Women’s World Cup: Knight leads with unbeaten 53 as England beat India by 4 wickets

Mount Maunganui:-On the back of Charlie Dean’s career-best figures of four for 23 and captain Heather Knight’s unbeaten 53, England ended their winless run in the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup with a four-wicket victory over India at Bay Oval on Wednesday.

After bowling out India for a paltry 134 in 36.2 overs, England chased down the target with 112 balls remaining.

The pursuit of 135 began on a shaky note as Meghna Singh and Jhulan Goswami struck in quick succession in the first three overs. Danni Wyatt pushed hard but found Sneh Rana diving full-length to her right at slip while Tammy Beaumont was trapped lbw in pad first on forward defence, giving Goswami her 250th wicket in ODIs.

Knight and her deputy Nat Sciver joined forces to get England’s innings back on track. While Knight got off the mark with a drive through cover point off Meghna, Sciver hammered Goswami for two boundaries and was lucky in the bails not falling off despite ball hitting the stumps.

Sciver then welcomed Rajeshwari Gayakwad by taking nine runs off her first over, including two boundaries via sweep. The duo indulged in risk-free play and got boundaries with precision to keep England on course of chasing the target.

The 65-run partnership for the third wicket ended as Sciver was foxed by a short ball from Pooja Vastrakar and leading edge on pull flew to mid-on.

Knight, sedate till then, began to dispatch anything full to the boundary rope with drive, steer and reverse-sweep through the off-side. Amy Jones hit a delightful six down the ground off Gayakwad but two balls later, the right-hander tried to repeat the loft but was caught by a backtracking Harmanpreet, who timed her jump to perfection.

After timing an extra cover drive for four off Meghna, Knight brought her 23rd ODI fifty in 66 balls. She was ably supported by Sophia Dunkley, who fetched three boundaries in her first 14 balls with a fierce upper-cut over point being the standout shot.

Dunkley’s cameo ended as she nicked behind to ‘keeper Richa Ghosh off Meghna for a low, dipping catch.

One brought two for India as Meghna bounced out Katherine Brunt with Ghosh taking the catch off top-edge.

Sophie Ecclestone finished off the chase with a pulled four through deep mid-wicket off Meghna, giving England their first two points in the tournament.

Earlier, pushed into batting first, India never got going as Anya Shrubsole, followed by Dean and a tight fielding display by the defending champions never let them get any breathing space.

Shrubsole provided the first breakthrough as Yastika Bhatia pushed away from her body to a full inswinger and saw the ball take an inner edge to stumps. Bhatia thus became Shrubsole’s 100th wicket in the format.

Smriti Mandhana picked boundaries off a free-flowing drive and a quick short-arm jab. But England, with plan to bowl fuller lines, succeeded in making inroads into India’s batting order.

Mithali Raj’s lean run continued as she sliced straight to cover-point, giving Shrubsole her second wicket in power-play.

The pressure of dot balls preventing Deepti Sharma to get off the mark resulted in her running for a non-existent single by driving straight to mid-off.

But Kate Cross, at mid-off, inflicted a direct hit, catching Sharma short of crease for a ten-ball duck. Mandhana and Harmanpreet restored normalcy for India with a 33-run partnership off 50 balls for fourth wicket.

But Dean’s entry in the 17th over changed the situation as the off-spinner got rid of Harmanpreet and Rana in a double wicket maiden over.

While Harmanpreet tried playing for the turn from a flighted delivery outside off-stump, the ball held its line and took an outer edge to Jones. Rana’s promotion backfired as she went for an expansive drive, only to nick the ball behind to Jones.

Mandhana tried to hold one end for India but she missed a sweep off Ecclestone and was trapped lbw in front of off-stump. Dean soon picked up her third wicket as Vastrakar missed the sweep completely and was trapped plumb lbw after surviving a same call before in the over.

Richa Ghosh hit delightful boundaries on front foot and back foot against Dean, Ecclestone and Cross. She got support from Goswami, who made good use of the long handle in hammering Dean and Cross for boundaries.

Just as the 37-run partnership looked set to go big, Ghosh was run-out by Sciver’s direct hit from mid-wicket despite making a good dive as replays showed her bat was centimeters above in air when the bails were disturbed.

Goswami sliced straight to backward point off Cross and Dean ended India’s misery by clean bowling Meghna to take four wickets.

Brief Scores: India 134 all out in 36.2 overs (Smriti Mandhana 35, Richa Ghosh 33; Charlie Dean 4/23, Anya Shrubsole 2/20) lost to England 136/6 in 31.2 overs (Heather Knight 53 not out, Nat Sciver 45; Meghna Singh 3/26, Jhulan Goswami 1/21) by four wickets