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We’ve made it normal to feel pressure: Knight

Wisden India logo Wisden India 18-07-2017 Wisden India staff

A forlorn Charlotte Edwards, sitting at the press conference while Mark Robinson, the new coach, gave a chastening assessment of the England side after their narrow loss to Australia in the semifinal is one of the defining images of the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2016.

On Monday (July 17), the eve of another semifinal, this time the 50-over one against South Africa, the mood was lighter, and there was more confidence.

“A lot of the things we’ve done in the last 18 months is because of that semifinal, about being better prepared if we are in that position, being able to cope with pressure and deal with it better,” said Heather Knight, who took over after Edwards’s retirement.

“We’re fitter now,” added Robinson. “We couldn’t run our twos and do the little bits we need to do in a really close game.”

On the ‘Natmeg’

Mark Robinson: The whole team’s obsessed with it now! It’s something we have worked on for a year to get Nat to that point where she can guide it to miss the fine leg and get it in the gap.

Heather Knight: Now she’s working on the reverse Natmeg. I love how it’s gone viral. Our batting coach Ali Maiden hates it, he much prefers it when she plays it straight. In the semis, I’d prefer if she whacks it down the ground for four, to be honest!

Dane van Niekerk: That’s pretty skilful if you pull that off! I watched that (video) over and over again. The first time I watched it, I was like ‘Naah, it can’t be intentional.’ And then I watched it again and again, I showed it to Marizanne (Kapp), and I said, listen, that’s a really good shot. If she pulls it out tomorrow, I’ll probably give her a high five. It’s a great shot! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in men’s cricket, so it just shows you females are as skilful.

“There was a different vibe around that group (in that semifinal), compared to the group stages,” explained Knight. Players, under pressure, were uncharacteristic in their shot selection. But now, they had learnt to accept the responsibility. “We’ve been really honest. We’ve made it normal to feel pressure. That sort of honesty and openness will help us.

“We’ve got a better skill level as well. That’s a massive pressure off, when you trust your game, trust the players coming in next and you trust your bowlers. We are in a better place to do that.”

The women knew it was a must-win game, even as they tried to keep things as normal, she said. “What’s given the girls confidence is that we have won different types of games. We won that scrappy game against the West Indies, that tight contest against Australia. (High-pressure games) are what you train for. You don’t want to play in front of no people and under no pressure. You want to do well in the big games and when everyone’s watching.”

Having done the preparatory work now, the team knows it’s about execution. They are also taking comfort in how they have improved as the tournament has gone by.

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“I said at the beginning that we’d get better as the competition went on,” said Robinson. “We had people with niggles, people down on overs, the captain was coming back from injury. Lauren (Winfield, the opener) was missed (due to illness). Sarah (Taylor) we had a bit of doubt on that. We felt that as the tournament kept going, we would get people into form. We have worked really hard on the two opening bowlers, getting them back into cricket. It’s been heartening to see where we are.”

That the semifinal is in Bristol, a city the players enjoy and a ground where the team has memorable wins against Australia, South Africa and Windies this tournament, to huge support, is also a plus.

“We feel at home. As players we like routines and we like familiarity,” said Robinson.

“I started training here when I was 13 years old,” added Knight. “I know the place very well and I’ve seen the ground develop as well. The girls have loved it, the support’s been brilliant.

“The game against Australia was a highlight. The crowd lived every ball with us towards the end. As a player it lifts you, makes you want to do well and reward the supporters who have come out.”

And for Tuesday, that again is the plan.

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