England blast past Pakistan on Knight’s day

Natalie Sciver was at her attacking best. © Getty Images

Natalie Sciver’s third ODI century and her unconquered 146-run fifth wicket partnership with Fran Wilson were the centerpieces of England’s 127-run demolition of Pakistan in the second ODI at Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday (December 12).

In her 100th ODI, Heather Knight got most decisions right, including that of the toss. Having elected to bat, England posted a mammoth 327 for 4 on the back of contributions from Sciver, Knight and Wilson.

Pakistan, who had altered their plans following a drubbing in the first ODI, attacked the stumps successfully in the first ten overs. Diana Baig refused to give Tammy Beaumont any width, tying her down with her tight lines. While Baig toiled away at one end, Nida Dar accounted for the first big wicket of the day, getting Danielle Wyatt (6) to slap a slow, tossed up delivery straight to Bismah Maroof at cover.

It was that wicket that brought Knight to the middle, and the England skipper looked in fine nick from the very start. Leaning in to her front foot drives, she gracefully caressed Baig for three boundaries in the space of two overs to get her innings up and running. While Beaumont struggled to rotate the strike, accumulating dot balls up the other end, Knight kept the scoreboard ticking. The pair added 61-runs for the second wicket before Beaumont was caught at point by Baig off Nashra Sandhu for 21.

At 67 for 2 in 13.4 overs, Pakistan would have felt like they were in control of the game— both centurions from the previous game back in the pavilion— with a chance to have a go at England’s middle order. That thought, however, couldn’t have been further from the truth as Knight and Sciver began to pile on the misery. The England skipper, who peppered the cover-point boundary off Aliya Riaz and the leg-side off Sandhu, brought up her 19th half-century off just 49 deliveries.

Heather Knight. © Getty Images

With England on cruise control, skipper Maroof brought herself into the attack. She sent down a few overs of slow, loopy leg-spin that allowed Pakistan to bring down the run-rate. Neither Knight, nor Sciver seemed to understand how to attack her— unable to advance down the track or power her off the back foot. The extreme lack of pace meant they were unable to generate enough power to pierce the field.

Eventually, the pressure created resulted in a run out. Knight, on 86— looking set to become the first woman to score a century in her 100th ODI— knocked a ball to the right of Sidra Ameen at mid-on and took off for a tight single. Ameen moved well, picked up the ball cleanly and fired in a strong throw that caught the England skipper just short of her ground.

At the start of the batting power play, Pakistan had pegged their way back into the game, dismissing Amy Jones (17) to reduce England to 181 for 4 in 35.5 overs, with Sciver on 43.

The start of the power play seemed to break the shackles for England. Wilson’s reverse sweep off her very first delivery was indication of what was to come. Once Sciver brought up her half-century off 53 balls, it was almost as if England had entered ‘happy hour’, collecting 46 runs off the power play. Pakistan’s shoulders dropped, the bowlers looked bereft of plans and the fielders didn’t help their cause either, dropping at least two straightforward catches. Sciver unleashed her power, pummeling anything short, peppering the leg-side boundary for fun. Wilson, on the other hand, unveiled a variety of trademark sweep shots and when the field was brought in, danced down the track and attacked the straight boundary.

The pair shared an incredible 146-run stand in just 14.1 overs, Sciver bringing up her third ODI century— and second against Pakistan— off just 85 balls. Wilson’s incredible cameo, which included eight fours and three sixes— one with which she ended the innings— saw her race to a career-high score of 85 off 49 balls.

Chasing 328, if Pakistan were ever to be in the hunt, the openers needed to get them off to a flier, something that Kate Cross made sure did not happen. Coming off the back of a four-wicket haul in the previous game, the right-arm seamer, got Ameen to chip a short of length delivery straight back to her.

Nahida Khan and Javeria Khan, however, went about laying a strong foundation. While the former drove with great authority off the front foot, the latter chose to play out a few dot balls to get used to the pace of the pitch. Having played 15 dot balls in her first 18 deliveries,  Javeria started to get a move on, collecting boundaries off Sciver and Cross. When she tonked Sarah Glenn over her head for another boundary, it looked like she was well set and determined to take on the chase. However, the leg-spinner extracted her revenge, firing in a delivery slightly flatter and shorter, striking Javeria plumb in front of the stumps for 26.

Sarah Glenn picked up two wickets. © PCB

The arrival of Maroof at no.4 seemed to give Pakistan (and Nahida) an extra ray of hope. The pair rotated the strike wonderfully well, hitting the gaps, dropping and running and also pushing the fielders on the boundary for twos. Bismah began to expand her repertoire, delicately dabbing deliveries from Sophie Ecclestone to the third man boundary and taking Glenn down the ground.

Much like the first innings, it was another run out that changed the course of the game that looked to be in the balance. Looking for a single off Glenn, Maroof slowly pushed a delivery in the direction of Natalie Sciver at mid-wicket and took off, as if for a run. A couple of steps down, she turned back, leaving Nahida stranded in the middle of the pitch. The opener had to go for a well made 43, and with her, it seemed the hopes of Pakistan too.

Omaima Sohail tried to build a partnership with Maroof, but her inability to rotate the strike meant the pressure only kept building. Knight’s second over, the 31st of the innings— in which she picked up two wickets— decisively turned the game in England’s favour. She got both Sohail and Dar caught at short fine-leg by Glenn to reduce Pakistan to 145 for 5.

Once again, it was the Pakistan skipper who waged a lone battle. The left-hander looked a cut above the rest of her teammates, taking full toll on the wayward deliveries, picking up singles with ease and largely looking untroubled on a pitch that seemed to offer little to the bowlers. In the process, she brought up her second consecutive half-century, the 13th of her ODI career. She was eventually dismissed for a 65-ball 64— Glenn’s second wicket of the day— after which the result was a mere formality.  Pakistan were eventually dismissed for 200 in 44.5 overs giving Knight one of the more emphatic wins of her career.

Brief Scores: England 327/4 in 50 overs (Natalie Sciver 100*, Heather Knight 86; Nida Dar 2-67) beat Pakistan 200 in 44.5 overs (Bismah Maroof 64, Nahida Khan 43; Anya Shrubsole 2-31, H Knight 2-33) by 127 runs. PoM: Heather Knight.