England captain Heather Knight praised her team’s fighting spirit after they went down to a last-over defeat at the hands of hosts West Indies in their final group game at the World Twenty20 in St Lucia.
The result means that West Indies finish top of the group, but both sides still progress to the semi-finals in Antigua on Thursday, where England will meet India, who themselves topped Group B after a surprise win against Australia on Saturday.
In front of a roaringly partisan crowd of almost 10,000, England recovered from a top-order collapse to post a competitive 115-8 in their 20 overs - Sophia Dunkley top-scoring with 35.
But the Windies chased down England’s total with 3 balls to spare thanks to a 68-run partnership between Player of the Match Deandra Dottin (46) and Shemaine Campbelle (45).
“It was a great game of cricket,” said Knight. “I thought the fight we showed to stay in the game, with that pressure of the crowd and the support for the West Indies, was really pleasing.”
Although Danni Wyatt was dismissed in the first over for one, it nonetheless seemed like the luck was with England as Amy Jones survived a yorker that she played onto her own stumps only for the bails to remain in place. Tammy Beaumont was then dropped on 12 when a mistimed pull went so far into the air that the West Indian keeper lost it in the afternoon sun.
But England failed to capitalise as the top order fell cheaply, leaving them 60-6 as Dunkley - playing her maiden innings in her third international for England - made her stand.
Dunkley was a slightly left-field selection for England here as a non-contracted player who is still a student at Loughborough University; but after some early nerves she justified the faith shown in her by the selectors, hitting at more than a run-a-ball, including England’s first six of the tournament.
“As a cricketer she is hard to set fields to,” said Knight. “She hits in very unusual areas.”
“She has had to wait 3 games to get out there and get the bat in hand, but the way she played - I’m really pleased.”
With Anya Shrubsole also making 29 to help set a record 7th wicket partnership of 58, England closed on 115.
“Another 10 or 15 runs would have been about par,” admitted Knight. “[But] I think we were in the game with the score we got.”
The West Indies reply was immediately set back by Anya Shrubsole, who took the early wickets of Hayley Matthews and Stafanie Taylor - both bowled - in her first over.
But this brought Dottin and Campbelle together, and they began to bash-out the runs, with Dottin hitting some huge sixes as the partnership progressed.
Of the England bowlers, only left-arm spinner Kirstie Gordon seemed to have their measure, bowling her first three overs for six runs, while the batsmen feasted at the other end, helped by some woeful fielding from England.
Gordon finally broke the big partnership in the 15th over - Dottin caught slog-sweeping by Danni Wyatt for 46; but Campbelle pushed on as England gifted her a run-out chance and dropped her twice.
“We dropped a few out there, but it wasn’t easy conditions,” argued Knight. “Fielding under the lights with the dark skies is something we haven’t done in this competition yet; but we need to take those in the semi-final if we are going to progress.”
With 5 required off the final over, Campelle’s luck finally ran out as Danni Wyatt held a catch at deep midwicket, but Kycia Knight kept her cool to finish things off and get the party started in St Lucia.
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