India still have a chance to level the multi-format series, too

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  • India 148/4 beat England 140/8 by 8 runs

It’s not coming home. Not yet, at least, as far as England’s women are concerned. In scenes that England’s footballers will hope won’t be repeated at Wembley on Sunday night, England’s cricketers collapsed from a position of strength at Hove to leave the T20 series level and India still in with a chance of levelling the multi-format one, too.

So far in these T20s, and in opposite fashion to the ODIs, the side setting the score have prevailed. Perhaps it is the freedom that a blank canvas brings, or perhaps it is something more. But for England to have fallen from 106 for two with the target in sight, to 140 for eight and still finish eight runs short, is a concern going into Wednesday’s final game.

“We were cruising,” defeated captain Heather Knight lamented. “We were playing very simple cricket. As a team, we were not ruthless enough and shouldn’t be losing a game from that position.” The fight and dynamism of India in the field was very apparent in the first T20, but England’s brute force then was enough to override it.

Four run-outs on Sunday meant it is not so much England’s striking that is in question, but their decision-making.

The target was a good, but not impossible, one. Patience may not be a word often applied to short-form cricket, but that England lacked it against India’s spinners, and most noticeably against Poonam Yadav, was crucial.

The flighty, slow and tempting leg-spinner may be liable to being hit out of attacks against a confident top order, but India used her shrewdly, waiting until the powerplay was done before reasoning the risk was worth the reward.

It was. That the power of Danni Wyatt and Nat Sciver had already been returned to the dugout, each for single figures, will have helped.

But once Knight was dismissed in freakish fashion, run out at the non-striker’s end from a ricochet that the fielding bowler knew little about, England’s confidence soon disappeared, too.

Another run-out, then a tame chip to a predictable trap before frustration seeped in and the game drifted from England’s reach. India, who have often looked down but never quite out in this series, remain very much in the running.

If it was a patient all-round display in the field that sealed the victory for India, it had been something rather different that propelled them at the start of their innings.

Shafali Verma, who had fallen to a two-ball duck in the previous match, welcomed Sophie Ecclestone, the world’s top-ranked T20 bowler, into the match with 10 runs in three balls, before hitting Katherine Brunt for 21 runs the following over. Brunt’s reputation might precede her, but one of the delights of watching the current generation of young athletes is their disregard for past burdens.

Shafali Verma's 48 was enough to see India home

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When Verma bats, the stage is hers, and it does not matter who is running towards her, 230-plus international caps or otherwise.

Another who has expelled any past demons is Tammy Beaumont, who celebrated a return to form with a composed half-century.

Beaumont’s 59 at the top of the order could, and should, have provided England with the tools to finish their run chase. Her strong, snappy wrists were a glorious sight at Hove, emulating the great Gary Sobers from a time long before.

It all seemed so easy. And in Sobers’ time, it may have remained so, when Beaumont danced down the track once more and was wrapped on the pads. Pre-DRS and the mere fact that she was so far down the pitch would have dismissed any notion of leg before. But the technology deduced otherwise, and Beaumont departed with work still to do. Too much work and the collapse ensued.

England now need a win in Wednesday’s final T20 at Chelmsford to claim the series.