Women’s World Cup: England back on track after one-wicket win over White Ferns

Auckland, March 20 (IANS) Defending champions England on Sunday boosted their chances of a semifinal berth in the ICC Women’s World Cup, defeating hosts New Zealand by just one wicket at the Eden Park to move up to fifth place on the table with four points.

With Heather Knight’s side still to play two games, it has a chance to aggregate eight points and stake claim to a semifinal berth. The White Ferns, on the other hand, are virtually out of the tournament, as they have four points from six outings and only one game to go.

At best Sophie Devine’s side can finish with six points, which will most likely be insufficient to earn a last-four spot.

England chased down New Zealand’s score of 203 with more than two overs remaining, but just one wicket in hand. The defending champions were made to win the hard way as they lost five wickets for just 20 runs late in the chase to allow New Zealand back into the match.

In the end it was experienced bowler Anya Shrubsole (7 not out) who held her nerve, as the England number 11 found the winning runs off Brooke Halliday (1/18) just as the home side pushed for the final wicket.

Spinners Sophie Ecclestone (3/41) and Charlie Dean (2/36) did the damage with the ball for England, before the experienced Nat Sciver (61) and Heather Knight (42) guided the successful run chase up until the late wobble.

If England win their final two matches — against Pakistan and Bangladesh – it would likely see them qualify for the knockout stages.

New Zealand had a miserable day as injuries to skipper Sophie Devine and seamer Lea Tahuhu hurt them hard on Sunday. Devine hurt her back while batting and didn’t take the field for England’s innings, while Tahuhu pulled up short with a left hamstring injury.

It remains to be seen whether the duo will be fit for New Zealand’s seventh and final group match against Pakistan on March 26, although the tournament hosts may be out of contention for a semifinal berth by that stage. Devine’s side could still sneak into the final four with a win over Pakistan, but they will be relying on results going their way before that encounter if they are to stay alive.

Opener Suzie Bates (22) was dismissed early and Devine was forced to retire hurt with a back problem in the 15th over, leaving Amelia Kerr (24) and stand-in skipper Amy Satterthwaite (24) to negotiate England’s spin bowlers.

Kerr was Dean’s first victim and wickets continued to tumble late in New Zealand’s innings despite the fact Devine bravely returned to the crease to add a further boundary to her score before holing out.

New Zealand’s total was never looking likely to be enough, with Tammy Beaumont (25) and Knight using their experience to pace the chase and then Sciver getting involved to put the target within sight. Frances Mackay (4/34) picked up two wickets in an over as England threatened to self-destruct, but Shrubsole’s experience came to the fore in the final stages to ensure the victory target was reached.

Brief scores: New Zealand 203 in 48.5 overs (Sophie Devine 41, Maddy Green 52 not out; Kate Cross 3/35, Charlie Dean 2/36, Sophie Ecclestone 3/41) lost to England 204/9 in 47.2 overs (Heather Knight 42, Nat Sciver 61, Sophia Dunkley 33; Jess Kerr 2/36, Frances Mackay 4/34) by one wicket.