All-round Sophie Devine stars as New Zealand draw level

Sophie Devine acknowledges after her half century. © Getty Images

Hundred is an important milestone in cricket. The milestone-number makes funny things happen. Ask a batter. For Sophie Devine, who played her hundredth T20I for New Zealand on Saturday (September 4), it elevated her game and helped New Zealand beat England in the second T20I in Hove, to draw level in the three-match series. For the hosts, though, the venue remained one of their lesser-liked ones, having lost six of their seven T20Is at the County Ground there.

‘Big-match player’ is often a loosely used term in sport; however, it sits pretty well on Devine, who stepped up when it mattered. New Zealand looked a bit rusty in the first T20I, but the captain showed the way in the second one.

New Zealand were chasing 128 to stay alive in the series. England had managed to defend a similar score earlier in the year against them. It was imperative for the tourists to have a good start, since the target wasn’t a humongous one. Call me maybe, said Devine!

With Suzie Bates, she added 31 for the opening wicket. It was a quiet couple of overs to start with before a smash off Freya Davies, who replaced Katherine Brunt in the XI, over square leg showed how good Devine, the basher is. Her stand with her ‘Smash Sister’ Bates (eight) came to an end via a run out.

In the very next over, Devine meted out a mean treatment to Natasha Farrant, whose in-swingers troubled her in the series opener. She hit a six – almost a slog sweep – over deep square leg and nailed a cover drive a couple of deliveries later. After the power play, New Zealand were sitting pretty on 43 for one.

No.1 ranked T20I bowler, Sophie Ecclestone, almost got rid of Devine, only for the catch to be spilled by Sarah Glenn at short fine leg. Devine was on 25 then. The very next over, England paid the price with Natalie Sciver being hit for a six.

Glenn and Ecclestone then bowled two quiet overs, before Devine and Maddy Green took on Glenn. Green hit a half-tracker through square leg before Devine smashed one over deep mid-wicket. In the very next over, Davies was hit for a four each by Green and Devine. The Kiwi skipper had galloped to her 15th T20I fifty off just 40 balls.

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However, the White Ferns captain fell soon to Farrant for 50. The next over saw Green depart for 21 off 19, with Mady Villiers taking a stunning catch off her own bowling. Brooke Halliday then holed out to long-on off Glenn, but the tourists were in control.

However, four successive wides from Farrant ensured that the series headed to a decider. England ended up bowling 21 extras, 19 of which were wides.

Earlier, Devine dented England with the ball in the power play. After a wayward first ball to Sciver, she managed to dismiss the England captain for four, caught at deep backward square leg. On the very next ball, Amy Jones slapped one straight to covers for a nought. Both these were after Jess Kerr castled Tammy Beaumont (13).

But with the reliable Danielle Wyatt in the middle, England wouldn’t have pressed the panic button too soon. She added 36 runs with Sophia Dunkley (21) first, before the latter mistimed one back to Leigh Kasperek. Debutante Maia Bouchier, who replaced newbie Emma Lamb, then got along and almost immediately looked at home at the top level. She whipped a Kasperek ball through square leg for her first boundary in international cricket before hitting Amy Satterthwaite through covers for her next.

Bouchier then hit a lovely shot over extra cover off Hannah Rowe to take England close to 100 in company of Wyatt. The pair’s 45-run partnership threatened to undo New Zealand’s good work with the bat at the start. However, Rowe struck twice in an over to dismiss Wyatt (35) and Bouchier (25) to push England on the back foot, restricting them to 127 for seven in 20 overs.

Apart from Devine and Rowe, Kasperek picked up a brace.

Brief Scores: England 127/7 in 20 overs (Danielle Wyatt 35, Maia Bouchier 25, Sophia Dunkley 21; Hannah Rowe 2/12, Leigh Kasperek 2/20, Sophie Devine 2/28) lost to New Zealand 128/6 in 18.2 overs (Sophie Devine 50, Maddy Green 21; Natasha Farran 2/32) by four wickets