DHARAMSALA –– A World Twenty20 match against England which West Indies Women fought hard to win, and should have, ended in defeat by one wicket in Dharamsala today and moved several in the regional team to tears.
Winning the toss and electing to bat at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, West Indies made a below par 108 for 4 in their 20 overs in the face of excellent England bowling. Then, despite a brisk start to their chase, a requirement of 50 runs in 12 overs and all ten wickets in hand, it took a bye off the final ball for England to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
With two legitimate balls remaining, Rebecca Grundy, England’s No. 11 –– in position as well as ability –– came to the crease with three runs needed. A wide and then a dab to point gave the more accomplished Natalie Sciver, batting on 19, the strike. With one run needed, she missed a delivery outside off stump from Deandra Dottin and West Indies’ wicketkeeper Merissa Aguilleira, who had adopted a closer position to the stumps without standing all the way up, ran forward before flicking the ball towards them. But her throw went wide, Grundy ran through the crease and England had escaped. Had Aguillera continued her run and removed the bails in the manner of MS Dhoni in an identical situation in India’s game against Bangladesh on Wednesday, the game would have been tied. Instead, England are on the brink of the semi-finals.
Crucially, the match was not broadcast, which meant there were no cameras at the ground, including at square leg. As a result, there was no third umpire. When one considers that Charlotte Edwards survived a sharp stumping attempt early on and an appeal to have Lydia Greenway run out at the non-striker’s end off a straight drive from Sciver was turned down, it could have been all very different.
Similarly to the match against India, it was the wicket of Tammy Beaumont that started the collapse. Then, it was 5 for 29 from eight overs – here, 6 for 24 off 39 balls was the almost irreparable damage. But it was again Beaumont’s runs that proved to be the difference.
Given the opportunity to open the batting with Charlotte Edwards, Beaumont has been backed by the coach, Mark Robinson, who admitted he was bemused by the contrast between her poor T20I record – she averaged 8.83 going into this tournament – and her ball-striking in practice. Having made her debut in the format back in November 2009, she has never quite been able to nail down a starting spot. And when one looks a little closer, one can see why: ridiculously, by the time she had played her 20th innings, Beaumont had batted in every position apart from No. 4 and No. 10.
Here, in her 25th innings, she passed 30 for the first time, showcasing what Robinson saw. She dealt in boundaries, including hitting her and England’s second six of the tournament –– a crisp pick-up over midwicket as Dottin darted one in on leg stump. It is worth noting England did not clear the ropes at all in their previous World T20 campaign. With Edwards moving along nicely at the other end, the pair brought up England’s first 50-plus opening partnership since April 2014. Up until that point, the team had played a perfectly judged game.
The pitch had a bit of pace in it but still gripped, meaning that while West Indies’ top order could hit through the ball, Anya Shrubsole, Jenny Gunn and Grundy were able to reel them in with a bit of finesse. The Powerplay typified this: 34 were scored off the opening six overs, yet two of them were maidens. Shaquana Quintyne, West Indies’ No. 3 today, got off to a brisk start with 22 off her first 14 balls, but her next 14 produced just seven more before Sciver got her to find Gunn at long-on. Captain Stafanie Taylor and Dottin then decided to take the innings deep and reassess. But, having done the donkey work, their partnership ended at 52, with West Indies managing to score just 12 runs off the final three overs.
An indication of just how confounding England’s brain fade was came in the figures of part-timer Afy Fletcher, who took 3 for 12 off her four overs, having only taken three wickets in her previous nine T20Is. It was only when Sciver was joined by Katherine Brunt that the right approach was found: the risky shots were packed away, singles were picked up and the arrears cut down slowly and surely.
It was a far from convincing performance. But England can argue that they have not played anywhere near their best and yet still hold a 100 per cent record after three matches. For the West Indies Women it was their first loss of the tournament having started with two victories. Winning the game meant a great deal to the strong West Indies outfit as evidenced by the gloom after the loss, no more exemplified than by the tears of their talented, distraught leader.