Natalie Sciver and Amy Jones scored fifties as England beat India by eight wickets to set up a mouth-watering clash with Australia in the Women’s World T20 Final.
After the two batters had watched West Indies get skittled out for 71 and India struggle to 112 on the same pitch, viewers might have expected Sciver and Jones to look uncomfortable.
Instead, they made it look easy to bat on because they did what the Indians and the West Indians failed to do: they played the right way. They stayed back and played the ball late, they did not take unnecessary risks and they picked the right balls to attack.
Sciver and Jones also ran well between the wickets to ensure they kept the scoreboard moving, as the wicketkeeper alluded to in her post-match interview. She said, “Nat’s always getting me to run. She’s always telling me to run hard.”
It is interesting that Jones has phrased her answer in this way because it reveals that Sciver is the dominant partner when they are in the middle. In one way, this is surprising because the Surrey player is less than a year older than the Warwickshire keeper. But in another, it is to be expected because Sciver has played 111 internationals compared to Jones’ 57.
This partnership dynamic also reflects the all-rounder’s status in the game. She has played franchise cricket in the Big Bash, she is the captain of the Surrey Stars and she is regarded as one of the best players in world cricket. It is little wonder, then, that Jones felt comfortable batting with Sciver.
“It’s fantastic to get the win,” Jones said. “Nat just came in and took the pressure off straight away. It’s brilliant to have a big partnership.”
The keeper was summoned to the middle in only the second over after Beaumont was dismissed for one. She looked composed from the first ball she faced, but the chase remained in the balance until Sciver joined her.
As Jones mentioned, Sciver took control of proceedings. She batted with purpose, scored quickly and put pressure on the bowlers. Her partner followed suit, and soon the chase began to look like a formality.
Brilliance in the field ensures achievable target
Smriti Mandhana got India’s inning off to a great start with a rapid 34 and they moved onto 43 after 5.5 overs. However, Sophie Ecclestone then took a good return catch to dismiss her and the team’s scoring rate slowed dramatically.
By the time Taniya Bhatia was removed by Heather Knight in the ninth over, they had only added 10 more runs. However, Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur restored order and looked relatively comfortable for a time.
Then viewers saw the first piece of brilliance. Beaumont noticed Rodrigues struggling and quickly threw the ball into Jones to run her out. This left Kaur with a lot of work to do and, unfortunately, she did not hang around to do it as Kirstie Gordon’s excellent tournament continued.
The youngster, who was playing just her fourth international match, dismissed Veda Krishnamurthy with the first ball of the 16th over and then induced a false shot from Kaur with the fifth ball to reduce India to 94-5.
And the 2017 World Cup finalists never recovered. Heather Knight removed Dayalan Hemalatha and Anuja Patil, and then Danni Wyatt produced one of the best pieces of fielding in the tournament. With one and a half stumps visible, she picked the ball up, took a split second to take aim and then threw with pinpoint accuracy to send Radha Yadav back to the dugout. That wicket took the score to 104-8 and India only added eight more runs before they were bowled out.
Australia seek to heal ‘scars’ after thrashing West Indies
For a team that is used to dominating world cricket, four years without a major trophy is a long time, and the Australians are understandably keen to end that barren run in Saturday’s final.
“I’d be lying if I sat here and said we haven’t got scars after the last couple of World Cups,” Alyssa Healy told icc-cricket.com. “To be ranked No.1 in the world and not have a trophy is something we are looking to rectify.”
Australia took a huge step towards achieving their goal when they hammered West Indies by 71 runs. Healy played a massive part in the victory as she scored 46 off 38 balls to earn her fourth consecutive player of the match award.
“For us to go out there and execute exactly what we wanted to do, it’s really pleasing,” the wicketkeeper-batsman said. “It’s such a proud win. And I think everyone deserves to be emotional and really happy about it.”
After Healy’s 46 had helped Australia reach 142-5 in their 20 overs, six Southern Stars bowlers shared the wickets to dismantle the hosts for half that score. It was an utterly ruthless display, and one that surely ensures they will be favourites to take home the trophy.
“There’s a bit of an aura around this group at the moment,” said Healy. “There’s something really special building but we’ve got one more huge game to go. We’ll be disappointed if we can’t get over the line.”
With Australia installed as favourites, England may need to find a way to dismiss Healy cheaply if they are to win. On the other hand, if their openers fire for the first time in the tournament, they may not need to.
Even if the pitch is slow again, as it was for the semi-finals, Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont are very destructive players so they could be the difference for the Three Lions.
But that is not to say they are the only match-winners. Far from it, in fact, as both teams boast several players in their line-ups who could make the crucial difference. It promises to be a wonderful final.