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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

England wobble but wriggle past New Zealand to stay in World Cup reckoning | Women’s Cricket World Cup

England all but eliminated New Zealand’s chances of reaching the semi-finals of their home World Cup on Sunday – though not after a thorough scare, losing five wickets for 20 runs in their chase of 204 before finally securing a jittery win with one wicket to spare.

It should have been a straightforward run chase after England had earlier bowled New Zealand out in 48.5 overs, thanks to three wickets apiece from Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone. A half century from Nat Sciver and contributions from Heather Knight (42) and Sophia Dunkley (33) later, and England were coasting at 176 for 4.

But Sciver was bowled for 61 in the 44th, while Frankie Mackay spun one past Dunkley’s outside edge before removing Ecclestone and Cross in the space of four balls, finishing with career-best figures of four for 34.

The run-out of Katherine Brunt, who inexplicably called for a second run after pulling straight to deep midwicket, left England nine down with eight runs still needed. Finally, to the sheer relief of the England dugout, No 11 Anya Shrubsole whipped out a perfectly timed cover drive for four to level the scores, before clipping a single through midwicket to hand England a narrow win.

England’s own path to the semi-final is still far from guaranteed, but beat Pakistan and Bangladesh in their remaining two matches and they will likely scrape through to the knockout stages.

“It shouldn’t have got that close, we need to be better than that,” Knight said. “We have to be better at soaking up pressure.”

Cross added: “We’re not being clinical enough. It’s been a difficult tournament for us, it’s not gone how we wanted it to or how we envisaged that it would. But we’re starting to pick ourselves up at the right time. The main thing is we’ve got the win on the board and we’ve got the points that we needed.”

New Zealand were forced to take to the field without their talismanic captain Sophie Devine, who had retired hurt while batting after collapsing to the ground mid-run. Then, minutes after Lea Tahuhu became her country’s leading wicket-taker of all time in women’s ODIs by bowling Tammy Beaumont between bat and pad, she too was forced off the pitch after pulling up in her follow-through with a hamstring issue, leaving the Kiwis a bowler short.

Lea Tahuhu pulls up with injury.
Lea Tahuhu pulls up with injury. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Nonetheless, England did their best to make a meal of the run-chase, losing Danni Wyatt early to a brilliant catch by Hannah Rowe at mid-off, while Amy Jones limply holed out yet again to midwicket. With rain steadily falling, a 70-run partnership between Sciver and Dunkley did enough to ensure England remained ahead of DRS, but the last-minute collapse almost put paid to their efforts.

“It’s pretty gut-wrenching to get that close and not quite get over the line,” stand-in skipper Amy Satterthwaite said. “But to show that guts and fight and keep going, I’m proud of the group for doing that consistently throughout this campaign.”

Earlier, New Zealand had started strongly, reaching 134 for 2 in the 31st over before another tidy performance from off-spinner Charlie Dean (two for 36) removed Amelia Kerr (24 off 38) and Satterthwaite (24 off 42), both attempting the sweep.

Maddy Green (52*) successfully took on Ecclestone, hitting her over the top for the sole six of the New Zealand innings en route to her first half-century in World Cups. But Ecclestone (three for 41) worked her magic at the other end, wrapping up the tail with help from a phenomenal diving catch by Knight at cover to see off Tahuhu.

Though Jess Kerr punished two Katherine Brunt’s gimmes for boundaries to take her side past the 200-mark, she was eventually run out by Dean at square leg – seven balls of the New Zealand innings going unused.

Wayward opening spells from Brunt and Anya Shrubsole had earlier seen New Zealand off to a flyer as Devine and Suzie Bates put on 44 in the first seven overs, with Knight forced to rotate both bowlers out of the attack early. Brunt set the tone with the very first ball of the day, a leg-side full toss that added one more to England’s total of 69 wides conceded so far in this tournament.

But the introduction of Cross in the eighth over, combined with some controversial umpiring from Ruchira Palliyaguruge, underscored an England fightback. The Sri Lankan official adjudged that Bates and Devine had encroached into the danger zone batting out of their creases, and issued warnings to both openers, leading to coach Bob Carter remonstrating with him from the sidelines. Bates was clearly affected, and sent a leading edge to Beaumont at mid-off, trying to loft one over the top.

When Devine limped off in the 15th over, having reached 37*, she might have hoped not to be needed again. But when New Zealand lost four wickets for 11 runs, sinking to 155 for six in the 39th over, back she came. And yet, having received treatment for back soreness while off the field, she never looked comfortable, and lasted just six more balls before smashing Cross straight to Dean at long-on. It remains to be seen whether she will be passed fit for their remaining match, against Pakistan on Friday.

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