‘Alone I did it?’ No, not quite, but Danni Wyatt’s unbeaten 89 saw England home to ensure a 10-6 victory against India. There was a lot of tension at Chelmsford as India knew a second successive win in the T20 series would bring them level with the hosts. The tightness of the situation meant both sides remained unchanged.
Harmanpreet Kaur decided to bat first, taking advantage of natural light. At once Katherine Brunt captured the valuable wicket of Shafali Verma; she played on against her for the second time in the series. Nat Sciver, who had a quite magnificent game, nearly had a wicket in her first over too, but an lbw review found against her. Sophie Ecclestone went for 7 in her first over, but as usual took a wicket, Harleen Deol, promoted to No 3, holing out to Sciver.
That was as good as it got for England for the next nine overs; Smriti Mandhana and her captain added 68 runs as the bowling once more looked less than lethal. It was Sciver who provided the crucial intervention, getting Kaur lbw for 36. Richa Ghosh (20) supported Mandhana well, but in retrospect it’s plain that too much responsibility lay on the opener’s shoulders. She fell finally to a difficult low catch by Sciver off the returning Brunt (70).
Heather Knight had to use her three less experienced bowlers cautiously. Freya Davies applied clever variations in speed, but, like Sarah Glenn and Mady Villiers, couldn’t make a breakthrough. Runs came all too readily off the spinners.
A total of 153-6 gave England plenty to think about. Last time out they had fallen 13 short of that total batting first.
It’s all or nothing!
Tammy Beaumont and Wyatt looked busy again, running the quickest singles. Beaumont achieved what may be a first in the history of cricket when facing the ultra slows of Poonam Yadav. With the ball aimed far outside the off stump, she stepped away towards gully and hit a four to leg from behind the line of the stumps! Sadly for her, she fell lbw once more to an ill-timed sweep.
From that worrying 20-1 English cares rapidly dissolved. Wyatt saw this game as her chance to stake a claim for a permanent recall to the English cause. After being recently discarded, she struck out to provide a platform for victory. She brought out her signature shots, especially lofted off-drives; but she hit the ball straight and pulled to leg with a vengeance. Her running between the wickets tested Sciver’s fitness to the full.
Sciver was a reassuring presence. When you look at her stats for this one game alone (4-0-16-1 with the ball, two catches, one a stunner, and now a powerful and assured 42) you can see why she ranks at the top of world T20 all-rounders.
The pair put on 112 together. The Indians didn’t bowl poorly, but they simply couldn’t take wickets fast enough. Kaur was handicapped when Arundhati Reddy fell awkwardly trying to stop a four on the boundary. She hurt a shoulder and left the field. That left her with only Shikha Pandey to bowl at pace, and the slows had barely more success than their English counterparts. Sneh Rana did trap Sciver in front, but that brought in England’s captain who promptly played a delicate reverse for four.
Once more Indian captaincy was less pragmatic than England’s. Kaur often positioned herself on the boundary, from where it is hard to make your influence felt, and field-settings allowed Wyatt and Sciver far too many easy singles. The discrepancy in dot balls between England (very few) and India (rather too many) was a decisive issue.
The whole series was a true challenge for the English. The Indians, like other incoming tourists of the past sixteen months, have had to overcome the privations of the pandemic, which are infinitely harder to bear away from home. They deserve our thanks and congratulation.
Scores: India 153-6; England 154-2
England won by 8 wickets
Final Result: England 10 points, India 6