Mon, 18 Oct 2021

Heather Knight's high standards pay off

ESPNCricInfo
24 Sep 2021, 23:43 GMT+10

Heather Knight's joy at reaching an elusive second ODI century to put England within touching distance of a series-clinching victory against New Zealand was almost immediately tempered by the disappointment of not being in the middle to see her side over the finish line.

In a measure of the high standards naturally expected of a national captain, Knight admitted to letting out a few "expletives" as she returned to the bench having been dismissed for 101 with 10 balls left and eight runs needed in Thursday's fourth ODI in Derby. But she quickly composed herself to stand beside head coach Lisa Keightley and watch England seal a somewhat anticlimactic win off a wide.

Having called on her side to be more "ruthless" during their five ODIs against the White Ferns after they were challenged by the tourists in the T20I series - which England won 2-1 - Knight was frustrated that, in her eyes, she hadn't walked the walk.

"We haven't been our best as a batting group the last couple of games so I was desperate to be that one to try and score a big score for the team and get us over the line," Knight said.

"I'm really, really pleased... super frustrated with myself to get out when we needed six or seven to win. I wanted to be really ruthless and just finish the game so it was a bit annoying that I made it a bit nervy for everyone, unfortunately."

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It's unlikely that her team-mates would agree with their skipper's harsh self-appraisal.

Their emphatic win in the first T20 aside, England's batters struggled through much of both series and Knight took it upon herself more than once to lift them out of trouble.

After missing the first two T20s with a hamstring injury, she scored a crucial 42 as England won the third and deciding match in Taunton with just one ball to spare.

In the opening ODI in Bristol, her 89 gave England a below-par but ultimately defendable total as they won by 30 runs after New Zealand's Amy Satterthwaite threatened to overhaul the target but ran out of partners.

Knight rued the fact that England's batting line-up, including herself, needed to rely first on Danni Wyatt at No. 7 in Worcester and then No. 8 Katherine Brunt in Leicester teaming up with the tail to piece together decent totals. It worked in the first instance as New Zealand fell narrowly short in a DLS-revised run-chase but not in the second, where the tourists won by three wickets to keep the series alive.

In Derby on Thursday, Knight picked up her third Player of the Match award of New Zealand's tour with her second century from 111 ODIs. It was pivotal to England winning the match with just three balls remaining and followed her previous ODI ton against Pakistan at the 2017 World Cup.

She'd had to dive and slide to make her ground on the second run which brought up her latest hundred, but when she holed out to Brooke Halliday off Sophie Devine in the 49th over, some uncomfortable moments followed as England then lost Wyatt, potentially exposing the tail. Anya Shrubsole's big-hitting drew them level, however, before Leigh Kasperek's wide sealed the result.

"I knew as soon as I got in, I wanted to be the one to get that big one and it's a bit of a monkey off my back, to be honest," Knight said. "Doing it in a chase, I think, generally I'm reasonably good at chasing but I've definitely not got that really big score, that big hundred to win a game. I have got a lot of fifties but not gone on to convert, so I'm really pleased that I've done that.

"Particularly with the way we batted the last couple of games, it hasn't been the standard we've wanted and I was desperate to be the one to do that today and after a long old season I'm delighted that I was able to do that."

The win gave England an unassailable 3-1 series lead heading into Sunday's final match in Canterbury.

Maia Bouchier, who was added to the England squad as cover ahead of the third ODI, has been released to play for Southern Vipers as they attempt to defend their Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy title against Northern Diamonds in Saturday's final at Northampton.

Heather KnightNew Zealand WomenEngland WomenNew Zealand Women tour of England

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo

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