Sport

England women collapse in second T20 as India keep series alive

England lost the second Twenty20 in dramatic fashion, collapsing from 106 for two to 140 for eight to fall nine runs short of the target set for them by India.

The hosts had looked to be cruising to a win with both Tammy Beaumont, who made 59 from 50 balls, and Heather Knight (30 from 28 balls) set fair – Beaumont continuing the dominance with the bat that has brought her half-centuries in all three formats this series.

But in a crucial 14th over bowled by Deepti Sharma both batters were dismissed. First Beaumont was trapped in front attempting a sweep, her appeal to DRS merely confirming the on-field decision.

Knight’s dismissal came in more controversial fashion: she was adjudged run out at the non-striker’s end after Sharma deflected Amy Jones’s return hit on to the stumps. Knight, who had collided with Sharma as she attempted to get back into her crease, clearly felt that the appeal should have been withdrawn, but Harmanpreet Kaur refused and the decision stood.

England’s middle order then crumbled in the scramble to get over the line: Sophia Dunkley and Mady Villiers were both run out, while Jones sent a simple catch to square leg and Katherine Brunt edged Poonam Yadav behind the stumps. Left needing 14 from the final over, it proved too much for Sophie Ecclestone and Sarah Glenn.

“It’s really frustrating,” Knight said. “As a team I think we were outstanding for the majority of the game. We were cruising, playing very simple cricket. For us as a team we weren’t ruthless enough – we shouldn’t be losing a game from that position.”

The final T20 at Chelmsford on Wednesday is now a must-win match for England if they are to come out on top in the multi-format series.

Earlier, Sharma had also showcased her talents with the bat, hitting 24 from 27 balls in a repeat of her success at the ground in her last innings here, in September 2019, which helped seal Western Storm’s second Kia Super League title.

Sharma’s effort came after Shafali Verma (48 from 38 balls) smashed Brunt for five consecutive boundaries, while the India captain, Harmanpreet, finally came to the series party with a 25-ball 31.

Brunt’s second over of the day cost England 21 runs, as Verma pulled, cut and drove ferociously. Most players respect a team’s elder statesman: Verma is 17 years old and respect is not in her vocabulary.

England were forced to resort to two overs from Ecclestone in the powerplay; it almost did the trick, but Ecclestone could not quite cling on as Verma, on 39, drove fiercely back at her in the sixth. In the end it was Freya Davies who broke the 70-run opening stand, as Smriti Mandhana (20 from 16) – who had lofted Glenn for one glorious six over long-off six balls earlier – drove into the hands of Villiers at cover in the ninth.

Villiers then chipped in with the crucial wicket of Verma, who continued her worrying habit of falling just short of a key milestone, holing out to Nat Sciver at long-on attempting to bring up her half-century in style.

If at 72 for two India had the platform, they needed the middle order to make use of it, and Harmanpreet knew it: after dancing down the track to Villiers early on, sending the ball over long-on for six, she could be seen visibly geeing herself up between balls. Running hard with her partner, Sharma, the pair shared a 40-run stand from 39 balls. It proved crucial to the final result.