This was the tournament thriller we’d all been waiting for – West Indies eventually winning with a mere 3 balls to spare. From England’s perspective, though, it should never have got that close.
Was this England’s worst batting performance of the Mark Robinson era? Of England’s top 6, only Tammy Beaumont made it into double figures, and it could have been even worse than that: Beaumont herself was dropped on 12, to a skier that the Windies keeper couldn’t quite cling onto.
At one stage it even looked like England could be dismissed for their record lowest score in T20Is – 87 v Australia at Hove in 2015 (a performance which this was reminiscent of at times).
Enter Sophia Dunkley for her first forage into international batting. She wouldn’t have been human if she hadn’t been nervous – and there were certainly some anxious swipes early on – but this is a player who, as I’ve written before, isn’t cowed easily. To finish as England’s top-scorer on debut, to stand firm as all around you lose their heads (Ed: do you mean wickets?), and to hit England’s first six of the tournament in the process – that takes a certain kind of temperament.
Captain Heather Knight summed it up afterwards:
“She has had to wait 3 games to get out there and get the bat in hand, and she has been itching at the bit to do that. The way she played, under that amount of pressure in front of 10,000 people – I’m really pleased for her.”
Dunkley was of course ably backed up by Anya Shrubsole, who after batting for 8 overs then came straight out to open the bowling. Her inswingers delivered two quick wickets in her first over, leaving West Indies 3-2 and England suddenly in with an unexpected shot at winning this match.
Had she taken a third, all might well have been different. Deandra Dottin could easily have been dismissed when still on 0* – Shrubsole inducing a miscue that fell only just safe of Sophie Ecclestone at mid-off. As it was, her 46 off 52 balls was crucial as West Indies wended their way towards the target.
“We held our nerve,” Dottin said afterwards, when asked about the difference between the two sides today. “We had a never die attitude.”
England, meanwhile, appeared to completely lose their heads in the field. It was as if, after Dottin began doing her thing, panic set in: there were all manner of fumbles, poor throws which could otherwise have been real run out opportunities, and just plain dropped catches. It was odd, too, that Knight chose to persist with Dani Hazell – who had gone at 9 an over in her first outing – when she could have turned to the leg-spin of Dunkley, or even bowled herself.
“It was very difficult conditions – the ball went very high, and fielding under the lights with the dark skies is something we haven’t done in this competition yet,” Knight said afterwards. “A little bit more skill and composure would have got us over the line.”
Skill and composure will be exactly what is required on Thursday, where they are now destined to meet India (not Australia as many expected) in their semi-final.