England beat New Zealand in Auckland thriller

England beat New Zealand in Auckland thriller

England are on course for a place in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup after somehow completing a nerve-shredding one-wicket win over hosts New Zealand in Auckland.

Chasing 204 to win at Eden Park, defending champions England were being taken to victory by a stand of 70 between Nat Sciver and Sophia Dunkley.

But Dunkley’s dismissal for 33 was the beginning of a chaotic collapse of five wickets for 20 runs, leaving England 196-9.

Amid unbearable tension and with rain falling – play could have been stopped with England ahead on the DLS method – England needed last-wicket pair Charlie Dean and Anya Shrubsole to find eight runs.

Number 11 Shrubsole, who was England’s hero in both the final and semi-final five years ago, drove Brooke Halliday for four to tie the scores, then hit the winning run from the next ball.

England draw level on four points with India and New Zealand and are likely to reach the semi-finals if they beat Pakistan and Bangladesh, the bottom two teams in the group.

New Zealand, who have played a game more than England, need an unlikely series of results to go their way in order to make the last four.

England have put up a helter-skelter defence of the trophy they won in 2017, winning only one of their first four games. This was so close to being a shambolic exit.

With New Zealand hampered by on-field injuries to Lea Tahuhu and Sophie Devine, England needed 28 runs with six wickets in hand and more than nine overs remaining. What followed defied belief.

Dunkley played down the wrong line to be bowled by Frankie Mackay, while Sciver played an awful cut at Jess Kerr and was bowled after an otherwise faultless 61.

Panic set in: Sophie Ecclestone was bowled, Kate Cross was lbw, both to off-spinner MacKay, while Katherine Brunt was run out coming back for a second run.

It was left to Shrubsole, who bowled England to victory in the 2017 final against India, but who also hit the winning runs in the semi-final win over South Africa.

With the stakes just as high, she hit Halliday – who would not have been bowling had it not been for the injuries to Devine and Tahuhu – through extra cover for four, then scrambled a single to spark joyous and relieved England celebrations.

This was perhaps the most remarkable game in a tournament that has repeatedly produced classic finishes.

The high stakes and the magnitude of the event – the hosts taking on the defending champions at New Zealand’s national stadium – made it even more memorable.

If England had lost this game, the defeat would have been all the more inexplicable given the fortune they had along the way.

They won a crucial toss, only for New Zealand openers Devine and Suzie Bates to attack some wayward new-ball bowling.

The injury to Devine, the tournament’s third-highest runscorer, was a turning point. On 37, she turned for a second run and collapsed to her knees with a back problem.

As she left the field, New Zealand’s momentum went with her and she was only able to score four more when she returned 24 overs later.

No bowler has more wickets at this World Cup than Tahuhu, and she was fired up when she bowled Tammy Beaumont. Soon after, she had to limp off with a hamstring injury and took no further part.

Luck was far from the sole reason for England’s victory, but it was on their side. (Courtesy BBC)

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