September 19 had been in Nat Sciver‘s diary for a long time: before Covid-19 struck, it was the date that she had picked alongside Katherine Brunt for their wedding, chosen specifically to avoid a clash with the England women’s series against India.
Instead, they spent the day in Derby, locked in the biosecure bubble two days before the start of their hastily-arranged series against West Indies.
In the event, it had rained in Chamonix, the mountain resort in France where they had booked their big day, and the sun shone in ‘Derbados’. Amy Jones, Heather Knight, and media manager Henry Cowen had put their heads together, meaning Brunt and Sciver celebrated the day with cakes and bridal veils in front of their team-mates.
“It was a slow morning,” Sciver laughed in Sunday’s virtual press conference. “It was bittersweet – a bit of a weird one, but a really nice surprise from Amy, Heather and Henry who coordinated some things for us. It was nice in the end, a nice celebration.
“We were going to be in the mountains, hopefully the weather was going to be nice. I actually looked at the weather and it said it was going to rain in the afternoon. So maybe [the postponement was] not a bad thing.”
Nat Sciver and Katherine Brunt were meant to be getting married yesterday, so England had a ‘fake wedding’ for them in their bio-secure bubble
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) September 20, 2020
With the ‘wedding’ out of the way, it is time for a series that Sciver will hope can act as a honeymoon: she was England’s star with the bat in the T20 World Cup earlier this year, making 202 runs to finish as the tournament’s third-highest run-scorer, and warmed up for this series with 104 for Northern Diamonds in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.
While her aggregate in the T20 World Cup was impressive, Sciver admitted that she was hoping to find a slightly better tempo at the crease in this series, after making those runs at a relatively sedate strike rate of 113.48.
“Before we went back to training, we each individually had a meeting with Lisa [Keightley, the head coach] and the coaches to go through anything that we wanted to work on, and through the stats we’d had in the last few years to see if there were any areas we could improve,” Sciver explained.
“There was a little thing with bowling, [regarding] making my action a bit more efficient, but it was more about my mindset with batting: going through the gears, and knowing when to kick on or when to hold back a bit.”
Sciver remained tight-lipped when asked about England’s likely batting order, after the decision to use Tammy Beaumont as a finisher backfired in the T20 World Cup and was scrapped before the end of the group stage. Beaumont herself has expressed a desire to move back up to open, with Jones expected to move down into the middle order.
And while England will be flexible with their line-up, it seems as though Sciver is likely to continue to hold the innings together at No. 3, acting as an insurance policy against an early collapse and tasked with accelerating towards the back end.
“In the World Cup, I was coming in quite early a lot of the time, so it was about trying to swing momentum back in our favour. Hopefully, if there is a partnership that’s happened before I get out there, I can continue that momentum and not let the other team have a sniff, really.
“It’s about going through the gears at the right time, knowing if there’s a bowler we’ve looked at as someone to hit more boundaries against, or if there’s an end with the wind or it’s slightly shorter [on one side]. There’s a few more tactical things to work on.”
And while England were dominant in their most recent series against West Indies, Sciver insisted that they will not be taking their opponents lightly. They were beaten by them on a slow St Lucia pitch in the 2018 T20 World Cup, and know that they will be particularly useful if the Derby wickets are slow and low.
“We can never take West Indies lightly. They’ve got people who can change the game all the way down the order with the bat, and once they get a few wickets in a row they just squeeze you and make it really difficult for you as a team.
“They’re a great opposition, and one that you can’t take lightly at all. As a team, we’ve got to be ruthless right until the end.”