The chances of England defending their World Cup title shrunk dramatically after they lost their group-stage match against West Indies by seven runs, in a nail-biting scrap.
At 156-8 in 35 overs, chasing 225, England looked down and out, but a record 61-run ninth-wicket partnership between Kate Cross (27) and Sophie Ecclestone (33 not out) took them agonisingly close. It was off-spinner Anisa Mohammed who finally sunk their hopes, getting her fingertips to the ball to run out Cross backing up in the 48th over, before clean bowling Anya Shrubsole three balls later to finish the job.
For West Indies, a 123-run partnership for the fifth wicket between Shemaine Campbelle (66) and Chedean Nation (49 not out) proved crucial, while Hayley Matthews – who scored a century in her side’s opening game – chipped in with 45 runs and the key wickets of Heather Knight and Nat Sciver, as England were all out for 218.
Following on from a loss to Australia in their opening game, England now face an uphill struggle to qualify for the semi-finals, while West Indies have become the unlikely challengers for the title, having also beaten hosts New Zealand on Friday.
“We’ve obviously made it tricky for ourselves but no way are we out of this World Cup yet,” Knight said after play. “We can’t linger on it too much. We’ve got to take the things that we can do a lot better out of the game and make sure we’re focusing on the next one.”
“That next game is crucial to our World Cup hopes. Hopefully that will sharpen people up, because at the moment we’re fighting for our lives in this tournament.”
England’s chase was nervy from the start, after Lauren Winfield-Hill departed early courtesy of a spectacular catch from Deandra Dottin, diving full stretch to her left to pluck the ball out of the air at backward point. Matthews, introduced in the 10th over, then had Knight caught behind after an umpire review for a stumping showed an unexpected spike on Ultra Edge, before Sciver slogged her straight to mid-on.
Tammy Beaumont, who had been put down by Mohammed at slip in single figures, clawed her way to 46 from 76 balls, but the bowler claimed her revenge in the 26th over, trapping her leg-before. Danni Wyatt (33) and Sophia Dunkley (38) combined for a 60-run partnership but when both fell within three balls of each other, it was left to the tail-enders to scrap it out.
“We back our tail,” Knight said. “Sophie [Ecclestone] has worked so hard on her batting. It did feel very calm, they kept it very simple and just tried to tick off the total. The way they played was outstanding and showed real fight.”
Earlier, West Indies had reached 81 without loss in the opening 20 overs, but were reduced to 98-4 by Ecclestone, who claimed figures of three for 20. Matthews miscued a catch to third man in the 21st over, while four balls later captain Stafanie Taylor edged behind for a duck to a brilliant ball that turned a mile.
In between times, Dottin (31) fell victim to a sharp piece of fielding from Wyatt, who sprinted in from cover to throw down the stumps at the striker’s end and ran out the Barbadian. Wyatt followed that up with a good catch at cover, to hand Ecclestone her third.
Campbelle and Nation, though, staged a recovery, helping West Indies to a tasty 47 runs from the final five overs after England squandered several opportunities to break the partnership – Shrubsole putting Campbelle down twice at short third man, while Amy Jones fumbled a run out.
“We struggled to take wickets,” Knight admitted. “We were clear on our plans and we just didn’t quite execute at times.”
It followed three earlier chances which had gone begging: Matthews was dropped twice, on five and 33, while England lost the chance to see off Dottin on the very first ball of the innings when Winfield-Hill shelled a leading edge at cover. Having treated the ball like a hot potato, England will be ruing what could have been, as they stare down the barrel ahead of their next match against South Africa on Monday.