England wind up in the Commonwealth Games semi-final with New Zealand defeat | Commonwealth Games 2022

England rolls through the Commonwealth Games, with enough momentum behind them now to completely flatten New Zealand on their way to the semi-finals. They won by seven wickets at Edgbaston on Thursday night, in 11.4 overs.

The sun was shining and a crowd was present. There were 10,892 spectators, the biggest crowd the team has had since the 2017 World Cup Final at Lord’s. About half of them were in the Hollies Stand, seeing them all standing, singing, dancing, to England’s victory felt like another step forward for women’s sports in a summer full of them.

Both England and New Zealand had already qualified for the knockout round, but there was still a prize at stake. It was not so much that the winner gets to play against India on Saturday, more that the loser has to take on Australia, which has not lost a T20 match since March 2021. New Zealand thus has two days to try and recover the parts and pieces of their battle formation after it was destroyed by England’s attack. They say it’s the batters who win games, but not this one. England threw so well that New Zealand could barely make their total of 71, even though they had won the toss.

It was Katherine Brunt who did the damage. New Zealand had come this far through the tournament without losing a single wicket in a power play as their two openers, Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates, put together back-to-back stands of 99 and 51 against South Africa and Sri Lanka. Then they brutally bumped into Brunt, who broke them in the first over. She nearly sent Bates off with her third ball, then sent Devine off with her fourth, a nip-backer who slid through the hole in Devine’s defense as if it had been greased and ripped out her leg stump.

England's Katherine Brunt celebrates the wicket of New Zealand's Amelia Kerr.
England’s Katherine Brunt celebrates the wicket of New Zealand’s Amelia Kerr. Photo: Zac Goodwin/PA

At 37, Brunt does this for fun. Watching her go to work on a top order is like watching a hobby mechanic disassemble an engine. A turn here, a turn there, and suddenly the thing is right in front of you. She was handed New Zealand’s No. 3, Amelia Kerr, four balls later, trying to hit a cutter who bumped over her middle stump. Brunt finished two for four in three overs, with one girl. By this time, New Zealand had also lost Bates, who snapped a flyout straight to the center of the wicket from Issy Wong. That left New Zealand 21 for three at the end of the power play.

It was always going to be a long climb from a start like that, and it didn’t help that Brooke Halliday decided the best way to do it was to dig deeper. Halliday was on the non-striker’s end when she called a single on a pitch that squirmed past wicketkeeper Amy Jones.

Her partner Maddy Green kept yelling “no, no!” but it was like a dog walker trying to recall a labrador going after a picnic. Green gave Halliday the kind of sordid look the walker might have used too, as they stood at the same end as Jones removed the braces.

Fans celebrate in the stands as England's Amy Jones and Nat Sciver hug each other after Jones scored a four to give England the win.
Fans celebrate in the stands as England’s Amy Jones and Nat Sciver hug each other after Jones scored a four to give England the win. Photo: TomJenkins/The Guardian

Then Sophie Ecclestone removed Green, who never seemed to get over her disappointment, with a jaffa twirling between her bat and toad. On the other hand, leg spinner Sarah Glenn tied the tail. The only flaw in the performance was that England let the 10th-wicket pair of Hannah Rowe and Fran Jonas make it through the last five overs, so New Zealand’s 57 for nine became 71 for the same. England missed two more run-off opportunities while they were at it, as if they had already been knocked out.

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But they had more in store if they needed it. Brunt and Wong both had leftovers that went unused, and Alice Capsey didn’t even get a bowl.

After that, the task of eliminating the runs was easy enough. Capsey scored the highest score for them, for the third game in a row, with 23. A word of warning: Good as New Zealand is, England have beaten them in 19 of their last 21 games in this format, India will be a stronger proposition.

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