Using data, analysis and insight is key to performance in both investing and cricket, and the first article of our ‘IG Insight Edge’ series, reviews England women’s recent matches against New Zealand to explore the strategies and tactics deployed by the sides.
Tammy Beaumont’s series ended on an emphatic high, as she slammed a 114-ball century in the final ODI against New Zealand, in Canterbury. England’s opener had ebbed and flowed in terms of her returns across the five matches, a bright start of 44 (75) at Bristol interrupted by a run of low scores, before returning to her best to carry England to their sixth highest ever ODI score, in the fifth game of the series.
Making and pursuing a plan for Beaumont was pivotal for New Zealand’s bowlers who had largely been able to limit Beaumont to a run of low scores. Before that majestic ton, the NZ seamers – Sophie Devine, Lea Tahuhu, and Hannah Rowe – managed to limit Beaumont’s effectiveness in those middle matches by following a very clear plan.
The obvious point to make is that Beaumont struggled, initially, to combat the deliveries on her stumps. Her extravagant backlift gives her a range of boundary hitting matched by very few players around the world, but the natural counter to that is a weakness on her stumps. 48% of her dismissals in ODIs against pace have been bowled or LBW, and that career pattern was more heightened than usual during the earlier stages of this series, her dismissals in the first three matches all from balls on her stumps. Devine in particular was able to bring the ball back into the right-hander while targeting the pads, bowling a fuller length than the rest of the attack.
In the first four matches of this series, Beaumont was still getting the benefit of her high backlift, dismissing the ball away to the rope whenever she received any width whatsoever. All but two of her boundaries came when the ball passed the stumps outside off, striking at 100 whenever the seamers drifted further wide than the channel.
We can see it further in Beaumont’s wagon wheel. Cover was absolutely peppered, the full effect of that carving downswing plain to see, while the legside was relatively barren by comparison. NZ’s plans to give Beaumont those runs outside off, before bringing the ball back into her and attacking her stumps, was a classic exercise in losing the battle but winning the war.
Now in the triumphant century that ended Beaumont’s series, she still managed to score 31 runs through cover alone. That strength was not eroded, those runs still flowing through her favoured zone, those ‘bad balls’ still being put away. However, it was matched with a more even spread of scoring options all around the Canterbury ground. Indeed on Sunday, more of her runs came on the legside than the offside. Beaumont’s shift in scoring areas demonstrated her ability to adapt her strategy mid-series, and to nullify the threat she faced.
As you can see from her boundary beehive, a key difference for Beaumont compared to the rest of the series was her ability to dispatch the balls on her stumps. Previously, those deliveries had been getting her out, any hint of movement back into her being enough to sneak past that descending bat and clatter into pad or stump. On Sunday, she managed to counter those deliveries very effectively – of the 24 balls she faced from the seamers which would have hit or clipped the stumps, Beaumont hit four boundaries and played just two false shots, a significant increase in both control and scoring intent from previously.
New Zealand didn’t change their plans to her. The percentage of deliveries bowled to Beaumont which would have hit her stumps remained stable at roughly 20% across the series, from match to match. The balance of NZ’s attack – almost entirely pace – meant that the challenge didn’t change for Beaumont in terms of the type of bowler she was facing. In that fifth match century, 104 of the 114 balls she faced were from seamers, with just 10 from spin (which she knocked around for eight runs). The Kiwi attack had a plan, and the quality to execute it, but without a quality frontline spinner of note they were lacking in a secondary threat, a plan B.
It was a fascinating examination of the technique of one of the world’s best ODI batters, across five matches and five different venues. There is an ongoing and relatively heated discussion in English cricket, global cricket even, about how female cricketers can play more Test matches. That discussion is entirely reasonable, and if there is the inclination from teams to want to play more long-form cricket, then it’s important that it is scheduled, consistently and with a range of teams involved.
However, this contest – and this battle between Beaumont and the Kiwi seamers in particular – has given a clear example of how an ODI series of considerable length can offer comparable ebb and flow to Test cricket, particularly when compared to one-off, standalone matches. The technical back and forth between the White Ferns attack and the England opener was allowed time to breathe, there was time for the rivalry to develop a narrative, to deepen tactically and strategically.
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