England are rolling on through the Commonwealth Games, with enough momentum behind them, now, to have absolutely flattened New Zealand on the way to the semi-finals. They won by seven wickets at Edgbaston on Thursday evening, in 11.4 overs.
The sun was out, and a crowd was in. There were 10,892 there, the biggest audience the team have had since the World Cup final at Lord’s back in 2017. Around half of them were in the Hollies Stand, and the sight of them all, standing, singing, dancing, in celebration of England’s victory felt like another step forward for women’s sport in a summer full of them.
Both England and New Zealand had already qualified for the knock-out round, but there was still a prize on the line. It wasn’t so much that the winner gets to play India on Saturday, more that the loser has to face Australia, who haven’t lost a T20 game since March 2021. So New Zealand have two days to try and reassemble the bits and pieces of their batting lineup after it was wrecked by England’s attack. They say it’s batters who win matches, but not this one. England bowled so well that New Zealand barely cobbled together their total of 71 even though they had won the toss.
It was Katherine Brunt who did the damage. New Zealand had made it this far through the tournament without losing a single wicket in a powerplay, as their two openers, Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates, put together back-to-back stands of 99 and 51 against South Africa and Sri Lanka. Then they ran smack bang into Brunt, who broke them in the first over. She nearly dismissed Bates with her third ball, and then did dismiss Devine with her fourth, a nip-backer that slipped through the gap in Devine’s defence like it had been greased and ripped out her leg stump.
At 37, Brunt does this for fun. Seeing her go to work on a top order is like watching a hobbyist mechanic dismantle an engine. A twist here, a turn there, and suddenly the thing’s in bits in front of you. She got New Zealand’s No 3, Amelia Kerr, four balls later, trying to hit an off-cutter which knocked over her middle stump. Brunt finished with figures of two for four in three overs, with one maiden. By then New Zealand had lost Bates too, who clipped a catch straight to mid-wicket off Issy Wong. That left New Zealand 21 for three at the end of the powerplay.
It was always going to be a long climb back from a start like that, and it didn’t help that Brooke Halliday decided the best way to do it was by digging down deeper. Halliday was at the non-striker’s end when she called for a single off a delivery that squirmed past the wicketkeeper Amy Jones.
Her partner Maddy Green kept shouting “no, no!” but it was like a dog-walker trying to call back a labrador going after a picnic. Green gave Halliday the sort of filthy look the walker might have used too, when they ended up standing at the same end while Jones removed the bails.
Then Sophie Ecclestone removed Green, who never quite seemed to get over her disappointment, with a jaffa that spun between her bat and pad. At the other end, the leg-spinner Sarah Glenn tied up the tail. The only flaw in the performance was that England allowed the 10th-wicket pair of Hannah Rowe and Fran Jonas to bat through the last five overs, so New Zealand’s 57 for nine ended up 71 for the same. England missed two more run-out opportunities while they were doing it, as if they had switched off already.
But they had more up their sleeve if they needed it. Brunt and Wong both had an over left unused, and Alice Capsey didn’t even get a bowl.
After that, the job of knocking off the runs was easy enough. Capsey top-scored for them, for the third match in a row, with 23. One note of caution: good as New Zealand are, England have beaten them in 19 of their last 21 games in this format, India will be a stiffer proposition.