Danielle Wyatt stands just 5’3” tall and one could be forgiven for thinking that she doesn’t have the strength to hit big. But her stature belies the power and natural ball-striking ability she possesses.
When she hits the ball, her timing and placement can take it a long way as her two T20I tons, which came in 52 and 56 balls respectively, show.
The 27-year-old England opener is among the best T20I players in the world today, but her match-winning knock against India in the second T20I on Thursday showed that she is also capable of calmly steering her team out of trouble.
A year back, Wyatt had played one of the most superlative innings in the format, 124 off 64, to guide her team to the highest successful chase in women’s Twenty20 Internationals.
On March 25 in Mumbai, the 27-year-old had smashed a 52-ball century as England chased down India’s 198/4 with seven wickets and eight balls to spare.
On Thursday, against the same opponent, she didn’t need to go for the big shots. Good, old-fashioned regular batting was enough as England were set a target of only 112 by a stuttering India.
Her 55-ball 64 had everything that the Indian batting has been lacking in this series: a solid start, quick runs, calmness when wickets fell, rotation of strike and good placement. Basics that India have to master quickly, if they are to avoid another series whitewash.
After being put in to bat, India raced away to 24/0 in 14 balls with captain Smriti Mandhana smacking two sixes in her first four balls. But for the second straight match, both Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues failed to fire and that put the fragile middle-order under even more pressure. Without Harmanpreet Kaur, the line-up is weak even on paper.
This left the task of turning India’s innings around to Mithali Raj and Deepti Sharma, who are both solid batters in the ODI format but have never been able to carry the same confidence into T20Is. Unlike the first ODI, there was no scoreboard pressure here, even though the pace attack of Nat Sciver, Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt looked in fine form.
Raj and Sharma put together a 35-run stand for the fourth wicket but it came off 43 balls and ended when poor communication saw Sharma being run out. The onus was now on Raj, who could well be playing her final few matches in this format, but she failed to get her elevation right and was dismissed for a stuttering 20 off 27 balls – the highest score for India.
India ultimately finished with 111/8, which could have been a match-winning total but for Wyatt. After cruising to 45/1, England found themselves in a spot of bother as Tammy Beaumont, Amy Jones, Nat Sciver and captain Heather Knight were all out for single-figure scores. Form 45/1, the visitors collapsed to 56/4.
But that is when Wyatt ensured that her team stayed in the hunt, even when the required run-rate briefly rose above six as India’s spin quartet tightened the noose.
She was then joined by Lauren Winfield, with whom she put together a crucial fifth-wicket stand of 47 to take her team home. Winfield’s 29 off 23 was decisive, but only because she had the steady presence of the opener at the other end.
Earlier in India’s innings, debutant Bharati Fulmali injected some life into the match with her 18 runs off 20 balls. If she had received some support from the other end, it could have been a match-winning innings as well but the others just couldn’t get going.
But Fulmali’s innings was also an example of the kind of fearless cricket that is expected from the young players that are being given opportunities in T20 cricket. So far, neither Harleen Deol at the top nor the one-time opener and now No 8 Taniya Bhatia have shown the right kind of intent. Both got out due to poor shot selection and lack of application. Priya Punia was guilty of something similar against New Zealand.
For India to overturn their streak of six straight losses, they will need someone to take a leaf out of Wyatt’s book.
Incidentally, the opener scored her first ODI fifty only last week in Mumbai, after 63 matches, as she took her time to translate her T20 prowess into ODIs. India needs to do the opposite now.