England’s selection conundrums for the Women’s T20 World Cup

England celebrate their T20 series victory in New Zealand

All roads lead to Dhaka for England, as their preparations for the Women’s T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in September continued in strong fashion with a 4-1 series win over New Zealand.

England were without four of their key players for the first three matches of the series because of a clash with the Women’s Premier League in India, meaning head coach Jon Lewis had identified the five-match contest with New Zealand as a chance to test the depth of the squad and experiment with a number of new batting and bowling combinations.

Five matches and four wins later, three key talking points emerged.

Bouchier flips the pecking order

Starting the series at No 3, Maia Bouchier made scores of 43 not out, 12 and 71 before moving up to open for the final two matches of the series and making 91 and six. She finished the series as comfortably the top scorer from either side and emerged as the batter in possession of the second opening spot alongside Danni Wyatt.

Bouchier’s rise to England opener is a significant shift in the pecking order of England’s batters. Entering the series, the return of Tammy Beaumont dominated headlines, with the expectation being that her and Sophia Dunkley would battle it out to keep their spot in the team when Wyatt returned from the WPL.

But with neither Beaumont nor Dunkley contributing a major score and Bouchier making 71 in the third T20, the latter was moved up the order. The call was immediately rewarded as Bouchier made a career-best 91 in her first match of the series at the top of the order.

One of Lewis’ key traits is his willingness to back players for as long as possible, meaning Bouchier is now in pole position to make it to the World Cup as England’s second opener.

Maia Bouchier batting for England in their third T20 international against New Zealand
Maia Bouchier was top scored in England's T20 series against New Zealand - Getty Images/Evan Barnes

Who is the second seamer?

With conditions in Bangladesh expected to be spin heavy, England are likely to enter the tournament with just two seamers in their XI for any given match.

As long as she remains fit, Nat Sciver-Brunt is a guaranteed starter and fills one of the seam-bowling spots, meaning the likes of Lauren Bell, Lauren Filer, Mahika Gaur, Danielle Gibson, Kate Cross, Freya Kemp and Issy Wong are all battling it out for just one place in the team.

In New Zealand, Gibson has impressed with her skills bowling in the middle overs and at the death, while Bell showed once again that her risk-reward is her ability to swing the ball prodigiously whilst often being erratic.

In this department, there are simply too many moving parts to safely predict who will accompany Sciver-Brunt in the XI, with the high-pace of Filer, who debuted in New Zealand, or the 6ft 3in Gaur, who will be available again for the World Cup after completing her A-Levels, also tempting options.

One player to watch is 18-year-old Kemp, who is currently only fit to play as a specialist batter and performed well on the England A tour of New Zealand. A return to full fitness, combined with her all-round abilities, would make her a very attractive option for Bangladesh.

England play three T20s against Pakistan and five against New Zealand at home in the coming months. Eight matches where England’s seamers will be in a shootout to prove their worth for a spot in the World Cup XI.

What to do with Dunkley

Sophia Dunkley is one of the highest-rated talents in English cricket. However, in the past 15 months she has passed 34 across all formats only once. During England’s tour of India in December, head coach Lewis gave her public backing when he described Dunkley as “a big part” of the team they build for the future.

But the rope is running out for the 25-year-old and after being the incumbent T20 opener for the past two years, she found herself dropped to No 7 in the order for the final two matches of the series.

Dunkley’s promotion to opener in 2022 came at the expense of Beaumont and was a sign of how highly rated she was within the England set-up. England will be desperate to extract the talent they see in Dunkley, but in what role is now up for debate.