Sophia Dunkley produced the most significant performance of her England career, soaking up the pressure after coming in at 96-4 to deliver 67 critical runs and put the match well beyond Bangladesh’s limited batting.
England then bowled Bangladesh out for 134 to win by exactly 100 runs, bumping their Net Run Rate up sufficiently to ensure that whatever happened in the other match between South Africa and India, England finished the group stages in 3rd place, avoiding Australia and setting up a repeat of their 2017 semi-final against South Africa.
Batting at the bottom of the middle-order is so often the hardest gig in the game. If you come in at all, it is either with only a few overs left with no chance to “build” an innings, or with your team in horrendous trouble, knowing you have to guard your wicket all the more carefully as you try to shepherd the tail.
Put like that, it is actually quite odd that it’s a job England seem to invariably give to their most junior batter, but it is what they seem to do. (And no doubt will do to Alice Capsey if she comes into the T20 team next summer… though they shouldn’t!)
“Junior” is relative of course – Dunkley has over 40 caps now, across all 3 formats, so she’s no newbie, and she’s been consistent in this World Cup – she’s got starts every time she’s come to the crease, but hasn’t been able to convert that into a bigger score until today.
The impression I have is that, for whatever reasons, Dunkley has been limiting her game when pulling on an England shirt in this format. It is really interesting that the commentators working on this World Cup have never seen Dunkley play domestic 50-over cricket, so they see her primarily as a paddle-sweeper.
But when we looked back at Raf’s notes from one of her big innings for Stars a couple of years ago (her 90-odd at Beckenham v Sunrisers), it was full of cuts and pulls and drives; and though she started sweeping here, as she grew in confidence the drives started to come out of the box, and they were coming out of the middle of the bat too.
That’s the Sophia Dunkley England need going forwards; and it was the reason England were in a position to finish strongly today.
If they were realistic, Bangladesh’s aim at this World Cup would have been to win a game and hopefully not finish last. They’ve done that, and they should be proud of what they’ve achieved. They are a good bowling side, but their batting is still stuck in the amateur era and it was quickly apparent that they weren’t going to chase 234 – England had the game won at the break, and it was just a question of whether England could take the wickets quickly enough to get the Net Run Rate advantage they’d need to avoid Australia if India beat South Africa.
England’s pace attack has been blunted this World Cup and they’ve struggled to take wickets, while continuing to believe they’ve got the selections right. Freya Davies came in today, but it was made clear that Anya Shrubsole was only being rested, and Davies’ place in the pecking order was established as Nat Sciver opened with Katherine Brunt.
But neither Brunt not Sciver could make the breakthrough, and nor could Kate Cross, with Davies finally being thrown the ball in the 24th over. Davies ended up bowling 10 overs after Brunt went off with a “tight back”, and taking 2-36 – a tidy performance in a spinner’s game (Ecclestone, Dean and Knight taking 7 of the 9 wickets to fall to bowlers), but probably not one that is going to stop Shrubsole coming back for the semi-final.
Because a semi-final is where England are now headed, to play South Africa who handed them one of the 3 losses they started off this tournament with. Do they deserve to be in the semis? The way things have turned out (at time of writing this sentence, South Africa have literally just hit the winning run off the last ball against India) is tough on India; but frankly it is West Indies who have lucked out with that crucial point from a washed-out match they would probably have lost against South Africa. England put themselves in a position where they effectively faced down 4 quarter-finals in a row, and they fought through them tooth-and-nail and came out the other side. It wasn’t pretty, but ultimately it was pretty effective. The table doesn’t lie – they pulled it off, and they deserve it.
Two contrasting games today – congratulations England, commiserations India!
Australia are beatable if a team bats at its best, bowls at its best, and takes at least 90% of its chances, especially the early chance Meg Lanning often gives. Whether West Indies can do that, I doubt, but oh how I would love them to summon up the spirit of 2016!
England are a more complete team than South Africa, but if South Africa’s big stars shine, the Proteas could well win. That semi should be a cracker.
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Phew! Who’d a thought it 4 games ago!? However, good to see the relative newbies ( or younger players!) getting involved at the top levels!
Dunks, Charlie Dean and Sophie E. doing the business.
Interesting for South Africa selection.
The senior players ( if selected) MUST do the business, whether it be line and length and NO prolonged experiment balls, or play straight, choose the right shots when batting.
One thing still bemuses me……on a dead pitch why do batters refuse (apparently) to drop ball and run when it comes through so slowly?
Or am I living in the past.,…….
It was a bit frustrating watching the first 27 overs of England’s innings, Bangladesh bowled and fielded well and it looked difficult to score on that relatively slow, spinning pitch. Beaumont played OK but looked a bit short of touch. Sciver looked good for her 40 despite not getting many boundaries, and fell to one of those “unlucky” DRS lbws that was nearly too far down the track, nearly outside the line and nearly over the top but not quite on any of them – so the not out was overturned. I felt England really started to get going after halfway. Dunkley turned in one of her excellent all-action performances, full of energy, and received good support from Amy Jones and Brunt. This was a good example of following that ideal model of keeping wickets in hand to enable late acceleration at the death. It was a decent performance on that track, to score over 100 in the last 15 overs.
Over 230 was always going to be a big challenge for Bangladesh and so it proved. They really struggled to put pressure on the England bowlers and got bogged down. Once again Ecclestone and Dean were outstanding, challenging the batters and giving very little away. Brunt, Sciver and Cross were sparingly used, with Davies instead delivering a largely impressive 10 overs that posed a threat and forced the batters to take risks. I’m pleased that England again managed to bowl the opposition out.
This has been something of a “Great Escape” from England to make the semis, and in third place no less, given the poor initial 3 results that saw them nearly down and out. Whatever our thoughts on those 3 performances, or anything else going on in the background – credit must be given to the mental strength and resolve of the group to turn around the team’s fortunes. England are now heading into a knockout stage against 3 teams, all of whom beat them in the group stage, so trepidation is understandable. It will require a very good performance to beat South Africa but hopefully England can take it deep and stay in the game. SA are a bit vulnerable in that they are very reliant on Wolvaardt for runs, and their spin attack is pretty makeshift.
One of my interesting notes on the WWC so far concerns the bowling records of the 4 semi-finalists, and how in many ways Australia have trailed that group so far in this competition.
*All of England, SA and WI have a similar overs bowled-per-wicket taken value, about 5.3-5.4 overs per wicket for all 3 sides.
*England have taken 10 wickets in 4 consecutive matches, which I believe is a stat not matched by any other side.
*Australia have only taken 10 wickets twice, the fewest of any of the 4 semi-qualifiers, and have bowled the most overs so far in the comp out of any of the 4 semi-qualifiers.
*Australia’s overs-per-wicket stat is 6.2 overs per wicket, quite a bit higher. And that’s if you include the relative anomaly of the game where they dismissed Pakistan in 30.2 overs, an outlier in the data set. Without that boosting stat, the rate falls to a worryingly few-and-far-between 7 overs per wicket taken.
However you might rate Australia’s batting as a side, and I rate it as outstanding – their bowling has contained well, but been decidedly unspectacular so far in removing opponents from the crease at any great rate. It’s surprising for the runaway favourites just how much they rely on their batting – and getting them in early trouble must be a priority for any opponent.