A remarkable counter-attacking innings from Katherine Brunt helped England recover to 189/9 in their first ODI against South Africa at Worcester, but it was not enough to give the home side victory. Instead South Africa chased down the target to win by seven wickets with 27 balls remaining.
Having won the toss and elected to bat, England would have been looking to set a big total against this strong South African bowling attack to send a message in the first match of this ICC Women’s ODI Championship series. Instead it was the visitors that put down an early marker.
The ball moved prodigiously in the opening overs and England were very quickly in trouble. Having made it to 20/0, four very quick wickets saw them stumbled to 39/4. Amy Jones was the first to go, cleaned up by a Shabnim Ismail delivery for 19 off 18 balls.
Just four runs later Sarah Taylor was trapped lbw by Ismail with another ball that was swinging towards stumps. It took five more balls for England to lose their third wicket when Marizanne Kapp had Heather Knight for just 4, another lbw.
England may have thought that the new ball bowlers coming out of the attack may give them some relief, but the very first ball from Ayabonga Khaka saw the end of Tammy Beaumont, yet another inswinger that was inside edged on to the stumps.
From there England looked to rebuild, crawling along in the process. Those efforts were quickly undone when Nat Sciver was out off the bowling of Khaka for 16. Then just two balls later Danni Wyatt was also on her way for 7 and England were 64/6.
At that point it looked unlikely that England would reach triple figures, and when Gunn was caught at point and Anya Shrubsole was run out with a direct hit from Chloe Tyron England were 97/8 and in complete disarray.
It was from there that Brunt came to the rescue. At the fall of Shrubsole’s wicket she was on 18 runs from 48 balls. At the end of the innings she had made a career best 72 not out from 98 balls and England had put together a remarkable recovery.
Brunt did a superb job at keeping England in this match as she got herself set before attacking her way to the highest score made by a number seven for England women in ODIs. That the next highest score was the 19 made by Jones tells you a lot about this England innings.
When South Africa got their innings under way two early wickets gave England some hope. First Brunt made it through the defenses of Laura Wolfvaardt to bowl her for 2 before some brilliant glove work from Taylor had Sune Luus stumped off Shrubsole for a duck.
From there it was much like the first innings of the match, with South Africa in complete control. Dane van Niekerk put together a very diligent 58 from 79 balls. At the other end Lizelle Lee reached her 16thODI fifty.
It looked as if Lee was gone for 68 when Brunt dived forward and seemed to have taken a spectacular catch but it was adjudged to have hit the ground.
She didn’t look back after that reprieve, finishing on 92 not out, guiding her team to a very impressive victory.