The Vitality Tri-Nations series moved to Bristol for the third of the double-headers, but kept the same blissful weather enjoyed at Taunton.
It was the White Ferns turn to appear twice. They saw off the Proteas with comparative ease, ensuring themselves and England of a place in the final at Chelmsford the following Sunday.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, New Zealand started with some untidy out-cricket involving overthrows and mis-fields, as well as a sequence of wides. But they tightened up enough to ensure South Africa didn’t profit from Lizelle Lee’s powerful hitting (35). Sune Luus was most unlucky to be run out backing up as Suzie Bates’ delivery was deflected off her hand on to the bowler’s stumps. Laura Wolvaardt continued her familiar role, keeping one end safe, but leaving the heavy scoring to others. Chloe Tryon hit the ball immensely hard in reaching 35 of only 15 balls. Dane van Niekerk (25) and Mignon du Preez (18) helped see the total to 148-6.
Sadly for them, it proved all too easy a target for the White Ferns’ outstanding opening pair, Sophie Devine and the skipper, Suzie Bates. All five bowlers suffered run-rates of between 8 and 10 per over. Marizanne Kapp managed to remove Bates (62), but Devine went on to an award-winning 68*.
A total of 151-2 was reached in the 16th over. So the South African coach could fill up with gear and depart long before the party was over.
There is something slightly artificial about a tri-series like this. New Zealand and England would now go out to play again, knowing both were safely through to the final. This was merely a dress-rehearsal for the big day, the second of three encounters against each other.
Only the result of the final will tell us whether the game in Bristol had any psychological bearing on the Chelmsford game. By rights, England should be odds-on favourites with a record of 11 wins in 12 encounters.
Mark Robinson brought Katie George into the XI, to give her a well-deserved chance to earn a regular place. Heather Knight gave her the second over and it began dramatically. From left-arm over, she forced an edge of Bates’ bat, but Sarah Taylor couldn’t hang on to a high, wide snick. The crowd gulped in disbelief. No matter; before she had scored a run Amy Jones brought off the first of two quite startling catches in the deep to remove her.
Later in the innings she brought off an even more unlikely catch at long-on, diving to her left and hanging on with both hands. By then, Devine had struck a hard-hitting 52, joining Amy Satterthwaite (37) in a partnership of 59. George had the huge encouragement of taking her maiden wicket, winning an lbw decision against Satterthwaite.
The scoring rate never threatened to get out of control, England’s five main bowlers going at a manageable average of 6.6 per over. A total of 129 looked inadequate.
Sarah Taylor kept up her remarkable record of making a stumping every match. World stats have yet to be brought up-to-date, but she may well now claim first place in this specialist field.
Any sense of anti-climax was removed when both Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont succumbed early to airy drives against Aimee Watkin, to be caught by Bates at mid-off. Fortunately, the middle order took command. Taylor displayed her extraordinary range of shots, including a near-vertical twist of the blade to send a ball to the fine third-man boundary. When she was stumped off Amelia Kerr for 51, Nat Sciver (39*) and the captain (24*) took over, both hitting five fours (Knight off just eleven balls) to bring proceedings to an early close. (133-3).