Danni Wyatt sets about finding new niche in style
Batter embraces middle-order role with crucial 63* in win over New Zealand
In her 200th game for England, Danni Wyatt set about finding her new niche with a middle-order performance that sealed Player of the Match honours and an unlikely victory for her team.
Wyatt's aggressive style makes her a natural T20 opener but, having struggled to get an ODI game this summer, she came in to No. 7 to replace the resting Katherine Brunt with devastating effect in the second of five 50-over matches against New Zealand in Worcester.
Her 63 not out included a record 10th-wicket stand of 51 with Tash Farrant and helped lift England from 85 for 5 to what proved to be a surprisingly defendable 197 all out when Charlie Dean took four wickets in just her second game to bowl New Zealand out well short of their target of 183, revised on the DLS method.
"I had a lot of time out there and had to get my head down and bat for the team," Wyatt said. "I thought, 'I've just got to knock it around, build partnerships and bat long', which is what I talked about with batting coach Jon Lewis just before I went in so I'm really chuffed with how it went today."
It was Wyatt's 78th ODI but her first since England's winter tour to New Zealand in February, when she opened alongside Tammy Beaumont. Since then, Lauren Winfield-Hill has partnered Beaumont at the top of the order in ODIs against India and New Zealand.
In fact, Wyatt was struggling for T20I runs until her series-sealing 89 not out in the final match against India at Chelmsford in mid-July, her first fifty in the format in 19 innings going back to December 2019.
In ODIs, Wyatt has played 30 innings batting in the middle order - most recently during the 2019 Ashes - scoring 519 runs in all at an average of 22.56. That compares to 465 runs in 23 innings as an opener at 20.21 and her overall tally of 1109 runs at 20.16.
As an allrounder, Brunt's return changes the balance of the side and, in Thursday's opening ODI, she played a match-turning role of her own with bat and ball. Asked whether her own knock on Sunday posed a selection headache, Wyatt was circumspect.
"It's not down to me but all I want to do now is keep scoring runs whenever I'm out there in the middle feeling in good nick," she said. "I've changed a few things technically and it seems to be going well at the minute so hopefully it continues.
"I've been training really well and been speaking a lot with Jon Lewis and [head coach] Lisa Keightley about my game and possible role in the team, which is middle-order now... it was really good to get some runs and show everyone what I can do in the middle order."
Wyatt admitted she "didn't run well" in a mix-up that saw she and Winfield-Hill stranded at the non-striker's end, the latter unfortunate to be run out for 39 when bowler Leigh Kasperek threw the ball to wicketkeeper Katey Martin after Wyatt had retreated halfway through a second run.
"I didn't think too much, I just went out there and batted, just hit the bad ball and ran well, although I didn't run well with Lauren," Wyatt said, having told Sky Sports she'd given her team-mate a hug in apology.
Sophie Devine, the New Zealand captain, said the defeat was tough to take but praised Wyatt's efforts. Having been 111 for 4 when rain stopped play, the White Ferns were all out for 169 as England won by 13 runs with 18 balls to spare.
"We need to have an honest look at ourselves and at how we're going to win games like that because I back the side to win that sort of chase nine times out of 10," Devine said.
"You've got to give a bit of credit to their batters, they went all right. Danni Wyatt was a bit of a pest for them, working with their lower order. That's one of the things we're going to have to have a look at in terms of how we're going to kill off games like that. We were close, we just obviously weren't close enough."
In the opening match in Bristol, Amy Satterthwaite got New Zealand within reach of England after a top-order collapse had the tourist staring down a much heavier defeat.
Devine has moved down the order to No. 5 in this ODI series, a position she hasn't played since 2018. She said there was no likelihood of her playing a floating role after her side struggled again with the bat.
"I'm a solid No. 5," Devine said. "We've spoken at length as a leadership group and the coaching staff as well around what's best for this team and for me that's batting at No. 5.
"I guess we haven't shown it yet because we haven't been able to piece it all together, but I'm really comfortable and confident in batting at No. 5. I'm really excited about the opportunity and I think with the rest of the squad that we've got, it makes for a greatly balanced side."
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo