"What pleased me was the way we adapted to the pitch," says Heather Knight.
New Zealand’s match against England in Bristol on Thursday, 28 June, was Suzie Bates’ 100th Twenty20 International. She became only the second player ever, after England’s Jenny Gunn, to reach the milestone.
Unfortunately, she was out for a duck in the match as her side lost by seven wickets. But having made 62 off 45 balls earlier in the day in a thumping win against South Africa to seal the White Ferns' place in the final, it wasn’t too bad a day for her.
Bates made her debut in the format back in 2007 – coincidentally against South Africa, in England, also smashing 62 off just 37 balls that day. Looking back at those early years, she said, “It’s changed pretty dramatically. Now batters come in and hit from ball one. When it first started, people weren’t too sure how to go about it.
“I’ve loved every minute of it, I think I’ve got a few more T20s in me!”
In her landmark game, the team was about 20 runs short, said Bates, ruing the inability of the batters to play smart cricket. “It was really disappointing to not play out 20 overs.”
But going into the final of the tri-series, also against England, she found plenty of positives, two of those being Jess Watkin and Sophie Devine.
On a mixed day for New Zealand, the one constant across the double-header was Devine. The big-hitting opening bat and pace bowler struck two fifties, first combining with Bates for a strong 130-run stand in a chase of 149, and then holding a crumbling innings together as her side struggled to 129.
Devine, who’s been in great touch across formats, explained her role in the side. “It’s just the responsibility I’ve put on myself to get the team off to a good start. People probably thought I was a bit reckless, a bit too aggressive, so [I’m] having to rein it in, but still being able to attack when we need to,” she told ESPNcricinfo.
Watkin, playing only her second T20I, struck a vital 16 off eight balls against England, before taking the new ball to get two crucial wickets.
“Jess Watkin showed that she has what it takes,” said Bates. “The innings she played with the bat, it’s what we asked of her. It put the bowlers under pressure. And with the ball as well, to get Tammy Beaumont and Danni Wyatt in your first T20 is special. You have to put players in to find out whether they have maturity or they don’t and she showed she did.”
Meanwhile, England celebrated going into the final with a 2-0 record in the group stages against the same opponents.
"What pleased me was the way we adapted to the pitch. It was a bit slower today but our bowlers were outstanding,” Heather Knight told Sky Sports. “That was probably our best day in the field this summer, so hopefully we've got rid of the catching 'bug'.”
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