A crowd of 2273 at County Ground in Derby on a sunny Wednesday watched with great delight as Natalie Sciver and Tammy Beaumont set up England’s 75-run win over New Zealand and take the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 host into the semi-finals.
England arrived in the city for its penultimate league game on the back of a thrilling three-run win over Australia in Bristol. Mark Robinson, the coach, said at the pre-match press conference that the issue of being exhausted both emotionally and physically after a draining victory had been discussed in the team meeting, but he had urged his players to be mentally strong in the business end of the tournament.
England, Australia and South Africa have become the first three teams to qualify for the semi-finals with the winner of India v New Zealand in Derby on July 15 to complete the line-up.
England has been playing exceptionally well since its loss to India on the opening day of the tournament and Sciver has been the face of the revival. She was not allowed to get going right from the onset as England was reduced to 52 for 3 before the 14th over. Showing maturity, she took her time, but neither Sciver nor Beaumont ever lost an opportunity to punish the bad balls in the first half of their huge stand.
As superbly as Sciver played, Beaumont’s fearlessness - even as she saw Lauren Winfield, Sarah Taylor and Heather Knight fall - nullified New Zealand’s early advantage after England won the toss. Over-pitched deliveries and short balls were punished with equal force, as England took its rate beyond four runs an over in the 18th and never allowed it drop after that. They built the innings in blocks from there, as the focus shifted from consolidation to innovation to entertainment.
The duo ran 12 twos, two threes and 72 singles in their partnership of 27.1 overs before Beaumont fell against the run of play, just seven short of her second century of the tournament.
As a team that takes pride in playing complete cricket, England would be disappointed for not having crossed the 300-run mark. The third-best score of the innings was Winfield’s 11. It is an area Robinson would want to address ahead of the knockouts.
New Zealand could have bowled England out had it not dropped a catch off the last ball of the innings, but its fightback was the biggest takeaway apart from the good start with the ball.
Priest, after three fours, was bowled by Shrubsole, and when the spinners were introduced in the 11th over that the game moved rapidly in England’s favour.
Bates and Satterthwaite added 75 at a good pace, but with such a big target it needed support from the rest, which came only from Katie Perkins's unbeaten 43. Once Taylor had Bates smartly stumped, and Satterthwaite played against the turn to be caught and bowled, the writing was on the wall. Slowly but steadily things are adding up for England to cap a memorable summer at Lord’s by winning a home World Cup for the third time.