How Sophie Molineux's spell turned the tables on England

S Sudarshanan
New Update
How Sophie Molineux's spell turned the tables on England

Sophie Molineux (fourth from left) celebrates the fall of a wicket with her team-mates. © Getty Images

England were coasting at 52 for 2 in eight overs in a run chase of 133. Tayla Vlaeminck had managed to rattle and send back the openers early in the piece. Two bankable and in-form batters in Natalie Sciver and Heather Knight were in the middle.

Sciver had managed to get England over the line in their clash against India on Friday (February 7). On Sunday, she had got going with a couple of pristinely timed fours off Ellyse Perry. The first was a whip past mid-on, the next was creamed through the gap between mid-off and covers. An over later, she had driven another one past mid-off, this time off Nicola Carey.

It didn’t matter that at the other end, Vlaeminck was working up good pace - even troubling Knight who was hopping and jumping around. But the runs were continuing to flow, albeit off the edges.

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So here was Sciver, batting on 16 off just 10 balls. Her timing was immaculate, placement superb, and with her in the middle Australia’s 132 seemed miniscule. After all, only a day ago, India had managed to hunt down their 174-run target without much fuss. England were, therefore, clearly on course.

That’s when Meg Lanning decided to introduce Sophie Molineux into the attack. Not long ago, the slow left-arm bowling allrounder had taken a sabbatical from the sport due to mental health reasons. Her return was carefully managed - meaning she was available for the World Cup - and she was entrusted with the ball when, seemingly, the going was tough for Australia.

The left-armer tossed one up generously around off and middle, Sciver quickly got into position and slogged it. The ball hit the meat of the bat and it would have been unfair had it not gone the distance. But not everything in life’s fair. It was so perfectly hit, that it found Perry at deep mid-wicket to perfection. She didn’t have to move an inch.

That’s when perhaps the wheels of England’s chase started coming off.

Molineux had the benefit of having batted first on the track. The runs weren’t easy to come by towards the end. The odd ball was stopping on the surface.

In her next over, she spotted an aggressive Knight dancing down the track. She fired the ball wider and it stuck in the surface which meant Knight had to reach out and moreover, since it was banged in a touch, the ball crept under the bat. Alyssa Healy did the rest.

Seeing the way Molineux was performing, Lanning opted to bring Jess Jonassen into the attack. In similar fashion to Knight's dismissal, Fran Wilson was sent back to the hut by Jonassen, who was a part of Brisbane Heat’s title win in WBBL 05.

In the next over, Tammy Beaumont played an ill-advised reverse sweep to an arm ball that crashed into her leg stump.

England had thus managed to slip from a position of strength to utter confusion. What they needed was an unbelievable cameo from their lower order to help them save face after losing four wickets for 17 runs in 26 balls.

Although Molineux was taken for 11 off her final over by Lauren Winfield and Katherine Brunt with minimum fuss – something that the other English batters should have done – she finished with 4-0-19-3, effectively sealing an Australian win.