The depth of England’s batting line-up was the difference between the two sides, as England pulled off a series win from the penultimate ball at Taunton.
New Zealand were heading for a total of around 120 until the final four overs. With the big names – Bates, Devine and Satterthwaite – all back in the dugout, England’s bowlers might have felt like they’d already got the job done; but Maddy Green (16 off 14 balls), Brooke Halliday (25 off 16) and Katey Martin (13 off 6) had other ideas, smashing 50 runs from the last 24 balls, leaving Sophie Ecclestone kicking the ground in frustration as her final over went for 16.
It certainly kept things interesting, especially after Nat Sciver and Danni Wyatt holed-out off consecutive balls in the 7th over. But as Heather Knight, back into the side after two games on the bench with a minor hamstring niggle, just wasn’t going to let that happen. Knight just plays whatever game is in front of her, and she plays it so well. So when Amy Jones was in, hitting at a Strike Rate of 168, Knight held back and played the anchor role, going at around 80. But as Dunkley came to the crease Knight turned on a dime, accelerating to a Strike Rate of 135, looking relaxed and confident.
Ball by ball, she manoeuvred England into a position where they didn’t need a big finish, so that even a wobble right at the end, with the loss of first Knight herself and then Bouchier, didn’t prevent them from closing out the match.
Sophia Dunkley again was crucial to this, in an echo of the way she played in the ODI fixture here against India earlier in the summer. In that match, she’d come to the crease with England 4-down and needing 130, and assuredly guided them home. This wasn’t quite in that league, but especially after Bouchier got out it could all have gone south, with just 5 balls left to make 7 runs. Katherine Brunt had a mow at her first ball and missed it, then ran an almost comically panicked single to get Dunks back on strike. Needing 6 from 3 balls, Dunkley however just did her thing – playing two proper cricket shots to get over the line with a ball to spare.
There is definitely an increasing sense that Dunkley is taking up the baton for England’s future. Her consistency and confidence and sheer unflappability remind me of no one so much as Heather Knight in the period she cemented her role in the team 2013-15.
Knight took over the captaincy shortly after.
As the young folks say… just sayin’!