India kept the multi-format series alive (ish – they can’t win it, but they can still stop England from doing so) with a dramatic win under increasingly gloomy skies at Hove.
Those darkening skies doubtless reflected Heather Knight’s mood, after she was run out in what she evidently considered controversial circumstances by her once (at Western Storm) and future (at London Spirit) team-mate Deepti Sharma. Deepti clearly did impede Knight as she ran her out, but it wasn’t obviously deliberate, so it was down to Harmanpreet to withdraw the appeal, which she declined to do, leaving Knight to walk back to the dugout shaking her head in disbelief.
Harmanpreet was of course well within her rights under the laws; but for what it’s worth, as someone who has been watching Heather Knight captain cricket teams for 10 years, I think she probably would have withdrawn the appeal if she’d been in Harman’s boots. In a high profile game like this, with the series on the line, though… who knows for sure?
It certainly turned what had been looking like another England promenade into a proper game of cricket. At the start of that 14th over from Deepti, England needed just over 6-an-over, having been motoring along at 8. Tammy Beaumont had played really well again – making a run-a-ball half century – her 7th in an England shirt this year. She was a little unlucky to be given out LBW on “umpire’s call” – she was so far down the pitch that I don’t think the umpire would have “called” initially if DRS hadn’t been available; but, again, them’s the rules and England have to live with them.
With the Knight run out the next ball, England went from 2-down to 4-down in the blink of an eye, and although they kept up with the run-rate, wickets continued to fall, testing the policy of eschewing a 7th batter to give themselves more bowling options, ultimately to destruction. Ecclestone, Brunt, Villiers and Glenn can all bat – but when you need 7-8 an over, with a roaring crowd of Indian fans in the stands, and Poonam bowling her loopy turning deliveries a foot outside off stump, it’s suddenly not quite so easy, as one by one they discovered.
Overall, playing 5 bowlers probably is the right call, because of the flexibility it offers; and one extra batter probably wouldn’t have saved England’s bacon today anyway, but I do think England could have used their bowling options better. Katherine Brunt was given a second over in the powerplay, despite the first having gone for 11, and it went for 21, which in the context of a game which went pretty close to the wire, is not ideal!
(I guess the theory is that if you offer Shafali enough short balls, she’ll eventually sky one to a fielder… as she did! But in a T20 game it’s a dangerous tactic, because if that “eventually” takes 38 balls, she’s going to score a lot of runs in that time… as she did!)
All this should take nothing away from the Indians though – they closed out the game, against the odds, with Sneh Rana holding her nerve in the final over, in a situation where England, needing 14, could still have won. And it sets things up nicely for a finale at Chelmsford on Wednesday, in which the pressure will actually be more on England for once.
It will be interesting to see how they respond.