Brunt, Dunkley star in first T20I as England clinch multi-format series

Katherine Brunt (L) and Sophia Dunkley were the stars of the show © Getty Images

England clinched the multi-format series 10-2 with two matches to spare after winning the first T20I convincingly by six wickets at the County Ground in Chelmsford on Thursday (July 21). Earlier they restricted the visitors to just 111 thanks to career-best figures from Katherine Brunt. Sophia Dunkley, in her first dig as the T20I opener, was the star of the show with the bat.

Trouble brewing even before the toss

Allrounder Marizanne Kapp and Tumi Sekhukhune were ruled out of the series even before a ball was bowled. Kapp requested Cricket South Africa (CSA) to allow her to return home to join the family for personal reasons, while Sekhukhune’s recurring right groin injury ruled her out of the series and the Commonwealth Games. She will also return home to start her rehabilitation as per the CSA release. They also called up Tazmin Brits to the squad for the three T20Is.

Facing the Brunt in the power play

Put into bat, South Africa got off to a bad start as Lara Goodall’s struggles against the hosts continued. Having given out in the third ball and survived on the DRS, the southpaw walked back in the next ball when she tried to go for a hoick and was bowled by Brunt.

Issy Wong, on her T20I debut, gave away only one run in her first over before Brunt had Sune Luus dragging her onto the stumps for the second duck of the innings. The South Africa skipper’s wicket meant the pacer reached the 100-wicket milestone to join Anya Shrubsole as the second player from England to achieve the feat.

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Mini recovery ft. Bosch and Wolvaardt

Having watched batters struggle at the other end, Anneke Bosch scored a couple of boundaries in the third over bowled by Brunt. She hit South Africa’s first four through mid-wicket before managing to clear mid-on for another.

In the next over, Wolvaardt also got her first boundary when she got one off Wong through mid-wicket. She then square drove Natalie Sciver for another and ended the power play with a beautiful drive off Sophie Ecclestone to long-off boundary.

But England didn’t let South Africa get away and the visitors were at 41 for 2 at the end of the eighth over.

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England firm at the wheel

From 41 for 2, South Africa needed Bosch and Wolvaardt to go on to get them to a competitive total. However, England had other ideas and Sarah Glenn, on her return to international cricket, struck with the wicket of Bosch when the batter went back to a fuller one and was bowled.

Another international returnee, Mignon du Preez, didn’t last long either as her lofted shot off Sciver reached only till Wong at mid-off. Then Ecclestone got into the act as well with the wicket of in-form Chloe Tryon to leave South Africa in all sorts of trouble at 69 for 5 in 12.1 overs.

Wolvaardt and her lone acts

Wolvaardt has been South Africa’s best batter in recent times and yet again her team-mates left her too much to do. With five wickets already down, she had to reign herself a bit to make sure that they batted the whole overs. Having scored 36 off 29 when the fifth wicket fell, she faced 20 more balls to score only 19 more.

In the 18th over, Wolvaardt reached her fourth fifty in the format from 45 balls, and with Sinalo Jafta hitting Ecclestone for a six – the lone maximum of the innings, Wolvaardt added another boundary to her kitty before getting caught at deep mid-wicket in the last over.

South Africa finished on 111 for nine from their 20 overs as Wolvaardt top-scored with 55 off 49 balls. For England, Brunt also became the joint-highest wicket-taker for them in the format alongside Shrubsole.

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Khaka – The Warrior

Ayabonga Khaka has been the underrated but integral part of South Africa’s three-pronged pace attack in recent years. In the absence of Kapp, the seamer stepped up as she attacked the stumps even during the onslaught by Dunkley against her fellow bowlers.

Khaka was rewarded with wickets of Danielle Wyatt and Bryony Smith for keeping it straight. Wyatt was bowled for a four-ball duck, while Smith, in her first international match in four years, struggled to get a move on and was castled for two off seven. Khaka then came back to remove Sciver in the same way as the other two batters.

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New gigs, same old Dunkley

Having made the number three slot her own in ODIs, Dunkley relished the opportunity to open the innings in the shortest format. She made her intentions clear straight away as she took the strike ahead of senior partner Wyatt.

Dunkley smashed Shabnim Ismail’s free hit down the ground before whacking a cover-drive for another boundary. She then launched Masabata Klaas for a six over deep mid-wicket in the next over. She didn’t spare Tryon either as she hit the left-arm spinner for a four through mid-off.

In the final over of the power play, Dunkley toyed with Klaas with another smash at the bowler for a boundary off the first ball before ending the over with a straight-as-an-arrow maximum to take England score to 50. She scored 42 off 23 in the first six overs.

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Post the power play, Dunkley continued her pyrotechnics to bring up her first fifty in the format off just 31 balls. Despite Sciver falling to Khaka, Dunkley took on Bosch as well clearing her front leg to launch the ball high over long-on for her third six. A top-edge to Khaka at the boundary in the next delivery eventually ended her stay at the crease. But by then Dunkley had made sure that England would walk away as the winners.

Heather Knight then played a flurry of  shots in the company of Amy Jones and finished off the match and the multi-format series with five overs to spare.

Brief Scores: South Africa 111/9 in 20 overs (Laura Wolvaardt 55; Katherine Brunt 4/15, Sophie Ecclestone 2/27) lost to England 114/4 in 15 overs (Sophia Dunkley 59; Ayabonga Khaka 3/13) by 6 wickets POTM: Katherine Brunt