Natalie Sciver and Heather Knight struck their first ODI centuries as England got their 2017 Women’s World Cup campaign back on track with victory over Pakistan.
Tokyo-born Sciver and skipper Knight shared a scintillating stand of 213 in the 107-run win under the Duckworth-Lewis method at Grace Road.
It banished memories of Saturday’s defeat to India, helping post a Women’s World Cup record score of 377-7. The total was just one short of England’s record ODI total made against the same opponents at Worcester last year.
Sizzling Sciver is Stokes-esque
Sciver’s innings of 137 was a cricketing joy. Had Joe Root or Ben Stokes played it then it would surely have attracted many more column inches. It was all the more meritorious given it began in tense circumstances.
Fresh from defeat to India, after a delayed start England were put in under gloomy skies. They soon lost both Sarah Taylor (11) and Tammy Beaumont (14) to seamer, Kainat Imtiaz.
Beaumont’s innings, in particular, was fretful. Dropped off the first ball of the match, she repeatedly chased hard at the ball and, just as at Derby three days earlier, perished to an injudicious edge behind in her unnecessary haste to force the pace.
Sciver’s approach could not have been more contrasting. Content to wait on the ball, the 24-year-played it late and so found the gaps in the field. She reasoned too there would be sufficient bad balls not to have to force the issue prematurely.
The boundaries came with regularity and with Knight content to play second fiddle, England wrestled control from their sub-continent visitors.
Four successive boundaries off spinner Nashra Sandhu in the 23rd over took Sciver to 50 in 35 balls, signalling a gear change in the England innings. Imtiaz was brought back in a bid to stem the flow, but Sciver drove the seamer for two sumptuous fours through cover before pulling a third to the mid-wicket fence.
They were all proper cricket shots and even attempts at improvisation waited until Sciver got into the 80s. Then, a step to the off-side was followed by an impudent flick over square-leg for another four.
The hundred came off 76 balls with 13 fours and a first celebratory six soon followed. The peak of Sciver’s efforts saw three successive maximums struck off Asmaria Iqbal Khokar, each one longer than the proceeding one.
The fun was ended by substitute fielder Diana Baig’s catch in the deep off the spin of Sana Mir. The irony was it was the first shot resembling a slog Sciver had struck all day.
Knight’s effort was more workmanlike by comparison, but nevertheless an innings of great merit.
Sensibly, she gave her younger partner the spotlight while she was in full cry. Even so, her 50 off 65 balls contained seven fours.
Knight was first to clear the boundary too, one of two maximums she struck in total. She also employed the lap to great effect and it was fitting this shot brought her hundred from 105 balls.
Once the pair departed, Danielle Wyatt’s 42 from 27 kept up the momentum, while Fran Wilson, the mainstay in defeat to India, showed a different side to her game with 33 from just 19 balls as the Pakistan fielding crumbled in the face of the assault.
To make matters worse for the visitors they lost the services of Bismah Maroof after she split the webbing on her hand while fielding. Iqbal, though, emerged with respectable figures of 3-62 amid the carnage.
England’s biggest fear at that point was whether the rain would intervene before the 20 overs needed to constitute a game.
Kathrine Brunt rebounded from the flak she took at the hands of India to strike twice in her opening spell. Nahida Khan was caught by Sciver close to the wicket, while Javeria Wadood was castled by a devious slower ball which took out middle stump.
Alex Hartley pinned Iqbal LBW but, inspired by Ayesha Zafar, Pakistan resisted bravely. The opener reached 50 in 67 balls before the heavens opened and ended play at 107-3 in the 30th over.