Katherine Brunt sparkles with bat and ball to inspire England to opening ODI win over New Zealand

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Lauren Winfield-Hill (c) of England celebrates after taking a catch off the bowling of Kate Cross to dismiss Sophie Devine of New Zealand during the first One Day International match between England Women and New Zealand Women at the County Ground during the 1st One Day International match between England and New Zealand at Bristol County Ground on September 16, 2021 in Bristol, England - - GETTY IMAGES
Lauren Winfield-Hill (c) of England celebrates after taking a catch off the bowling of Kate Cross to dismiss Sophie Devine of New Zealand during the first One Day International match between England Women and New Zealand Women at the County Ground during the 1st One Day International match between England and New Zealand at Bristol County Ground on September 16, 2021 in Bristol, England - - GETTY IMAGES
  • Eng, 241ao, beat New Zealand, 211ao, by 30 runs

England managed not quite enough runs but, at the same time, too many. Too many, at least, for their opponents, New Zealand. That was the feeling at the half-way stage as England’s final pairing left the crease, three balls still remaining but the team all out for 241. England will face sterner challenges, in more pressurised conditions, but for the purpose of the right here, right now, in Bristol on a balmy late summer evening, it was sufficient. Crudely, that’s all that matters, New Zealand roundly beaten by 30 runs.

Ten overs into New Zealand’s innings and that earlier sentiment was cemented; the visitors were two wickets down for just 17 runs and Katherine Brunt was yet to concede a run off 24 balls. It wasn’t until her 27th delivery, by that point in her second spell and England well on top, that Brunt went to the extravagance of conceding anything at all. Just the one run, mind, sharply taken following a prod to short cover.

The first ODI in this five-match series was one without landmarks. No five-wicket hauls, nor stunning centuries, but it contained an all-round performance by a woman who might deserve a landmark herself one day. A statue perhaps, immortalising Brunt the Bold, fists clenched, England badge adorned and guiding her nation to another valuable victory.

It was with the bat that Brunt first sparkled, partnering captain Heather Knight to 88 runs at almost a run-a-ball to save England from their first collapse. Having entered the crease following the loss of four wickets for 31 runs, this was no time for quick, powerful runs, of the sort more normally suited to Brunt. Knight, quickly aware of this, took every opportunity to meet in the middle, remind Brunt of the task at hand and build from there. They did just that. By the time Knight fell (89 from 107) and Brunt soon after (43 from 51), England even had time for another collapse, losing the final five wickets for just 13 runs.

Katherine Brunt of England celebrates taking the wicket of Hannah Rowe of New Zealand during the first One Day International match between England Women and New Zealand Women at the County Ground during the 1st One Day International match between England and New Zealand at Bristol County Ground on September 16, 2021 in Bristol, England - GETTY IMAGES
Katherine Brunt of England celebrates taking the wicket of Hannah Rowe of New Zealand during the first One Day International match between England Women and New Zealand Women at the County Ground during the 1st One Day International match between England and New Zealand at Bristol County Ground on September 16, 2021 in Bristol, England - GETTY IMAGES

If England’s was an innings built on two partnerships, first between Tammy Beaumont (44 from 75) and Knight and then the Knight-Brunt affair, New Zealand attempted to pivot off just one woman – Amy Satterthwaite. So often their middle-order saviour, it was a task too far even for Satterthwaite, who was left stranded on 79 having seen seven wickets fall since her entry to the crease.

While New Zealand might remind us of the England of old, relying too heavily too often on their headline stars, England shared the bowling load between them to ensure Satterthwaite’s support soon wilted. Brunt provided the pressure (one wicket, for 12 runs off seven overs – with four maidens, since you ask) and Nat Sciver, Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone soon capitalised. They picked up two wickets apiece, breaking the batting backbone of a visiting side who always knew they were behind the required rate.

Ecclestone almost got the landmark moment, bowling Brooke Halliday first ball to find herself on a hat-trick in New Zealand’s middle overs but Hannah Rowe survived a sharp, full effort, only to succumb to Brunt a few balls later. Every bowler England called upon picked up a wicket, including debutant off-spinner Charlie Dean. Dean’s maiden outing produced the same number of runs (or run, one) as she did wickets, having had to wait patiently while Brunt and Knight surged England forward before falling LBW to become Jess Kerr’s third victim. More to come from Dean, no doubt.

Both sides came into this five-match ODI series knowing that the results went further than the bilateral dual between each other, acting instead as the first stage of an important lead into next year’s World Cup – in New Zealand, in March. For England, they will be buoyed by Beaumont once again, by now surely the world’s foremost opener across all formats, but will worry about a middle order which fell away too quickly when the pressure took hold. England’s fielding was sharp and Knight’s slip catching, which saw off two of New Zealand’s top three, was an example of leading from the front to the highest degree after the runs she’d already struck. A job well done but progress to be made – when is there not?

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