They’ll be singing on the streets of Wellington tonight… or today… or tomorrow… or whatever time it is in New Zealand… after Sophie Devine led New Zealand to victory in Hove, with an innings of 50 off 41 balls, with all-but half of those runs coming in just 4 shots for six.
The biggest of those sixes – onto the rooves of the hospitality boxes over deep midwicket – were vintage Devine – an effortless whip of the wrists sending the ball sailing through the starless black skies over the county ground at Hove.
Nonetheless, New Zealand almost blew it, partly thanks to some magic fielding from Mady Villiers, who brilliantly threw down the stumps to send Suzie Bates back to the pavilion for 8, and then produced a stunning running dive to catch Devine. There was also a smart Caught & Bowled to get rid of Maddy Green.
There remain doubts about exactly what Villiers’ role in this team is – she is batting below Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn, neither of whom are genuine allrounders – so she is batting in a bowling position, but she only bowled one over. That over did produce a wicket, but what England really needed at that stage in the game, with 23 required from 5 overs, was for an over not to go for 8 runs… which is what it went for. Nonetheless, there is little doubt that Villiers is among the best fielders in the world… if not the best – and that’s pretty handy to have on-board.
Devine’s heroics overshadowed what was a strong debut for Maia Bouchier – her 25 off 24 balls was the highest score by an England player on T20 debut since the very first T20, played at this same ground in 2004. I wrote during The Hundred about how Bouchier seemed to have a new sense that she truly belongs at the highest levels of the game, and she showed that again today. One shot in particular – a cut through point off Amy Satterthwaite – was a stroke out of the very top draw.
Less than a year ago, Bouchier was heartbroken to be banned from bowling by the ECB for an illegal action; but she vowed to go away over the winter and rectify the issue with her action, which she did to the satisfaction of the board, who cleared her to bowl again earlier in the summer. It took real character to do that, not to mention hard work, and that was rewarded with an England cap tonight, and the chance to do what Emma Lamb didn’t have the chance to do on her debut last week: to actually make an impact on the game.
Coming in at 4-down with 10 overs to go though is a mixed blessing – you have time, but it is all on you! It was a real pressure situation for Bouchier, and some slightly crazy running between the wickets suggested she was feeling that pressure. But with luck and pluck she came through it, and it seems safe to say that although she is unlikely to play in the 3rd T20, assuming Heather Knight returns to the XI, we will see her in an England shirt many more times in years to come.