February 6, 2003

England get there at last, by one run over India

Sky TV and the Waitangi Day crowds missed out on the game of the World Series of Women's Cricket as two top innings, by England's Charlotte Edwards and India's Mithali Raj produced an stunning finish at Lincoln 3.

In a tournament of few climaxes, India, rather than England, choked, losing the last six wickets for 23 runs, the key moment coming when one of England's least natural fielders, lanky Lucy Pearson, swooped and threw from short fine leg to run out Raj for 98 off 124 balls.

India needed eight off 13 balls as Raj trooped off, then five in the final over, with two wickets left. But Mamta Kanojia ran herself out going for a third and No 11 Jhulan Goswami was unable to score off four deliveries from the ramrod straight Sarah Collyer, getting bowled off a swing at the last ball with two needed to win.

England captain Clare Connor was a relieved woman at the close as she headed for a mandatory drug test.

"It was a little closer than we would have wanted ideally, but a win's a win and it's important psychologically going into the third/fourth place playoff tomorrow, knowing we can beat them."

At 92 for four in the 29th over chasing 209 to win, India looked out of it, but the diminutive Raj blasted boundaries all round the ground to reach 98, leaving her team eight to win off 13 balls.

Instead of nudging the singles the Indian tail lost the plot, setting up a real third and fourth playoff for tomorrow.

The pitch played true on a cloudless day and the small crowd saw a game that was in the balance throughout.

Edwards hit her side's first half century of the tournament to help England to 208 for four wickets off 50 overs.

Edwards, who returned to form with 79 not out after a best of 23 in the series, came in at 66 in the 19th over and hit 10 boundaries in her 92-ball innings.

Edwards' eighth ODI fifty (she also has three centuries) came up with a straight driven four off Hemlata Kala off her 71st ball faced.

England hit 62 off the last eight overs, and 81 off the last 12. Its second hundred came in 106 balls, compared to 185 for the first.

England stalwart Clare Taylor said the side was lacking assurance. It had not beaten India in 10 games since 1999, and almost threw it away today. But, for the good of the immediate future of England women's cricket, the team came through.

Taylor played a minor part today, but her conviction spread through the team and now England is set to be spirited, at least, on its forthcoming tour of Australia. The team leaves on Monday for Brisbane.

"If we come off the back of this tournament with two good wins under our belts (against India) it will lift the girls, especially the batters and make them feel that they can do it.

"I think all we're looking for is belief. The Kiwis have got it and the Aussies have got it in abundance and I think that's all we're lacking - we're not lacking in talent, it's turning that talent into runs out on the pitch in the big games, rather than just against lesser teams."

Edwards and Arran Thompson (38) had shown that missing confidence to break the field up and set a challenging total.

They added 98 for the fourth wicket, England's highest stand of the series. Raj and Kala compiled a similar stand for India, putting on 92 for the fifth wicket before Laura Newton ran out Kala with 25 needed off six overs.

India will rue putting England in on a pitch that has kept true, after an improved England performance (with nothing at stake) compared to last week's dismal 86 all out in the first fixture between the teams.