In what is surely the most thrilling match in the short history of the Women’s Hundred, Nat Sciver took Trent Rockets to within touching distance of a shock win against Southern Brave, before falling just short off the last ball.
Rockets had looked dead and buried with 24 runs needed off the final five balls; but with Tahlia McGrath tasked with bowling the set, Sciver smashed her for three consecutive sixes over the leg side – two of which went several rows back into the crowd, making a mockery of the shorter “women’s” boundaries.
The equation then became four runs needed off the final ball… but an exhausted Sciver could only manage a single, leaving Brave to celebrate reaching their second consecutive Hundred final.
Brave pride themselves on being an excellent fielding unit, but several chances went begging against Sciver today – including a bad drop at mid-off by Molly Strano when Sciver had just 8 runs on the board. They will need to tighten things up if they are to have a chance against the all-round excellence of Oval Invincibles in Saturday’s final at Lord’s.
On the other hand, after finding themselves 32 for 3 and then 58 for 4 in the first innings of the match, today is yet another example to add to Brave’s hallmark list of “winning a game which we should really have lost”. Afterwards, a relieved-looking McGrath reflected that the team had faced a rollercoaster few days, unsure if they would have to play in today’s Eliminator until 6pm on Wednesday.
“There’s been a lot of travel,” she said. “There’s been a lot of unknowns, a lot of packing, a lot of changes in plans and hotels and destinations.”
“But the most important thing is we turn up and we play cricket. We know that we can win from any position – that gives us a lot of confidence going into tomorrow.”
Sciver, by contrast, looked close to tears when she appeared on the BBC immediately after the loss – telling Isa Guha: “I’m annoyed at myself [for missing out on the final ball]”.
That interview summed up Sciver’s Hundred, which has proven something of an emotional rollercoaster, after spending the past three weeks feeling almost the entire weight of the Rockets batting on her own shoulders. Only she and Elyse Villani feature in our Top 20-ranked batters; while Rockets were overall the weakest batting team in the group stages.
Juggling it with her bowling AND the captaincy ultimately proved too much, with Villani asked by Sciver to take over for the final two matches, to allow her the chance to focus purely on her own game.
“It was a conversation from Nat and Nunny [Brunt], they brought it towards myself and Sall [coach Salliann Briggs],” Villani said after the Eliminator. “They thought it might be the best fit for the last couple of games.”
“I was a little bit surprised, but at the same time, I’ve been helping them in that role, having conversations and that sort of stuff. I know they’ve had a lot on their plate and they’ve had a lot of cricket. I could completely understand where they were coming from.”
It proved a wise decision, with Sciver striking her best score of the tournament against Brave – 72 not out from just 36 balls (not to mention figures of 1 for 16).
Unfortunately for Sciver, there appears to be no such chance of a break from the limelight when England’s series against India begins next week.
“She will be the England captain while Heather Knight’s injured,” Villani confirmed. “She’s got a big job coming up.”
As I’ve written recently, asking the world’s leading all-rounder to deal with captaincy on top of everything else is a LOT… and yet the problem for England is that they are left with a total lack of other plausible candidates to do the job. Sciver’s Hundred may now be over but her biggest challenge – picking up the pieces of an England side who looked shot in the bronze medal match of the Commonwealth Games four weeks ago – is just beginning.
Agreed, phenomenal effort from Nat in what turned out to be an incredibly close game! Maybe the difference in the end was that the Brave’s middle order fired and had some good partnerships, whereas Rockets fell away a bit in the middle order and didn’t support Sciver enough. McGrath batted well but was expensive with the ball and lucky not to lose it for Brave at the death! The women’s competition has been brilliant, looking forward to the final now.