Twin unbeaten half-centuries from Nat Sciver and Player of the Match Amy Jones carried England to an eight wicket victory over India in their World Twenty20 semi-final in Antigua.
England will now go on to face their oldest rivals, Australia, in the final on Saturday, after Australia thrashed the West Indies in the day’s other semi-final.
Speaking afterwards, a delighted Amy Jones said: “I’m probably not the best at showing my excitement, but I’m feeling very good right now – to finish it pretty convincingly, everyone is so, so pleased.”
Chasing 112, England lost both of their big-hitting openers, Tammy Beaumont (1) and Danni Wyatt (8) early; but they turned out to be the only wickets to fall in England’s innings, as Jones and Sciver played a difficult pitch with discipline and determination, sticking tightly to the plans laid out for them by England’s coaches.
“With [Assistant Coach] Ali Maiden and the batting coaches, we worked so hard looking at their bowlers and making sure everybody played to their plans with the safer places to hit their attack,” said Jones.
With Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur persisting rigidly with a tight off-side field, both batsmen simply worked the vacant short midwicket area, running hard between the wickets to turn ones into twos and keep the run rate well under control, despite rarely finding the boundaries.
Jones and Sciver ran neck-and-neck throughout, and although Jones ultimately finished one run ahead, with 53 to Sciver’s 52, if ever there was a case for joint Players of the Match it was today.
“Nat was fantastic,” said Jones. “She came in and straightaway took the pressure off. I knew as long as we stayed in together we’d get the job done.”
Earlier it had been England’s spinners who had strangled India’s batting lineup, keeping them to a bellow-par 112 on a pitch where Australia had posted 142 earlier in the day to set the benchmark.
India got off to a strong start with their young superstar Smriti Mandhana dominating the powerplay as she raced to 34 off 23 balls, before being caught and bowled by left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone, diving low to her left.
Thereafter the run rate slowed to all-but a trickle, as Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur failed to find strategies to score off the spinners.
“Our bowlers were fantastic today – the spinners in particular,” said Jones.
Jemimah and Harmanpreet’s partnership was broken by the run-out of Jemimah, precipitating a collapse that saw India go from 88-2 in the 14th over to 112 all out in the final over – losing their last 8 wickets for 24 runs. Six of those wickets were catches, as India hit the panic button trying to generate some momentum as the match began to slip away from them.
Captain Heather Knight finished with eye-catching figures of 3-9, and goes into the next match on a hat-trick after finishing with two-in-two; but once again it was Kirstie Gordon, in her first international tournament, who was the pick of England’s attack, with 2-20 including the crucial wicket of Harmanpreet, who had scored a match-winning 62 not out when these two sides last met in the warm-ups, well caught by Nat Sciver in the glare of the floodlights.
The semi-finals sewn up, Australia now stand as the final hurdle in England’s quest to become double world champions, after their triumph in the 50-over World Cup at Lords last summer.
“It’s a chance to really do something special,” said Jones. “I think as a team we’ve dealt with the pressure well so far in this tournament – so hopefully, one more win!”
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