New Zealand swat England aside in T20 Commonwealth Games bronze playoff

Sport

Twenty-four hours is a long time in sport. A weekend that held so much promise for an England team who had won every game they had played on the way to the semi-finals ended with a second consecutive defeat. This one against New Zealand in the bronze medal playoff was a much sorrier performance than the thrilling four-run loss against India.

These third-place games can be hard to play, especially off the back of a defeat such as Saturday’s, but still, England should look back on this, their worst performance of the tournament, as a missed opportunity. There aren’t so very many chances to win medals in this sport that they could afford to throw this one away so lightly.

“We’re a better team than that,” Katherine Brunt said afterwards. “But the defeat to India was brutal. It’s impossible to get over something like that in half a day. But we tried. If anything we tried too hard.”

Brunt was holding back tears as she spoke. She hasn’t decided if this will be her last match for England, she says she still needs to think about it, but she knows she’ll never get another chance to play in the Commonwealth Games. “It felt like the whole country was behind us, and we let them down.”

Three days ago they beat New Zealand team by seven wickets with 50 balls to spare. Second time around, New Zealand went one better and beat them by eight with 49 balls left. They didn’t even have to play that well to do it, although Sophie Devine scored a fine 51, and Hayley Jensen took three for 24.

England’s play was flat and careless. Their batters barely scraped together 110 runs. Nat Sciver’s 27 was the best of it. It was an angry innings. She’s been scoring at just under a run a ball all tournament, but batted here like she had grown sick and tired of trying to stick to a diet.

Sciver came in when England were 10 for two off 15 balls, and hit five fours in short order before she was bowled by Sophie Devine slogging across the line. There was a brilliant little innings while it lasted, all sweeps, and quick steps out of the crease to hit down the ground. It was like she was fed up with the way she and the team have been batting this week.

England have scored one fifty (and it was exactly 50) between them in the six games they’ve played in the tournament. Their next best score was 44. They really needed more, especially from Sciver and the other senior players, if they were going to seize hold of the tournament.

They didn’t get it here. Dani Wyatt was caught for four blazing away at a wide ball, Sophia Dunkley was done by a googly after making eight off 14 balls, Capsey was caught behind for five, and Maia Bouchier came and went, again, without doing much of anything. Bouchier, batting at No6, has made nine runs off 26 balls in three innings in these Games, a dismal run for someone in what’s supposed to be the finisher’s position.

Amy Jones and Sophie Ecclestone managed to haul the team up to a hundred. Ecclestone slogged a couple of boundaries, then smashed over a chair in the dressing room after she was bowled by Devine.

Ecclestone’s day got worse. Sciver gave her the second over, and it went for 16 runs, as Suzie Bates creamed back-to-back fours, which were followed with five wides down the leg-side and a single off a misfield. Katherine Brunt’s next over lasted nine deliveries, with three wides which cost another five between them, and went for 14.

Then Bates walloped three fours off Issy Wong’s first over. When Bates hit a six off Sciver’s opening delivery, New Zealand were 52 for none off 4.1 overs, and the game was as good as over. Her dismissal two balls later didn’t make a lot of difference.

It finally ended when Devine slapped the ball high down the ground, and Sciver dropped the catch and allowed them to come through for the winning single. It was an apt way to end a dismal day for England.