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Heather is England’s Knight in Shining Armour

England reached the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup with a comfortable victory over the West Indies, as captain Heather Knight played a starring role in helping her side progress in the competition.

Having been put in to bat with rain in the air England faced a challenging start. After one run was scored from the first fifteen deliveries of the innings, a misdirected ball from Deandra Dottin was missed by the keeper and went for five wides. The spell was broken.

The openers soon began to enjoy themselves, as did the crowd. The shortened boundary provided areas of grass for children to play. One girl appeared to have brought half of Toys R Us with her and attracted the attention of a wandering cameraman. The father was cajoled in to holding up his daughter’s Mr. Men book before later being told he had done so live on television. It was a moment that typified the day, a match played in good spirits in front of an encouraging crowd full of excitable children.

England had reached 47 from the first nine overs before Lauren Winfield holed out to deep midwicket. She was followed in the next over by Sarah Taylor who edged behind for a golden duck. A brief rebuilding job was ended in dramatic fashion by Afy Fletcher and suddenly England found themselves 105/5 with half the innings left.

Through it all however, batted Heather Knight. She had said at the toss that it wouldn’t be an easy wicket to score on. Luckily, England have a captain that isn’t afraid of a bit of hard graft. In the 2013 Ashes test she batted for nearly seven hours in compiling a score of 157. Here she made a determined 67, batting until the 44th over by which time she had ensured her team would make a competitive total.

Her dismissal brought Laura Marsh to the crease, Knight’s partner for much of the Ashes epic. She was far more aggressive in this innings, unfurling some delicate sweeps in a very handy 31*. Jenny Gunn was rather less subtle when clubbing Stafanie Taylor for six down the ground. England reached 220.

The West Indies’s openers started rather well. Forced to turn to spin in the ninth over, Hayley Matthews hit Marsh for a big six. On 34/0 they appeared to be laying the foundations for a successful chase. However, just as in England’s innings, the tenth over was a significant one. Matthews cut the ball to Fran Wilson at backward point and set off for a run that was never there. Sarah Taylor had the bails of in a flash and Kycia Knight was well short of her ground.

Then game the LBWs. Seven in total along with Tammy Beaumont taking a splendid catch at deep square leg to dismiss Chedean Nation. The Windies limped to 128/9.

Knight’s innings was the difference. The only batsmen that on the day possessed the talent to not have her wicket taken from her and the application to not give it away freely herself.

It was a match reminiscent of England men’s defeat to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy. A Knight-esque innings was desperately needed there. It is a reminder that, on those sorts of pitches, determination and patience are key. The ability to occupy the crease is more important than the ability to hit the ball a long way. Slow pitches may not be the norm and perhaps are wanted by few in the game but that is not an excuse for being unable to adapt.

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Anyone that saw Nat Sciver’s century’s against New Zealand and Pakistan will tell you how exciting this England team is to watch. This match may not have been scintillating but it did provide an intriguing contest between bat and ball from beginning to end. That is something often lacking in modern one-day cricket.

Whilst this game was far from the most exciting in the tournament it made for a more than passable day out. With ticket prices so reasonable, the occasion was perfect for families. For many, myself included, that would have been their first taste of women’s cricket. I’m sure they’ll be back for more.

About Huw Mabe

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