England narrowly scraped home in their T20 series decider against New Zealand at Taunton, reaching their target of 145 with just one ball to spare. Captain Heather Knight – who had sat out the first two T20s with a hamstring injury – steered England to within touching distance of the victory with a calm 42 from 36 balls, but was caught at mid-off in the penultimate over with eight runs still needed.
Maia Bouchier, playing in only her second international match, was then bowled by Amy Satterthwaite off the first ball of the 20th over; but Sophia Dunkley, who finished unbeaten on 22, slammed a rare full toss over midwicket for four to seal the win by the narrowest of margins.
Off-spinner Leigh Kasperek, who returned three for 25 in her four overs, had made inroads throughout England’s run chase, including picking up two wickets in two balls in the seventh. Nat Sciver holed out to deep midwicket, before Danni Wyatt – who had looked to be making short work of the chase after lofting Sophie Devine for six over long-off – fell pulling to deep square leg.
While Amy Jones survived her hat-trick ball, and smashed her way to 32 from 19 balls, she was bowled by Kasperek in the 13th with England still needing 48 from 43, leaving Knight and Dunkley to finish the job.
New Zealand’s 144 for four had looked a formidable total on an outfield made boggy by torrential rain earlier in the day. While the Kiwis had sunk to 90 for three in the 15th over with the “Big Three” of Suzie Bates, Devine and Satterthwaite all back in the hutch, their middle order came to the party – Maddy Green (16 off 14), Katey Martin (13* off six) and Brooke Halliday (25* off 16) between them hitting 50 runs off the final four overs of New Zealand’s innings.
Halliday, who impressed with a half-century on ODI debut against England back in February, shocked the crowd of 2,212 by tonking world No 1 bowler Sophie Ecclestone all around the park to take 16 runs off the penultimate over of the innings.
New Zealand had started strongly enough, hitting 37 for 0 in the powerplay after England won the toss and inserted their opponents, with openers Bates (34 off 30) and Devine (35 off 33) making strong contributions.
Bates, whose selection in Thursday’s match meant she become the first woman to make 250 international appearances for New Zealand, got her side off to a flyer, hitting 34 off 30 balls. Twenty-four of those runs came in boundaries – the shoulder injury which sidelined her for nine months apparently long forgotten.
Tash Farrant, handed the new ball for the second match in a row, had shelled a tricky caught and bowled chance in the second over of the innings, handing Bates a life on seven. Though she eventually got her woman in the seventh over, taking out Bates’s leg stump as she attempted yet another drive, Devine took up the mantle, sweeping Sarah Glenn and pulling a full toss from Katherine Brunt over square leg.
Devine fell victim to Ecclestone’s arm ball in the 15th, 10 balls after a scratchy-looking Satterthwaite sent the ball down the throat of Brunt at long-on. But some quickfire hitting from Green, Martin and Halliday then set up a tricky chase for England.