A short while into New Zealand’s innings at Headingley a huge cheer went up amongst the crowd – 2,638 miles away England had scored in their World Cup quarter-final against Sweden in Samara, and with the TVs in the hospitality boxes (and the press box) tuned to the BBC, many of the 2,000-strong crowd in Leeds obviously had half an eye on the action in both of the day’s big games!
The players out in the middle were definitely not unaware of what was going on – “We got goose bumps on the pitch hearing that!” said Nat Sciver afterwards.
Another goal followed for England’s footballers and as they coasted towards what turned out to be a fairly straightforward win, England’s women were doing very much the same. Sciver diplomatically said that New Zealand are “by no means a two-batsman team” but it does rather look that way nonetheless.
Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates put on 70 for the first wicket – the sort of score you’d generally call a “strong platform” – but for New Zealand the platform is built on a middle-order made of sand, and they proceeded to lose 4 wickets for 5 runs in 3 overs, losing not only Devine and Bates, but also Amy Satthertwaite, whose purple patch in 2016-17 – when she scored 4 consecutive centuries – is starting to look like ancient history.
New Zealand’s eventual collapse to 148 all out had a horrible feeling of inevitability about it from the moment Sophie Ecclestone held a very good running catch to dismiss Devine; and once Katie George had caught Bates off Sciver and Elwiss had trapped Satterthwaite LBW, it was time to start the crane.
This was after England had posted a score of 290-5, which felt slightly under-par at the half-way mark, for which much credit has to go to Amelia Kerr, who was the pick of the New Zealand bowlers, taking 2 big wickets (Amy Jones and Sarah Taylor) and perhaps more importantly going for just 36 runs in 10 overs.
Sciver admitted that England were wary of Kerr:
“Amelia was probably their most attacking bowler, so we were making sure that we took the easy ones against her and cashing in at the other end.”
Kerr was really the difference that meant England didn’t get past that 300 mark; but mention also must go to Katherine Brunt who produced the goods again with the bat to at least get them close – it wasn’t the prettiest cricket, but it was pretty effective, and meant Nat Sciver had more freedom to play her improvisations at the other end, knowing that there were runs coming from both ends.
In the end it was one of those improvisations that did for Sciver – LBW trying to play the “Natmeg” – but with some big boundaries and a wicket that was a bit slow, it was probably the right way to play and after going on to take 3 wickets as well, Sciver was awarded Player of the Match.
As for the White Ferns… unlike Sweden they can’t go home yet – there are still two matches more to play; and they are going to have to play a lot better than they did today or it is going to be a very long plane trip back to New Zealand at the end of next week.