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England's in-game tinkering means wait for perfect performance goes on

Need to adapt techniques in full glare of international spotlight makes team a work in progress

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Sidra Ameen survived a dropped catch by Sophie Ecclestone at slip, England vs Pakistan, 2nd Women's ODI, Taunton, May 26, 2024

Lauren Filer bowled rapidly and created some half-chances for England  •  Getty Images

England's pursuit of the perfect ODI performance must wait until their final fixture against Pakistan at least, after their second match was washed out.
A heavy storm which forced Sunday's abandonment at Taunton after just 6.5 overs means Pakistan must wait until the last match of their tour at Chelmsford on Wednesday for another chance to level the series. With Pakistan all but out of the race to qualify directly for next year's 50-over World Cup, it may be the best they can hope for, along with more match experience. England, meanwhile, can go undefeated if they win there, having swept the T20Is 3-0 and secured what Knight branded a "scrappy" 37-run victory in the first 50-over match.
"We just want to put in a good performance," Knight said. "I think probably we haven't done that so far ... well, I don't think we've done it in our last few ODIs, to be honest. So yeah, you're striving for that perfect performance aren't you, and trying to put all facets of the game together. We want to finish this leg of the summer really well."
But Knight also revealed there's more at stake for England's players, namely trying out new things in the glare of the international spotlight.
Seamer Lauren Bell, who was rested from the Taunton match in favour of Lauren Filer, has been experimenting with changes to her action during games, while Sophia Dunkley, who was recalled to the ODI side for the final two matches against Pakistan, told ESPNcricinfo in December that she had made some technical changes, a process Knight said had continued heading into the winter tour of New Zealand where Dunkley ultimately lost her spot amid a prolonged lean spell.
Dunkley was listed on the team sheet at No. 12 in Taunton, having made a century, a fifty and an unbeaten 48 for South East Stars in the 50-over Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
"The amount of work that she did, around not just her technical stuff, but around her mental side of things and having a bit of a pre-ball routine, there's no doubt that those things would pay off eventually, they just didn't pay off for her in New Zealand," Knight said. "It has been really great to see Dunks going away and getting runs, that's exactly what we wanted her to do.
"Lauren Bell is tweaking something technically with her bowling and she's doing it in games, which is a really hard thing to do and it can affect your output a little bit as well. But the girls are really good at seeing it as long-term progress and in order to be it in the future you have to kind of do it in the here and now."
Knight added that learning on the hop was a growing facet of the women's game amid an increasingly busy schedule, which culminates this year in the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh followed by the 2025 ODI event in India.
"With the amount of cricket we now play, there's not huge blocks where you can go and really hone your game and improve those things technically, so it's important that we keep trying to move forward as cricketers, and then sometimes you do have to do it in games," she said. "That's really a tricky thing to do and I think it's really brave thing to do, and it's a philosophy of us as a group that we want to keep moving forward. To do that sometimes you might have to maybe go backwards little bit, to then make a huge leap forward."
Knight was pleased with what little her bowlers were able to do on Sunday. Kate Cross sent down one maiden and conceded 11 runs from her 3.5 overs while quick Filer had a catch put down by Sophie Ecclestone at slip off Sidra Amin, as well as a further half-chance at point off Sadaf Shamas, and was 0 for 18 from her three overs. Shamas edged another off Filer which just eluded Knight at second slip and Nat Sciver-Brunt also missed a shy at the stumps in a bid to run out Sidra.
"As a bowling unit, I think the girls were quite disappointed with the other day, it was a little bit scrappy and not quite up to our best," Knight said of the first ODI in Derby, where England were unable to take the final wicket to bowl Pakistan out. "We had some really good conversations about trying to put it right today. I thought the control that Kate showed and then Lauren at the other end just making things happen, it felt like there was a lot going on. With a few chances, we felt like we should have had a couple of on the board."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor, women's cricket, at ESPNcricinfo