England (72/3) beat NZ (71/9) by seven wickets
In front of their biggest crowd since the triumphant 2017 World Cup final, England sent out a shuddering statement of intent with a resounding seven-wicket win over New Zealand. By tearing the White Ferns to shreds in Birmingham, obliterating their target of 72 with more than eight overs to spare, England qualified for the Commonwealth Games semi-finals. They will already be eyeing a gold medal clash with Australia on Sunday.
New Zealand’s captain Sophie Devine won the toss and chose to bat first but would regret that decision. Four balls into the innings she had her leg stump uprooted by Katherine Brunt who got one to nip back appreciably off the deck with a ripping off-cutter. A replica ball in her next over cramped Amelia Kerr and kissed the middle stump. Brunt would end with two for four from three overs as New Zealand stumbled to 10 for two.
“The older I got, I realised the quicker I bowl, the quicker it goes to the boundary,” Brunt, 37, said of her progress across a 17-year career. “[The cutter] is my banker. When I get it right it’s really difficult to play.”
New Zealand were 12 for three and then 21 for four when Suzie Bates flicked Izzy Wong to midwicket. Brooke Halliday added insult to injury when run out after a calamitous mix up that ended with her standing beside her partner, Maddy Green, at the striker’s end.
The wickets kept falling. Hayley Jensen was Wong’s second victim in the 10th over when she bunted a skilful back of the hand slower ball to point. Once Green was bowled by Sophie Ecclestone for a top score of 19, the game was effectively over.
Sarah Glenn’s skiddy leg spin accounted for two New Zealand batters. Lea Tahuhu was caught behind for seven off the underside of her wafting drive and Rosemary Mair missed a full toss and was bowled for a duck. Between those dismissals, more comical running between the wickets ended with Isabella Gaze sent packing for four.
But New Zealand clung on and ended their innings on 71 for nine. That they avoided being bowled out was scant consolation.
Every one of the 10,892 people in attendance must have expected an early finish. But England’s chase faltered out of the blocks with Danni Wyatt top edging Fran Jones’ left-arm finger spin in the first over. Wicketkeeper Gaze held on well to the skier.
That brought the 17-year-old Alice Capsey to the crease and a hush descended over the ground. Perhaps that is a touch of romantic retrospection but there is something special about this teenage sensation who looks like she was born to whack bowlers to the fence. Her first boundary was a fine sweep off Jonas after moving right across her stumps to make room.
The next over she unfurled four sumptuous strokes off the added pace of Tahuhu that offered compensation to the audience who banked on prolonged entertainment. First a slap over point. Then a back foot punch of the highest order through cover. Then a flashing front foot drive past mid-off. To round things off, a crunching pull to square leg.
She was out twice in four balls. The first, caught at short fine leg from a cute scoop, earned a reprieve after Devine had overstepped. The second, though, counted. Caught at mid-off for 23.
Sophia Dunkley registered 19 before she was bowled by Kerr but Amy Jones and Nat Sciver – who will captain the side through the knockout rounds as Heather Knight was ruled out with a hip injury – saw the game home in the 12th over. Jones’s boundary through midwicket to clinch the contest took her to 18 with Sciver alongside her on seven.
Now for the games that really matter. India await on Saturday in the semi-finals. England have sent a message that can’t be ignored. Australia will certainly have taken note.