Before the start of the calendar year, Heather Knight had just one T20 half-century to her name. Now, she has four; not forgetting her first ever three-figure score in the format, hit here in Canberra two days ago. Her purple patch has arrived at just the right time for her country, it seems: this effort – a 47-ball 62 – was the batting cornerstone of England’s 42-run win against Pakistan.
Knight aside, it was the England bowlers who once again got the job done, eventually bowling Pakistan out for 116 with two balls of their innings going unused. The best figures of the day went to Sarah Glenn (3-15), who continued to deceive opponents with her stump-to-stump leg-spin, putting a big dent in the Pakistan chase by having both Javeria Khan and Iram Javed bowled in successive overs following the power play.
That came after captain Bismah Maroof – who had top-scored in Pakistan’s exciting win against West Indies on Wednesday – became Katherine Brunt’s first victim of the tournament, her attempted ramp shot failing to come off. Anya Shrubsole – who finished with 3-25 – then helped wrap things up with wickets in successive deliveries in the 19th, including a beautiful slower ball which told for Aliya Riaz (41), the only Pakistani batsman to show much fight.
The result puts England in second place in their group, with just one remaining hurdle, their remaining match against West Indies on Sunday, now standing between them and the tournament semi-finals.
Nonetheless, there will be much to mull over for a side for whom reaching the semis was really the minimum expectation. England’s current eight-batsman strategy is grounded in the idea that Amy Jones and Danni Wyatt are best utilised up top, while Tammy Beaumont at No 6 allows them to ‘finish big’. Arguably that strategy failed on both counts today, with England failing to do enough to leapfrog South Africa’s superior net run rate and go top of their group.
Early on, England were once again in trouble, with both Jones and Wyatt falling in the powerplay – Jones in the very first over of the innings, trapped LBW to Diana Baig. A review via DRS could not save her from another failure with the bat, with ball-tracking showing that it would have gone on to clip the bails. Wyatt was saved from a similar fate two overs later, when Pakistan wrongly decided against reviewing a ball that had rapped her on the back pad and was later shown to have also been hitting the top of the stumps; but she failed to capitalise on her reprieve, sending up a catch to point to leave England 47-2 in the sixth.
At the back end of the innings, a flurry of wickets also cost England the chance to finish strongly: four wickets falling for 15 runs across the space of 10 balls in the 18th and 19th overs. That included specialist No 6 Beaumont, who came and went in the space of four balls, caught on the fourth attempt by Muneeba Ali in the deep. Knight herself departed the very next ball slogging to long-on, handing spinner Nida Dar two wickets in two balls in her 100th T20 international. That dismissal, though, came only after Knight’s determined effort to prop up the innings: arriving at the crease in the sixth over, she shared a 34-run stand with Nat Sciver, followed by a half-century partnership with Fran Wilson – the England captain the dominant partner in both cases.
Pakistan will be ruing a number of missed opportunities in the field: Knight was put down no less than four times, the first when she was on 32; while Wilson (who acquired a run-a-ball 22) was dropped when still in single figures. Of the Pakistan fielders, only keeper Sidra Nawaz – whose Sarah Taylor-esque stumping off a leg-side wide saw off Sciver for 36 when she looked in sight of a third consecutive half-century – was blameless in defeat.