Five things we've learnt from England's T20 World Cup group stage

Heather Knight and her teammates (© ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020. All rights reserved)

Heather Knight’s side met minimum expectations by reaching the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup having rounded off their group stage with a comprehensive 46-run win over the West Indies. 

England join rivals South Africa to progress from Group B into the knock-out phase of the tournament having won three consecutive matches despite an early opening blip. 

Hannah Thompson looks at five key talking points from England’s group phase. 

1) South Africa was England’s wakeup call

In the opening tournament fixture, England were stunned by an all-round South African outfit. The Proteas were a side many underestimated going into the tournament, but they have proved their worth as a competitive nation marking their tournament intentions as the only unbeaten side in Group B.

Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp showed England how important occupying the crease is with their 84-run partnership that provided a platform for their middle order to let loose.

England struggled against the bowling of Ayabonga Khaka who picked up three scalps and the all-round execution of Kapp and van Niekerk who took two wickets apiece.

In hindsight, the hiccup of South Africa was the wakeup call the side needed to step up their performances.  The added pressure of having to win their remaining games brought out a hungry England side who’ve finally found their flow. 

2) Questions still persist over England’s opening pair 

England’s batting line-up sparked debate after their opening tournament 6-wicket loss to South Africa. Openers Danni Wyatt departed for a sub-standard two runs whilst Amy Jones added a hopeful 23. Nat Sciver’s fine form delivered a half-century but beyond that only Fran Wilson’s knock of 14 provided double figures.

Katherine Brunt going ahead of Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield puzzled outsiders and the general logic of the order raised questions. 

Questions remained after England’s conquest of Thailand as Jones and Wyatt were rescued by Sciver and Knight’s 169* record partnership as the opening pair departed without scoring.

Added pressure on the opening duo, saw yet another early departure for Jones against Pakistan for just two runs. Wyatt contributing 16 in a match that was stabilised by another Sciver and Knight effort. 

With plenty of questions raised, the externals got what they wanted in the final group match against the West Indies with Beaumont bumped up the order. However, Beaumont’s stay was short-lived, dismissed for a duck.

Jones replacing Beaumont down the order produced 23* off 13 deliveries which will give the batter-keeper much needed confidence ahead of the semi-finals.

But the question persists, can England find a winning formula up top? 

3) Consistency in the Knight-Sciver pairing

Rounding off the group games, in-form Sciver topped the most runs scored tournament tally with 202 runs. Back-to-back fifties supported her tournament success scoring; 50, 59*, 36 and 57. Sciver becomes just the second woman to make three 50-plus scores at a single World Cup.

Knight comfortable in second place sits nine runs behind with 193. A thumping 101 of those derived from her maiden history-making T20I ton against Thailand whilst 62 runs came from a clinical win over Pakistan.

The pair combined have amassed almost 70% of England’s tournament runs and will be ready if called upon to steady England’s semi-final efforts.

Whilst their individual efforts provide excellent personal reading, it’s their third-wicket partnerships which are most pleasing.  A record stand of 169* against Thailand marked their class in a match that featured a haul of historic moments.

The reliable duo will relish the semi-final opportunity but will need to step up against tougher opposition.

 4) Spin it to win it…

In all four matches the bowlers have been praised for their consistent performances, taking wickets at game changing moments. Even during the six-wicket defeat to South Africa the bowlers took the match to the wire after the batters failed to post a defendable total.

England have used eight bowlers across their campaign so far, with the introduction of 20-year-old Mady Villiers making her tournament debut in the final group stage contest.

Anya Shrubsole banked her 100th T20I wicket and becomes England’s first to do so. Shrubsole has also taken 8 wickets so far this tournament placing her just behind India’s Poonam Yadav in the most wickets tally. Ecclestone on seven wickets and Glenn on six wickets join Shrubsole in the top five of tournament wicket-takers.

The strength in the bowling unit and especially the spin squadron of Ecclestone, Glenn and Villiers is one pleasing key group stage finding. At just 20, 20 and 21 the trio promise an exciting future ahead for youthful spin options.

 5) A record-breaking group stage

Sophie Ecclestone becomes the youngest ever player to reach 50 T20I wickets at just 20 years old.  Whilst Anya Shrubsole reaches 100 T20I wickets, the first Englishwoman to do so and the third yet quickest woman to reach the title globally.

Sarah Glenn sets a marker in Australia recording her own career bests of 3-15, which was the best figures for an English spinner on Australian soil until Sophie Ecclestone leaped frogged Glenn with 3-7 in the must win final match over the West Indies.

Heather Knight’s batting heroics against Thailand smashed several records. Her maiden T20i century ended on an unbeaten stance of 108* off 66 balls making Knight the first English cricketer to score centuries in all three formats of the game. Plus, 108* is the highest recorded score at a T20I tournament.

Plus, England’s rampant 98-run triumph is the largest winning margin to be posted in a Women’s T20 World Cup.

That’s just a few of the record-breaking moments that drove England to knock-out contention, but can England continue to make history, smash records and take the coveted T20 crown for the first time since 2009?