Atkins and Taylor lead England to massive victory
England outclassed India by nine wickets at the North Sydney Oval to all but secure the No. 1 spot in Group B. The victory was set up by the bowlers - Holly Colvin and Jenny Gunn took three wickets each - who dismissed India for 169 after which Caroline Atkins and Claire Taylor struck half-centuries to ensure victory. England achieved the target in the 39th over, continuing their domination over India, having beaten them 4-0 in a home series in 2008.
Several England players had spent between four to six months training and playing in Australia ahead of the World Cup and that practice paid off in today's high-profile clash. None of India's batsmen, with the exception of Mithali Raj, were able to cope against a disciplined bowling performance.
Isa Guha gave England the early advantage. She bowled eight overs on the trot after England chose to bowl and struck two early blows while keeping the Indian batsmen on a leash. She trapped Anjum Chopra lbw for a duck and followed up with a caught and bowled to dismiss Thirush Kamini, reducing India to 9 for 2.
India needed a revival and it came through Mithali and opener Anagha Deshpande. They added 52 for the third wicket before Deshpande, who scored 38, was caught at point, giving Gunn, who was reported for a suspect action on Monday, her first wicket. Mithali, however, remained steady and got her runs through boundaries in the arc between third man and cover. She also favoured midwicket, hitting Gunn and Brunt for fours in that region.
She needed someone to keep her company but the middle order collapsed against Colvin's left-arm spin. Bowling with tremendous flight and loop, Colvin drew Rumeli Dhar outside the crease and turned the ball past the bat to give Sarah Taylor an easy stumping. Soon after, she tempted Priyanka Roy into a mis-hit to midwicket and forced an edge from Sravanthi Naidu, leaving India on 109 for 6. Too many batsmen went for their shots and too few attempted to take singles to give Mithali strike. The situation became grim when Mithali, on 59, sliced Gunn to backward point.
India were in danger of getting bowled out around 130 but they were given an unexpected boost by a last-wicket partnership between Amita Sharma and Gouher Sultana that was worth 43. Taking advantage of the batting Powerplay, Sharma ruined Gunn's figures by smashing 21 runs off the 48th over. She began by hitting the first ball to the cover boundary and smashed two more to square leg before lofting a six over midwicket.
Faced with a modest target, England's openers Sarah Taylor and Atkins approached the chase sensibly. They took no risks and focused on seeing off the new-ball threat posed by Jhulan Goswami. They scored slowly, reaching only 47 after 15 overs, but the asking-rate was never a problem and they had plenty of wickets in hand. Sarah fell soon after but it was the only moment of success for India's bowlers.
Claire joined Atkins and they ran between the wickets with urgency and played sensible strokes. While Atkins focused on anchoring the innings, Claire picked up the run-rate, emphasizing her ranking as the No. 1 batsman by cutting her sixth ball to the backward point boundary before driving her ninth past mid-off.
The runs continued to flow for Claire and she hit three fours in an over off Dhar. The first two were powerful shots through midwicket and mid-on and the last was a fierce cover drive which burst through the fielder's hands at cover. Claire had imposed herself on the bowling and Indian hopes began to sag.
The end came swiftly, with Taylor clouting Kamini for six over long on in the 38th over and whipping Roy through midwicket to score the winning runs in the next.
Atkins, named player-of-the-match, said: "I wouldn't call my innings a fluent one but our bowlers took all the pressure off us so I was able to scratch around and bat around the two good batters, Atkins, who was the Player of the Match, said. "It was great to bat with Claire as she keeps the run-rate up and I can just bat around her."
England coach Mark Lane was also pleased with his side's performance. "It was a much improved performance in all three disciplines today. It was good to see Holly Colvin coming into her own and taking 3-22. We were excellent in the field with Lydia Greenway taking three catches."