Sciver-Brunt, Wyatt and Ecclestone star in clinical England win

Sophie Ecclestone struck a timely blow to send back Harmanpreet Kaur
December 06, 2023

England 197 for 6 (Sciver-Brunt 77, Wyatt 75, Renuka 3-27) beat India 159 for 6 (Shafali 52, Ecclestone 3-15) by 38 runs

Nat Sciver-Brunt and Danni Wyatt pulled England from the peril of 2 for 2 to give their side a 1-0 lead in the T20I series against India.

Both scored rapid half-centuries in a 138-run stand from just 87 balls after Renuka Singh had reduced the visitors to 2 for 2 in the first over of the contest at Wankhede Stadium, ultimately leading England to their second-highest T20I score against India which, despite a 42-ball 52 from Shafali Verma, proved too lofty a target.

Wyatt, playing her 150th T20I, made a seamless return after seven weeks off, having withdrawn from the WBBL citing the onset of fatigue at the end of the English summer. Her 75 from 47 balls contained two sixes and eight fours. Sciver-Brunt reinforced what England had been missing when she sat out their surprise 2-1 T20I series loss to Sri Lanka in September, with a 53-ball 77 which was equally crucial in the visitors' recovery. Having bowled sparingly in the white-ball portion of the Ashes after picking up a knee injury in the Test against Australia in June, Sciver-Brunt also picked up a wicket with her second ball, bowling Smriti Mandhana for just 6.

Left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone - playing for the first time since undergoing surgery on a dislocated right shoulder in August - produced her best T20I spell against India with 3 for 15 from four overs. Freya Kemp, the teenage allrounder who had been playing purely as a batter since injuring her back on England's tour of the Caribbean a year ago, chimed in with the wicket of Jemimah Rodrigues, also for single figures, as her side shook off the doubts that had pervaded their short-form game just three months ago.

Dream start for Renuka

Renuka snared two wickets in as many balls - the fourth and fifth of the match, no less - to put England in terrible trouble at 2 for 2 as Sophia Dunkley's batting woes continued. Having missed England's white-ball series against Sri Lanka following a lean Ashes campaign and managed just one half-century amid a string of single-figure scores at the WBBL, Dunkley returned to the starting XI at the expense of Maia Bouchier, who had held the openers' position in her absence.

But when Dunkley pressed down on the second ball she faced from Renuka, she founder herself in a tangle as the ball ricocheted off her elbow and onto the stumps. Renuka then removed Alice Capsey for a first-ball duck with a gem of a delivery that zeroed in on off stump as Capesy played inside it, only to hear the definitive clatter behind her. Sciver-Brunt survived the hat-trick ball but Renuka's early inroads had India looking buoyant and marked a welcome return for their pace spearhead, playing her first international match since February after overcoming a stress injury.

Sciver-Brunt, Wyatt steady things

Sciver-Brunt and Wyatt brought the home side back down to earth with their third-wicket stand to build England's recovery to 140 for 3 by the time Wyatt advanced to debutant left-arm spinner Saika Ishaque and was stumped by Richa Ghosh. Wyatt should have been out moments after bringing up her half-century, but Pooja Vastrakar dropped a sitter at long-on off India's other debutant, offspinner Shreyanka Patil. Two balls earlier, Shreyanka put down a low return catch off Sciver-Brunt, on 45 at the time. Both chances bookended Wyatt's thundering six over long-off, her second maximum. Shreyanka eventually grabbed her first wicket, deceiving England captain Heather Knight with a full, straight delivery that crashed into off stump.

Sciver-Brunt and Wyatt had raised the tempo right after the halfway point of the innings and Sciver-Brunt rammed home the advantage as she plundered four fours off one Vastrakar over, which went for 19 in all. It took Renuka's return to the attack to remove Sciver-Brunt in the penultimate over, enticing an edge which Ghosh collected via an excellent dive to her right, ending an excellent knock which included 13 fours. Harmanpreet Kaur kept faith with Shreyanka to deliver the last over and she conceded 16 from it before Jemimah Rodrigues took a catch just inside the deep midwicket boundary to remove Amy Jones after a neat nine-ball cameo worth 23 on the final ball with England falling just shy of the 200-mark which had looked so out of reach in the opening stage of the match.

She's baaaaack

England had been understandably non-committal about the chances of Ecclestone playing this match, with captain Heather Knight and legspinner Sarah Glenn giving away nothing in their pre-match press conferences other than that they were keeping a close eye on her. It was hard to take your eyes off the world's leading spin bowler in a devastating comeback from the injury to her non-bowling shoulder, suffered while warming up for a Hundred match. Just as Sciver-Brunt and Wyatt had increased the pressure on the hosts after the mid-innings drinks break, so too did Ecclestone, removing Harmanpreet with the second ball after the pause, a length delivery right on the stumps which Harmanpreet shaped to cut but managed only to chop on.

Shafali was assertive, particularly early in her innings, and she hit three of her nine boundaries off one Sciver-Brunt over. But she didn't have support from her team-mates and, when Ecclestone and Glenn combined to remover her, swinging wildly at one Ecclestone tossed up on off stump and picking out Glenn at backward point, the home crowd went quiet. Another one tossed up on off did for Kanika Ahuja as Sciver-Brunt took the catch in the 19th over. Glenn chimed in with 1 for 25 from her four overs and, while India were left to rue a ragged fielding performance, England's victory was nothing short of clinical after their early stutter.

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