Sophia Dunkley held her nerve in a thriller as England came up trumps to win the final T20I and the series in the three-match T20I series at the County Cricket Ground in Taunton on Thursday (September 9). Heather Knight led from the front with a 42 in her 200th international match for England while Leigh Kasperek's brilliant spell of bowling went in vain.
With England needing seven runs in the last over, New Zealand chose to bowl Amy Satterthwaite and it looked like the right decision as she had immediate reward in the form of Maia Bouchier on the first ball. Katherine Brunt scored only one run from the next two deliveries. With Dunkley taking two off the fourth ball, England needed four off the last two balls and Dunkley kept her calm as she thumped a full toss through mid-wicket to take them to a series win.
In the chase, New Zealand started with two frugal overs giving away only five runs in the first two overs with Kasperek and Jess Kerr keeping it tight. But Danielle Wyatt broke free in the third over with a boundary through mid-wicket before launching Sophie Devine over long-off.
Meanwhile, Kerr continued her good spell as she accounted for Tammy Beaumont when the right-hander miscued one straight to mid-wicket for just three. Wyatt went about in her usual fashion as she hit Kerr for five boundaries in the space of seven deliveries. She first got a streaky boundary through fine-leg before hitting another to square-leg in Kerr’s second over. She then hit the swing bowler for three fours in a row in the final over of the power play to take England’s score to 40 for one.
However, crafty spin bowling from Kasperek gave New Zealand twin breakthroughs with the off-spinner getting Natalie Sciver to hit one straight to Hayley Jensen at mid-wicket before Wyatt pulled a long-hop to Thamsyn Newton at the boundary to reduce England to 42 for three.
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With the score reading 45 for three in seven overs, England needed experienced duo of Knight and Amy Jones to stand up. Jones – known for her fast starts in middle overs in recent times – hit Jensen through third man for a boundary to get things moving. After a tight over from Satterthwaite, Jones took on the off-spinner with a reverse-sweep and a cover-drive before Knight’s boundary gave 16 runs in the over.
However, Kasperek once again brought the visitors back into the game when Jones dragged one onto the stump for 31 off 19. But with only 47 runs needed from the last seven overs with six wickets in hand, game was firmly in the grasp off England as New Zealand needed more wickets.
After Kerr finished her spell with a tight over, 16 runs came in the next two overs with Knight and Sophia Dunkley running hard between the wickets and Knight finding the edge for one boundary. Luck continued to go England’s way as another Newton miss in the field reduced the target to 19 off the last three overs as New Zealand’s best bowler on the day Kasperek bowled out.
In the second delivery of the 19th over, Knight slog-swept Devine for a four to reduce the target to 11 off the last ten balls but once again the match continued to oscillate as the England skipper found Suzie Bates at extra-cover as her innings ended at 42 off 36. It eventually came down to the second last ball of the final over to decide the winner.
Put into bat by Knight in her 200th game for England, New Zealand started well with Suzie Bates middling almost every ball she faced. She first hit Natasha Farrant through the off-side for a boundary before smashing one through cow corner.
Devine joined her with a four through square-leg but Bates had most of the strike in the power play and she made most of it adding three more boundaries to her credit as she hit Sciver through mid-wicket and pulled Katherine Brunt through the same region. New Zealand were well placed with 37 runs on the board without any loss at the end of the power play.
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Just as it looked like Bates will run away with the show as she swatted Farrant through the leg-side for another four, Farrant struck back castling the veteran batter for 34 off 30 balls. Bates’ dismissal brought the New Zealand innings to a halt with Satterthwaite taking time to find her feet even as Devine continued to be starved of strike. The New Zealand skipper faced only 18 balls in the first ten overs.
From there, Devine tried to open up with a couple of boundaries but England struck again to remove Satterthwaite for 13 off 21. Soon New Zealand found themselves in further trouble when Sophie Ecclestone castled Devine with an arm-ball as the run rate reduced to just six an over.
However, the middle order had other ideas and they attacked the England bowlers and played some enterprising shots – especially through the off-side – to put New Zealand innings back on track. It started with Maddy Green hitting Farrant for consecutive boundaries. Even though she was dismissed off a bouncer off Sciver, Katey Martin and Brooke Halliday continued the assault with a flurry of boundaries.
Martin started with two fours off the first two deliveries she faced while Halliday gave herself room to smash Ecclestone thrice through cover and point region with England keeping the field up on the off-side. One more boundary from the final over saw New Zealand finish at a healthy 144 for four from their 20 overs with 50 runs coming from the last four overs.
For England, four bowlers picked one wicket each with only Brunt going wicketless.
Brief Scores: New Zealand 144/4 in 20 overs (Sophie Devine 35, Suzie Bates 34; Sarah Glenn 1/20) lost to England 145/6 in 19.5 overs (Heather Knight 42, Danielle Wyatt 35; Leigh Kasperek 3/25) by 4 wickets. POTM: Heather Knight; POTS: Sophie Devine