At the start of this match, as Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine walked out to open the batting, I thought it rather odd that they hadn’t chosen to mix up the batting order. With 2 openers on fire and the rest of the line-up distinctly under-cooked, why not give the middle order an outing ahead of Sunday’s final?
As it turned out, the batting order didn’t matter a jot.
There are two wrong ways to approach T20 cricket. The first is to do as Laura Wolvaardt and Dane van Niekerk did earlier today and form a partnership where, while you might manage to hang around, neither of you is able to bat at a strike rate of anything like 100. The second is to bosh it all over, but get yourselves out. New Zealand became masters of the second approach today.
On 64-2, halfway through their innings and with the lean, mean fighting machine that is Sophie Devine unbeaten at one end, what New Zealand really needed was for a measured, mature approach to batting at the other. What they got was a middle order that, after Amy Satterthwaite fell victim to Katie George’s full, straight slower ball, collapsed in a heap – their last 7 wickets falling for 38 runs.
England fielded like tigresses – the highlights another stumping to add to Sarah “Legside” Taylor’s showreel; and two absolutely outstanding catches in the deep by Amy Jones off the bowling of Anya Shrubsole, Jones diving forwards both times to snatch the ball out of the air.
But New Zealand displayed a recklessness that England were able to take advantage of: slogging when they needed to defend; sweeping when they needed to play straight. Instead of letting Devine field the strike, they tried and failed to do her job for her.
Meanwhile Devine, who had said at the halfway point that a par score on this pitch was 150, looked on from the other end in disbelief.
“We just didn’t have enough batters that played smart enough cricket there with Sophie at the end,” Suzie Bates told us after the match. “She knew she could put her foot down and accelerate the innings but partners didn’t stick with her. It made it difficult for Sophie to kick on – she was caught in 2 minds which is never easy.”
Were they tired after that first game v South Africa? “It wasn’t about being tired – it just wasn’t clinical cricket. We play 50 over cricket and we’ve trained hard for this. I just don’t think we were smart enough.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s final, Bates was upbeat:
“We can only get better after that second effort today! We’ve got to take what we did against South Africa and do it for longer.”
But the ease with which England chased down the required runs – a beautiful half-century from Sarah Taylor, plus unbeaten contributions from Nat Sciver and Heather Knight, as England’s middle-order did what New Zealand’s had failed to do and steadied the ship – surely suggests that a win for the home side at Chelmsford is the most likely result, come the weekend.