England Women 136 for 6 (Knight 53*, Sciver 45, Meghna 3-26) beat India Women 134 (Mandhana 35, Ghosh 33, Dean 4-23) by four wickets
On the eve of this crucial match for the defending champions, experienced wicketkeeper-batter Amy Jones had emphasised England’s need to overcome two poor fielding displays against West Indies and South Africa but to maintain their enjoyment of the game to avoid wilting under pressure.
England stumbled early in the chase, falling to 4 for 2 when Danni Wyatt, who had replaced Lauren Winfield-Hill at the top of the order in the previous game, fell cheaply once more, this time to a sharp catch at slip by Sneh Rana off Meghna Singh in the second over. Tammy Beaumont followed, originally adjudged not out lbw with the bat close to the pad before India’s review revealed that Jhulan Goswami had in fact hit her on the pad first to claim her 250th ODI wicket.
Nat Sciver, who fell to a freak slips catch off the back of her bat against South Africa, enjoyed a stroke of luck when she drove at Goswami, deflected onto her pad and the ball rolled into the base of the middle stump with some force but stopped dead without dislodging the bails.
Meghna bowled well, sending down 20 dot balls in her four-over opening spell and claiming three wickets in all, but Sciver and Knight put on 65 runs for the third wicket to break the back of the chase before Sciver fell to a simple catch by Goswami off Pooja Vastrakar for 45. By that stage, England were 69 for 3 with 33 overs remaining.
After Jones fell to a spectacular catch from Harmanpreet Kaur, backtracking from mid-on and jumping with perfect timing to pull the ball down, Knight set about hauling in the target, helped by a 17-run cameo off 21 balls by Sophia Dunkley, who was caught behind off Meghna with just seven runs needed. Meghna and Richa Ghosh combined again to remove Katherine Brunt as England lost two wickets in the space of three balls but Knight, who had struck eight fours en route to her 53 not out, stood firm and Sophie Ecclestone brought up the winning runs with a four off Meghna.
Harmanpreet sent a scare through the India camp when she jarred her knee fielding late in the match but she managed to walk off the ground for further assessment.
Earlier, Anya Shrubsole, the heroine of England’s 2017 World Cup final triumph over India, set England on track with two early wickets. Punished for bowling too short in their three-wicket defeat to South Africa, England’s bowlers came in with a clear plan to bowl fuller to the Indian side and their execution ensured that India never really got going amid a steady stream of wickets as they lost a damaging 7 for 73 in the end.
Shrubsole claimed her 100th ODI wicket when she removed Yastika Bhatia in the fourth over, tempting a drive with an excellent fuller ball which had a hint of inswing and caught a faint inside edge before clattering into the top of middle stump. Perhaps even more satisfying for England, given their previous poor performances in the field, was Shrubsole’s next wicket as Dunkley took their first chance in the air, diving forwards at cover point to take a strong low catch off Mithali Raj.
Sharp run outs by Kate Cross and Sciver to remove Deepti Sharma and Ghosh respectively, rammed home the point that England were a different fielding side in this encounter.
Dean entered the attack in the 17th over and made an immediate impact, claiming two wickets in four balls as India slumped to 61 for 5.
Dean, who only made her international debut during the home series against New Zealand in September and was playing just her second World Cup game, drew an edge as Harmanpreet defended and was caught behind by Jones. Dean then dismissed Rana for a second-ball duck with a flighted delivery outside off, her invitation to drive accepted and Jones once again collecting behind the stumps.
Smriti Mandhana’s 35 was India’s top score but she fell to Ecclestone and, while Vastrakar overturned her lbw dismissal off Dean when ball-tracking revealed the impact was outside off, Dean responded two balls later by tightening her line on a flatter delivery as Vastrakar failed to connect on her sweep and was struck in front of off stump. She decided to review again with barely a second to spare only to have umpire Paul Wilson’s decision confirmed.
Goswami and Ghosh tried to rescue their team, Goswami launching a six down the ground off Cross, but their union ended on 37 with Ghosh’s run out, with replays showing her bat was still in the air as Sciver’s throw hit. Goswami fell a short time later, and Dean finished off the innings by bowling Meghna.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo