England were two up with one to play as they came to Grace Road for the final act of a demanding international season.
Heather Knight won the toss yet again and chose to bat. With the game not scheduled to end till about 9.30 pm, this seemed the wise choice. Lauren Winfield and Kate Cross came in for Sarah Taylor and Katie George, to give them another chance to make their mark.
Amy Jones and Tammy Beaumont set off well, though the scoring rate struggled to get above 5 and stay there. By the time they’d posted another century stand, optimists were debating a 300+ score. But once Beaumont played one reverse sweep too many, the remaining nine batters failed to top 20. For Winfield this was an unwelcome setback as she tried to re-establish herself in the side. Her rival for the opening position, Amy Jones, played the lead role (78), but will be annoyed to have missed out on a century.
The late order may well have set their minds on batting out the full 50 overs, but they failed in both aims, letting the run-rate subside to an unthreatening 4.59. The White Fern bowlers redeemed themselves admirably, Leigh Kasperek’s off-spin taking the laurels with 5-39. She will be grateful for some splendid catches in the deep.
New Zealand followed advice coming from all quarters by delaying Suzie Bates’ entry to No 4. It worked decisively in one respect: Sophie Devine played one of the innings of the summer (117* off 116 balls!) to restore much needed pride. On the other hand, Bates continued her dismal recent run, mustering one single before repeating her false shot at Derby against Laura Marsh’s off-spin. It seemed an age since she took the Proteas’ bowlers to the cleaners at Taunton.
It mattered not a whit. The remaining Kiwis supported Devine excellently. The English bowlers toiled, taking only five wickets as Devine drove her side unstoppably to the target. Cross repeated an earlier impression: an aggressive quick bowler who, at present, can’t achieve the necessary – take wickets. Sophie Ecclestone demanded close attention; a remarkably high number of her deliveries were not met with the middle of Kiwi bats.
But the strangest sight of this second innings was the approach of a bank of black cloud from the south-west. Spectators scoured their memory cells to recall what this phenomenon was. Almost inevitably, the clouds dispersed without releasing a single drop of rain. England were not to be saved by the weather.
Not for the first time, an England team had failed to clinch a contest in the final round. Amateur psychologists speak of ‘lacking the killer instinct’, but there was no lack of effort exerted. Concentration lapsed too easily at the crease, batters getting themselves out with careless shots. A balance of three losses to set against a sheaf of wins will leave an sour taste in their mouths.
New Zealand 224 for 6
Lead photo shows Sophie Devine batting against . England in 2015