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Feature

England's Bazbelles sparkle as fearless approach launches World Cup in style

Nat Sciver-Brunt hails birth of 'Jonball' in seven-wicket rout of West Indies

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
11-Feb-2023
Nat Sciver-Brunt guided England to victory with an unbeaten 40  •  ICC/Getty Images

Nat Sciver-Brunt guided England to victory with an unbeaten 40  •  ICC/Getty Images

So what to call this new England Women's approach? The one that saw them romp to victory over an improved West Indies, chasing down 136 in just 87 balls to begin their T20 World Cup campaign in fine style.
Bazball? Taken (though, admittedly, not with any great enthusiasm by England Men's Test team). Nat Sciver-Brunt, Player of the Match, had an idea: "Jonball", she suggested, in honour of her team's recently appointed head coach, Jon Lewis. Then, realising there was a danger it could stick, she added: "That's not a thing, I just made that up." Which is just as well, really. So, in the absence of any better suggestions, we bring you ... the Bazbelles?
Either way, they say that in T20 cricket, one moment can turn a match. So can this simple change of mindset alter the course of a team? With substantial evidence already in support of this theory, and at the most critical test yet of England Women's own approach to "fearless" cricket, the answer appears to be: yes, it can.
A resounding seven-wicket victory in Paarl set their T20 World Cup campaign off to the best possible start, especially given that England have started their last two World Cups in defeat. At last year's 50-over event, they managed to turn a terrible run of results into a runners-up finish but at the T20 edition three years ago, a first-up defeat to South Africa cost them big-time as their semi-final was washed out and India advanced to the final as group leaders.
Heather Knight, their captain, knew the importance of starting fast ahead of this game. So did Lewis, who took over from Lisa Keightley at the end of last year on a mission to bring the new, more aggressive approach that had served England Men so well when he worked with them as a pace-bowling coach alongside Brendon McCullum, and Ben Stokes.
So both would have been delighted when, after Sophie Ecclestone's 3 for 23 had restricted West Indies to a potentially competitive 135 for 7, England's top five batters all set about mowing down the target in the most brutal fashion.
Nat Sciver-Brunt, Player of the Match for her unbeaten 40 from 30 balls, said it was as much about being unafraid to fail as being determined to succeed.
"We know we weren't at our best in the whole of the game but that's the intent and the bravery that we want from our batters, so we were very happy with that," she said. "As batters you're always fighting the intent and obviously you want every ball to hit the middle of your bat but it doesn't always happen,so you're still fighting with yourself a little bit out there in the middle. But that's the sort of intensity and bravery that we want.
"At the moment the energy and the feel around the group is probably the best that I've felt. It feels like we're in a really, really good place and we've found a new way of playing ... it's a new mindset. Everyone's capable of playing in that way but, allowing ourselves for it to be okay to fail as well, that freedom has really allowed us to switch a little bit.
"It's since Lewy's come in, he's really brought that freedom and allowed us to fail for the success to happen. The way that he wants us to play, he believes fully that that can be successful at a T20 World Cup, and all the players have bought into that so we're excited."
Sophia Dunkley, who showed some stunning touch in the pre-tournament warm-up games, took 17 off one Matthews over, including the most authoritative straight-driven six, so that after three overs, England were 36 without loss.
Danni Wyatt's 11 off nine deliveries had a gonna-die-trying vibe as she fell skying to the cover sweeper off Chinelle Henry, while Alice Capsey had just reversed Afy Fletcher's first ball to the boundary before advancing too far on the next and finding herself stumped for 13 off nine.
In the meantime, Dunkley surged ahead with back-to-back fours through long-off and behind square leg so that England were 50 for 1 after just five overs. And it took a stunner from Henry to remove her for an 18-ball 34, thrusting out her right hand on her follow-through to pluck a near-impossible return catch out of nowhere.
England were 58 for 2 at the end of the powerplay and Sciver-Brunt carried on, scooping and powering Shakera Selman for four, hauling a Zaida James full-toss over the fence at deep square leg and on it went for seven boundaries in total. Knight, still carrying the signs of a nasty knock to the mouth she suffered while fielding in a practice match on Sunday and which needed six stitches, struck the winning runs with a six off Henry wide of long-off to finish unbeaten with 32 off 22.
All this fearlessness appears to be catching.
Henry, meanwhile, was mightily proud of her side's performance, given that West Indies had lost their ODI series in December 3-0 and the T20Is 5-0, with a highest total of 140 for 8 and a lowest of 43 all out.
"That's something that we talked about, fearless cricket," Henry said. "I think going out there today, the skipper and the coaches were just like, 'one brilliant anything can change a game.'"
Unfortunately for West Indies, her catch did end up being the decisive brilliant moment, but she was happy with the intent the team had shown. "The girls all absolutely know what we want to do and everybody's willing to put their body on the line for this team," she said. "So today was basically about going out there, showing up and we definitely did do that today."
As for England, it wasn't anything she hadn't seen before.
"In the Caribbean, they actually were playing the same cricket, the fearless cricket," Henry added. "Everybody that came out there to bat today, they weren't afraid of anything. They really came at us and that's the England we've been playing for the past month."
If they can carry on for another two weeks, who knows what the Bazbelles could achieve?

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo