Among the songs played by the DJ at Edgbaston during the New Zealand innings was Paranoid, the seminal tune by local metal-meisters Black Sabbath. “People think I’m insane because I am frowning all the time,” sings Ozzy Osbourne; but as the old retort goes, you’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you… and England really were out to get New Zealand tonight.
With Katherine Brunt taking 2-4 from 3 overs, England restricted the Kiwis to 71-9. In 140 T20 internationals, New Zealand have only scored fewer runs batting first on one other occasion – also against England, when they were bowled out for 60 at Whangārei in 2015.
In front of a crowd of over 10,000, Brunt sailed in for the first over like a flagship on the evening breeze, almost bowling Suzie Bates before castling Sophie Devine with a roar of celebration. In her next over she did for Amelia Kerr too – it wasn’t a a great shot from Kerr, but they still only count if you hit the stumps, and Brunt did for the second time in the evening.
Brunt’s third over didn’t produce a wicket but only went for 2, and with New Zealand having also lost Bates in the meantime – a soft dismissal, caught by Nat Sciver off Issy Wong – the writing was already on the wall, and Brunt was not required to bowl another. She’d had her say though, and who’d bet against her having it again before these games are out?
Things went from bad to worse for New Zealand in the 7th over, as non-striker Brooke Halliday put her head down like a charging bull, setting off blindly for a run while Maddy Green stayed rooted in her crease, leaving both batters at the same end and the easiest of run-outs for Nat Sciver to complete. It was Halliday’s call in the sense that it had gone (just) behind square, but she really only had herself to blame nonetheless – if she’d just glanced up for the tiniest instant she’d have seen that Green wasn’t going anywhere and could have saved herself.
Their confidence shattered, New Zealand were just looking to stay alive after that, which they just about did, getting through the 20 overs for the loss of 9 wickets. Sarah Glenn bowled nicely, emphasising the value of consistently executing line and length in this format, rather than necessarily doing anything spectacular, finishing with 2-13 from 4 overs.
England’s response didn’t get off to the best start – again, Alice Capsey was into the action earlier than England would ideally have liked, but she’s making that number 3 spot her own now, and it was another box-office performance from the 17-year-old superstar. It was bang, bang, bang, bang, thanks for coming Lea Tahuhu, as the kid tonked the veteran seamer for 16 off her first over.
Not to be outdone, Sophia Dunkley hit Amelia Kerr for 10 off the next, and England were 41-1 – over half way there – inside 5 overs.
There was even room for a little wobble, with Capsey caught twice in the space of 4 balls (the first off a no-ball really summing up New Zealand’s day), and Dunkley bowled by Amelia Kerr, but Amy Jones is looking more confident with the bat than she has for a while and she finished things off with some stylish strokeplay to get England home with no further alarms.
New Zealand will need to pick themselves up off the floor before their semi-final against Australia. Bates and Devine have seen it all before of course, but it is their leadership, rather than their skills with bat or ball, which will be tested in the next 48 hours. You’d expect Australia to better New Zealand nine times out of ten, but there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be that one time, and if they can make the final they would have more than exceeded expectations from this tournament.
As for England, there is clearly a feeling of confidence in this team, but India have been looking dangerous with the ball and England’s batters will need to tread a delicate line of attack. Nat Sciver’s role as the anchor could be crucial without Heather Knight, who so often provides England with their backbone when things don’t go 100% to plan. The captain hasn’t really been missed yet, mainly thanks to the remarkable start to Alice Capsey’s England career, but we’re really at the business end of this intense tournament now, and India will look at England’s gung-ho approach and see a house of cards which they can bring crashing down. It should be quite a battle.