A rousing all-round performance from Katherine Brunt was not enough to drag England over the line as New Zealand kept the women’s one-day international series alive with a three-wicket victory at Leicester
Looking for a third successive victory to seal the five-match contest, England were held to a modest 178 all out, sowing plenty of doubt in the chase but ultimately unable to finish things off.
Brunt, returning to the side after being rested, rescued an underperforming batting line-up with an unbeaten 49 from number nine and then got back to her day job, leading the attack with outstanding figures of four for 22.
In the end the White Ferns found matchwinners of their own in Maddy Green, whose calm 70 not appeared to come from a different match entirely, and Lea Tahuhu. Having already starred with five for 37 in the first innings, Tahuhu eased late nerves with a breezy 19 not out and finished things 25 balls ahead of time with a steepling six down the ground.
The first hour belonged to Tahuhu, who blew the home side’s top order wide open. Openers Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield-Hill both fell lbw, fiddling indecisively in front of their stumps, while captain Heather Knight went searching in the channel and only found an outside edge.
Sophia Dunkley copped the coup de grace, bowled between bat and pad by a delivery that nipped sharply off the pitch. As she wandered off, perhaps bemoaning her heavy footwork, the score was 27 for four.
There was plenty of time to rebuild but when debutant Molly Penfold made another dent in the middle order, hurrying up the lively Amy Jones with her seventh ball on the international stage and rocking back middle stump, it looked unlikely. Lauren Down’s wonderful one-handed catch stopped Danni Wyatt in her tracks and gave Penfold another success
The blows kept coming, 59 for six turning into 78 for seven and and 101 for eight but Brunt’s resolve did not waver. She led Kate Cross and Tash Farrant in stands of 53 and 24, the former’s career-best 29 only halted by a fingertip run out at the non-striker’s end.
Brunt’s late rally gave England something to bowl at and the 36-year-old soon shouldered responsibility for that too. She almost had Suzie Bates with the first ball of the innings, denied only by a big stride that triggered the DRS margin-of-error, but was undeterred.
She wheeled away until both openers were back in the pavilion for single-figure scores, Bates done by one that held in the pitch and Down with a loose chip to point.
A third-wicket stand of 72 slowly killed English momentum, Green and Amy Satterthwaite carefully chipping away at their modest target with minimal risk. When Green did chance her arm, swinging hard at Dean but only getting half of it, Sophie Ecclestone allowed the chance to slip through her hands. She had just 22 at the time and would make England pay.
Ecclestone made partial amends in the 27th over, Satterthwaite chipping Dean to mid-on for 33, but by then the target had shrunk to just 85 runs required.
England knew Brunt was key to their prospects and she did not let them down, cleaning up Devine as she heaved across the line and later claiming Hayley Jensen with a marginal lbw shout.
The whole game pivoted around the relentless accumulation of Green, with Farrant and Ecclestone both raising the stakes by picking off wickets at the other end.
All Green needed was a reliable partner but Tahuhu over-delivered on those expectations, reeling off three boundaries before launching Cross back over her head for the game’s decisive blow.
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