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If you want tension…

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England v India Second T20 Hove

England failed to reproduce their best form, allowing India to creep within two points of them in the multi-format series.

Where did it all go wrong? Heather Knight did her job, winning the toss and asking the visitors to bat first.

One surprise was to see Nat Sciver given the first over; she gave little away. But when Katherine Brunt came steaming down the slope, the first doubts arose; she went for eleven runs.

Even worse, her second offering swung the game violently in India’s direction. Shafali Verma hit her for five consecutive fours. One stroke was a repeat of the the cut Verma attempted in the previous match. That one castled her; this one scorched away.

You feel sorry for a bowler in the death overs being carted all over the ground, but 21 runs in the fourth was a prime cause of England’s defeat. Much has been made of the personal battle between the two players. As Brunt dug one ball after another into the turf, you sensed that emotion was overtaking brain. She went for 34 runs off three overs. There was no swing available and her pace holds no fears for Verma.

Up looms the question: for how much longer will she be the automatic choice to open England’s attack? Anya Shrubsole was not in the eleven, her place taken again by Freya Davies. She bowled quite well, but after persuading Smriti Mandhana to loft a catch to Mady Villiers at long-off, she proved nearly as expensive as Brunt (4-0-31-1). She has been in and out of the side (mainly out) in recent times, so must still feel she has to convince the selectors of her value.

Knight sought refuge and found it in Sciver and Ecclestone; the next two overs went for two runs.

Mady Villiers, appearing in the tenth, over had immediate success, Verma well caught by Sciver running hard to her right on the long-on boundary. She made 48. Villiers finished with the tightest analysis of all, 2-0-9-1, but as usual was not allowed a front seat in the attack.

Harmanpreet Kaur came in at No 3, no doubt attempting to recapture her best form in that exposed position. She had to work hard for her runs, only once using her feet to carve Villiers for six. Sarah Glenn took her wicket, but once more couldn’t get on top of the bat.

The best way to slow the run-rate is to take wickets. This England found hard. After Kaur only Richa Ghosh fell to the reliable Sciver, caught and bowled. So India were able to post a useful but beatable 148-4.

England’s Reply

Danni Wyatt repeated her persistent weakness of forcing ambitious shots from the start. She fell for three. When Sciver was run out from a misfield, this was the second time that well-known commandment had been broken in two matches. The ball slid away behind Ghosh, the keeper, she scampered after it, hit the stumps and Sciver was still in the next street.

Tammy Beaumont meantime was showing us how to do the job. She has shots all round 360° and selected wisely. As she reached her 50, her 50 partnership came up with Knight. 105-2 in the 13th looked fine and dandy. Then fate took its course.

First Beaumont fell lbw to Deepti Sharma, then Amy Jones hit the next ball towards Knight at the bowler’s end (memo: cricket is boring) Sharma dived across to stop it, compromising Knight’s route back to safety. The wicket was broken and the Indians danced with glee. The umpires had to check most carefully: was Sharma guilty of blocking Knight deliberately? The answer was a clear No. Even so, the only way Knight could have been reprieved would have been for Kaur to retract the appeal. She didn’t.

This rare event followed another more amusing curiosity: as Beaumont set off for a run she lost control of her bat; it cannoned away behind her and nearly broke her wicket. That would have been one of the rarest of hit-wickets on record.

Suddenly the score was 105-4, and Sophia Dunkley was faced with another rescue job. Kaur gave England a chance by offering Harleen Deol an over of leg-breaks. Response: 10 runs. But England’s card shows four run-outs, only two of them excusable. Dunkley departed that way and Jones soon followed, pulling Poonam Yadav to mid-wicket.
All through the latter stages of the innings the English found it next to impossible to strike defiant blows. Their policy to Yadav (her leggers stay close to the 30 mph speed limit) was to stay back and wait. But that made hitting sixes impossible for them. Not once did they advance down the wicket to meet her on the front foot.

The asking rate climbed and wickets kept falling. This may have been a situation Lisa Keightley wanted to see her team facing – had they the wherewithal to overcome problems? – but the answer here was no.

Villiers was run out by roughly a millimetre, Glenn couldn’t get a big blow in and Ecclestone, well used to six-hitting, found 11 runs off two balls beyond her reach.

India well deserved victory. They have made great advances in their out-cricket; ground fielding and catching have been very good. England by contrast were untidy in their ground fielding here, even when not under pressure.

India 148-4; England 140-8. India won by 8 runs
Points: England 8; India 6

The last game takes place at Chelmsford on Wednesday at 6.30 pm


The Southern Vipers, watching on in the Sussex pavilion, could be seen doing their Tiller Girls act, smiling and swaying in their seats, as they witnessed England’s demise. Questions must be asked.