|New Zealand 203 (48.5 overs): Green 52*, Cross 3-35, Ecclestone 3-41|
|England 204-9 (47.2 overs): Skeever 61, Knight 42, McKay 4-34|
|England won by one wicket|
England are on track to reach the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup after somehow wrapping up a nervous one-wicket victory over hosts New Zealand in Auckland.
Chasing 204 wins at Eden Park, the reigning English champions were falling short of 70 wins by Nat Skiver and Sophia Dunkley.
But a 33-run sacking of Dunkley was the start of a chaotic collapse of five wickets in 20 runs, leaving England at 196–9.
Amid unbearable tension and rain – the game could have been stopped with England ahead by the DLS method – England needed a last wicket pair of Charlie Dean and Anya Shrubsole to find eight runs.
No. 11 Shrubsoul, who was England’s hero in both the final and semi-finals five years ago, beat Brooke Holliday four times to equalize and then went on a winning streak from the next ball.
England are four points level with India and New Zealand and are likely to reach the semi-finals if they beat Pakistan and Bangladesh, the last two teams in the group.
New Zealand, who have played a game more than England, need an unlikely streak to get into the last four.
England is in a chaotic collapse
England fiercely defended the trophy they won in 2017, winning just one of their first four games. It was so close to the messy exit.
With New Zealand hampered by injuries to Lea Tahuhu and Sophie Devine on the field, England needed 28 runs with six wickets in hand and over nine overs remaining. What followed was a challenge to faith.
Dunkley played the wrong line and was eliminated by Frankie McKay, while Skeever played a terrible shot with Jess Kerr and lost after an otherwise flawless 61.
The panic began. Sophie Ecclestone lost, Kate Cross was in weight, both lost to McKay and Katherine Brant ran out coming back for a second run.
It was left to Shrubsole, who led England to victory in the 2017 final against India, but also triumphed in the semi-final victory against South Africa.
With similarly high stakes, she beat Holliday, who wouldn’t have bowled if not for Devine and Tahuhu’s injuries, via extra cover for four, and then hit a single to spark a joyful and relieved England celebration.
Fortune smiles on England
It was, perhaps, the most remarkable game in the tournament, in which classical finishes were repeatedly presented.
The high stakes and scope of the event – the hosts took on the reigning champions at the New Zealand National Stadium – made it all the more memorable.
If England had lost this game, this defeat would have been even more inexplicable given the fortune they had along the way.
They won the deciding shot, but New Zealand rookies Devine and Susie Bates attacked some wayward bowling alley with a new ball.
The injury to Devine, the tournament’s third top scorer, was a turning point. On the 37th, she turned for her second run and collapsed to her knees with back problems. As she left the field, New Zealand’s momentum went with her and she was able to score four more when she returned 24 overs later.
No bowler in this World Cup has more wickets than Tahuhu, and she was thrilled when she beat Tammy Beaumont. Shortly thereafter, she had to limp due to a hamstring injury and did not compete again.
Luck was far from the only reason for England’s victory, but it was on their side.
Change of bowlers leads England
Despite all the problems New Zealand faced and how England almost fell apart, the outcome was ultimately shaped by how the defending champions bowled and played on the pitch.
After opening bowlers Brant and Shrubsole had difficulty, Cross and Skeever’s backup stitches were required to apply the brakes, and Cross caused a Bates error before Devine was injured.
New Zealand batting was heavily dependent on Bates, Devine, Amelia Kerr and Amy Satterthwaite and England always tended to limit the White Ferns if they could get through the top four.
Off-spinner Dean, continuing her beautiful tournament, put Kerr in first place and then caught Satterthwaite in the lead. England moved in from there.
Although Maddie Green slowly made it to 52 and Devine was able to come back, New Zealand’s last eight wickets fell by 69 runs.
Heather Knight’s impressive jump catch that deflected Tahuhu’s acrobatic stop and Skeever’s throw to eliminate Holliday suggests that the fielding errors that poisoned England earlier in the tournament may now be behind them.
England captain Heather Knight: “There is a little relief, we will think about what we can do better and we can make it easier, but the main thing was to win.”
England all-rounder Nat Skiver: “It’s crazy that we crossed the line when we probably shouldn’t have. I’m shocked, there were so many close games in this tournament.”
Former England international Alex Hartley in a special test match: “It was not easy, but England fought to the end and won. It’s about persevering through these difficult times.”