There were hopes that this game would be a classic for the ages, just as last years’ ICC World Cup final at Lord’s was. India, however, will look back on this game with a lot of ‘what ifs?’ the biggest of those what ifs was what if India had played their talismanic Mithali Raj?
On a slow low surface, a player that is able to rotate the strike and without smashing the ball to all parts of the ground still scores at a run a ball. England were able to manage that when they batted to pull off an 8 wicket win with 17 balls to spare at the Sir Vivian Richards ground, Antigua.
While Smriti Mandhana was batting in full flow anything was possible for India. Mandhana was dropped on 14 by Sophie Ecclestone in the third over. Mandhana then hit a four and a six from Ecclestone in the next over. She was in full flow. It was Ecclestone that would have the last laugh as Mandhana on the final ball of the powerplay chipped it straight back at the bowler Ecclestone who wasn’t dropping this chance.
With Jemimah Rodriques and Harmanpreet Kaur, India would have been confident that they could still post a total. England, however, grew in confidence as the game went on, Kaur couldn’t free her arms as usual scoring only one boundary shot, a six off Kirstie Gordon. It was the left-arm spinner who fought back well to get the dangerous Kaur who was caught well by Nat Sciver.
India could not keep up with the relentless pressure from the England bowlers who were bowling tight lines and lengths. At the end of the thirteenth over India were 77 for 2. They would eventually be bowled out for 112 as after the first four batters, no-one could reach double figures.
It was still a tough target for England to chase as the pitch had been getting slower all day. It should have suited India’s bowlers who bowl from a low trajectory. England had spent time in the run-up to this game practising for just that and it showed.
Both openers perished trying to get ahead of the game. Amy Jones and Nat Sciver who are good friends showed that in the middle as they milked the good balls with quick runs.
They were helped by the field placements from India who allowed both batters the chance to rotate the strike without fear of getting out. At 24 for 2 it should have been more challenging for England. Jones and Sciver both played it cool, not putting too much pressure on themselves. Both helped themselves to fifties at a strike-rate of over 115.
Jones top scored with 53 not out and Sciver was 52 not out. It will set up a final with Australia on Saturday. If ever there was a vindication for a professional T20 competition, these semi-finals showed just that. Maybe it will be India’s turn next.