England will play for Commonwealth bronze in the Women’s Twenty20 and let a golden opportunity slip away in their semi-final against India.
With huge support from home to a packed house in Edgbaston, they survived a crushing attack from Smriti Mandhana, who had India with 10 runs per left as she increased her fifty in 23 balls, before England reduced the total to 164 for five.
They were then in pursuit, taking 33 runs from four overs, but after Amy Jones and Natalie Sciver were exhausted, England fell four runs short.
India had a significant contingent of supporters in attendance, and the stands rocked through the first seven overs as Mandhana took the bowlers to the sword. It was an inning that mixed the signature elegance of the left-hander with immense power. She used Issy Wong’s pace to get a flat pull shot for six, added another from Sciver’s mediocre speed over midwicket and launched Sarah Glenn’s leg break over long-on.
In between, she pulled through the covers and swept the spinners to the fence with impeccable placement, breaking her own India record for the fastest half-century in the format.
Shafali Verma kept her company as they made 73 runs from the first seven overs. That was when Freya Kemp caught Verma trying to get big off the ground, then Sciver fooled Mandhana with a slower ball which she scooped up to a short fine-leg, ending her innings at 61 from 32 balls.
That start set India’s tally, with Jemimah Rodrigues adding 44 out of 31, shifting around the fold to create boundary holes over cover or midwicket. England did manage to throw some clean overs, leaving Harmanpreet Kaur and Deepti Sharma a ball around a run, meaning their chase was 10-20 runs lighter than it seemed likely.
England started even faster than India, despite losing Sophia Dunkley lbw to 19, but made it to 42 for one after four overs, compared to India’s 40 for none. Wides and no-balls from Renuka Singh Thakur in the opening over helped further the score, Dunkley swung hard, Danni Wyatt started getting shots through the outside and Alice Capsey was promoted again to No 3 after Dunkley fell.
But the teenager who has delivered many of England’s runs made an age-appropriate error with her score at 13 as she geared up for a second run, despite the ball heading for the wicket-keeper from the back. Returning to the end of the non-striker, Capsey dove in, but had turned her bat upside down and the ridge on the back lifted it. She was above her ground, but not in it.
Wyatt had a similar self-inflicted discharge at 35, stepping out of the stump but missing a scoop, the ball bouncing off her path back onto her stumps. Now it was India’s turn to regain the lead, bowling tight to Sciver and Jones with quiet raids from Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav and Deepti Sharma.
“They gave us a hard time,” Sciver said. “Bowled really well, limited us, took away our border options.”
The 16th seemed to have swung the match again, with Harmanpreet turning to part-time spinner Verma for one over too many, belted by Jones and Sciver for 15. That gave England a comparison they would have liked, with seven wickets in hand.
But Deepti and Sneh Rana again turned the screw with a nice demonstration of off-spin, driving desperation when Jones ran out with a single, then Sciver tried the same one back for a second run, one ball after a powerful pull for six .
There were 13 runs needed from the final and England would have to look back on their decision making with Maia Bouchier and Katherine Brunt sending the more natural six-hitter Sophie Ecclestone ahead of them.
Ecclestone backed that up by driving her second ball coolly over the rope. But then it was the last ball of the game and England’s chance for gold had already passed. India now gets that chance against Australia.