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England’s dreams of a maiden Commonwealth cricket final against Australia were ended by an upset loss to India in the semi-finals.
Skipper Nat Sciver admitted that she had never even considered the possibility that England would not be going for gold, but it was her run-out that eventually swung this four-run defeat in front of a bumper crowd at Edgbaston, ending any hopes of a trio of English gold medals in the women’s team events on Sunday.
For a while, it seemed that hometown hero Amy Jones, born in Solihull and who grew up in Sutton Coldfield, might carry them to victory.
She put on 54 with her captain but went for a run which was not really on with 30 needed from 22 deliveries.
Sciver followed the next over for 41, also run out when there was no need to take on the fielder.
And with the prospect of a bronze medal match on Sunday morning to come, the stand-in skipper – who has filled in for the injured Heather Knight – will have to change her focus quickly.
She said: “Any loss is tough to take, we obviously wanted to be in the gold medal match and hadn't considered not (being in it).
“It's going to be tough to take but I'm sure we'll review as quickly as we can and then really be able to park that and go out with the same freedom and attitude that we have been doing tomorrow.
“I'm gutted. It's such a small margin game, T20. We pegged it back really well in the first innings and then couldn't quite get over the line when they put the pressure on us. Very small margins but they came out on top.”
It certainly was a game of fine margins, with opener Smriti Mandhana’s brilliant 61 setting India on their way to an imposing target of 164-5 after electing to bat first.
The clean-striking left-hander stroked eight fours and three sixes in her 32-ball knock, going after every bowler Sciver tried, including Issy Wong from Solihull, who went for 19 off her two overs..
Mandhana and Shafali Verma added 76 for the first wicket in just 7.5 overs and once they had departed, Jemima Rodrigues played the anchor role, making 44 from 31, with her boundary on the final delivery proving crucial.
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.
To win, England needed to pull off the highest chase in women’s T20 internationals in this country but they made the perfect start with successive boundaries.
Danni Wyatt (35) scored a hundred when England chased down 198 in Mumbai back in 2018 and seemed on course to carry them home once again before she stepped across the wicket and watched on in horror when her little flick crashed into the stumps, leaving them at 81-3.
That brought Jones and Sciver together and they rebuilt, keeping the target within reach. But Jones tried to take on the fielder after a drive to cover and paid the price an over before her captain went for a misjudged second to leave England needing 14 off the final over.
Katherine Brunt was caught by Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur with three balls remaining and the game was up, Sophie Ecclestone’s six off the final delivery serving only to make the scoring margin tighter.
Next up is a battle for bronze first thing on Sunday, and coach Lisa Keightley underlined the importance of embracing that challenge.
She added: “It’s a little bit different, in World Cups we’re used to being knocked out and you don’t have to play again. But there’s a lot to play for, getting a medal at the first Commonwealth Games and going away with something is on the flip side, quite nice. I’m sure they will be looking to improve, bounce back.”
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