England put the ODI series to bed in Derby, completing their highest ever run chase thanks to a heavyweight hundred from Heather Knight.
Knight’s 4th international century was a very on-brand innings – perfectly paced, she did (almost) exactly what was needed – no more; no less. She passed 50 barely acknowledging the milestone, focussing on the job at hand; and only when she passed one hundred did she remove her helmet and share a hug with Danni Wyatt who was batting at the other end.
It wasn’t quite the perfect innings though – Knight’s famous concentration let her down for a moment, holing-out on the boundary with 8 runs still required – and she’ll be kicking herself for it. But despite the loss of Wyatt in the same over, it somehow felt never in doubt for England, with shades of the 2017 World Cup semi-final as Anya Shrubsole came in and clattered the first ball of the final over for 4, although it still took a wide to get them over the line with 2 balls to spare.
That New Zealand were able to set England a record-breaking chase was largely thanks to their tail piling on the runs at the death. With Katey Martin playing the anchor role at one end, finishing on 65*, Brooke Halliday (28) and Hannah Rowe (15) knocked off 43 from 33 balls between them, as the White Ferns hit at 7 runs an over through the last 10.
Hannah Rowe then went on to take 3-19 in her first six-over spell, removing Lauren Winfield-Hill with a beauty, as well as Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver, to leave England in a spot of bother at 71-3. Amy Jones has had ups and downs this summer, and she didn’t look at her best today either, but the important thing today was to stabilise the innings at a point where England could have collapsed to the loss, and that Jones did, putting on exactly 100 runs with Knight, to take England into match-winning territory.
Danni Wyatt also made a vital intervention – 27 off 27 balls, and crucially hitting her one maximum at an absolutely pivotal moment. At the start of the 44th over, England still needed 42 from 42 balls. By the end of it, that 6 from Wyatt, plus a 4 from Knight and 3 singles, had changed the equation to 29 from 36 balls – suddenly the pressure was dialled-down, and England were able to get home despite the mini-collapse at the end.
England clearly didn’t envisage Wyatt being part of their first-choice ODI XI coming into this series, but she has made a couple of important contributions now, and England look to have found a formula that works with 7 batters, albeit one that does leave them dependent on Nat Sciver to bowl almost a full quota of overs. Sciver is in a little bit of a slump with the bat, having scored just 34 runs in 6 outings versus New Zealand, but she’ll come good again – she has to, if England are to have any hope in Australia this winter.
Freed from the pressure to win the series, it will be interesting to see if England give Maia Bouchier a run out in the last match, having called her up prior to the Leicester game. If not, Heather Knight hinted in the press conference that people could be released to play in the RHF Trophy final on Saturday, so hopefully it will be one or the other – either an England ODI debut, or a domestic final.
Meanwhile, her Vipers teammate Charlie Dean looks to have secured her spot on the plane to the Ashes in Australia, having now played all 4 ODIs thus far, and taken 3 more wickets today. She’s not just bagging the tail-end Charlies (sorry!), or getting people caught on the boundary either – her wickets today included Amy Satterthwaite bowled and Sophie Devine LBW. There will be challenges to come – the hard part for any spinner is a few months after your debut, when the batters have had a chance to review your footage and make their plans – but she’s made a start, and you can’t ask for anything more than that.