessarily a weakness for England, they are just more comfortable chasing".

She added Keightley's main aim will be to make England more "unpredictable" over the next 12 months, making more selections based on conditions and the opposition.

"No one was expecting left-arm seamer Tash Farrant to play the first ODI," said Hartley.

"I really like that because often in the past the opposition have known exactly what team England are going to play."

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