A crowd of 2169, largely made up of enthusiastic school kids, at Grace Road in Leicester for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 game between England Women and Pakistan Women on a gloomy Tuesday, was treated to some special batting from Natalie Sciver and Heather Knight during the home team’s 107-run win on DLS Method.
Sciver, who became the first woman to be given out by the Decision Review System on the tournament’s opening day, continued her date with records with a 92-ball 137 that took England to 377 for 7. Having posted the second-highest team total in World Cup history, the home side then reduced Pakistan to 107 for 3 in 29.2 overs when rain arrived. Play was officially called off at 6:02pm local time, as England got in among the points after losing its opening fixture to India Women.
Sciver’s 213-run stand in 30 overs with Knight (106 in 109 balls) – England’s joint best third-wicket stand – was studded with 25 fours and three sixes. The assault from Sciver and Knight – both scored their maiden One-Day International centuries – as well as Danielle Wyatt (42 not out in 27) and Fran Wilson (33 in 19) underscored England’s superiority. England hit a total of 44 fours and seven sixes. For perspective, New Zealand Women’s 455 for 5 against Pakistan in January 1997 – the highest-ever total in ODIs, men’s or women’s – had 38 fours and two sixes.
Play started half an hour late because of a drizzle, and not long after that, Kainat Imtiaz trapped a shuffling Sarah Taylor in front of the wickets.
Imtiaz and Asmavia Iqbal were largely disciplined in the Power Play overs, and it resulted in Tammy Beaumont, dropped off the first ball of the match at first slip, edging Imtiaz to depart for 14. Sensing that another wicket could push England back, Sana Mir continued with the pacers until the 13th over. With Imtiaz and Iqbal tiring – the pacers bowled most of the 12 wides in the innings – the third breakthrough remained elusive even as the frequency of boundaries increased.
Spinners were always unlikely to be effective in these conditions, and Sciver and Knight knew that. Once Mir came to bowl the 14th over, the batters targeted the gaps in the outfield, and after the run rate went past six in the 27th over.
While the fifty partnership came in 55 balls, the century stand was up in 93 balls. The first signs of things to come were established in the 23rd over when Sciver hit Nashra Sandhu for four consecutive boundaries to cover, third man, long-off and square leg. Knight opened the sixes column in the 33rd over when she slog-swept Sandhu over the mid-wicket fence much to the delight of the kids chanting ‘England … England’.
Sciver reached her century in 76 balls – England’s fastest in World Cups and second-fastest overall. Knight joined her partner with a boundary in the 39th over.
The two took a particular liking to Sandhu, who finished with figures of 10-0-82-0 – the most expensive spell in World Cups. Having conceded 78 in nine overs, Mir might have taken over that spot had she completed her quota.
The second shift in gears came in the 40th over after Iqbal had Knight caught at widish long-off against the run of play. Sciver used the pace of the ball to hit three huge sixes, which could have crossed the fence in any ground. Even if wickets kept falling, England had enough in the tank to hit 100 runs in the last 10 overs, falling just one short of equalling its best-ever total of 378 for 5 – also against Pakistan, at home last June.
After the show of England’s batting might, the focus shifted to the rain that was expected at 1:00pm local time. The weather, however, stayed good for just long enough for Katherine Brunt to put her bad show against India behind and pick up two wickets, and Ayesha Zafar to record her highest score of 56 not out – Pakistan’s main takeaway from the day.