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1st T20I, Dunedin, March 19, 2024, England Women tour of New Zealand
(20 ov, T:161) 133/5

ENG Women won by 27 runs

Player Of The Match
63 (39)

Knight leads from the front as England take opening T20I

Opposite number Suzie Bates also shone with a half-century but didn't have enough support

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Heather Knight scored a brisk half-century, New Zealand vs England, 1st T20I, Dunedin, March 19, 2024

Heather Knight scored a brisk half-century  •  Getty Images

England 160 for 4 (Knight 63, Bouchier 43) beat New Zealand 133 for 5 (Bates 65, Bell 2-29) by 27 runs
In a game of two captains' innings, it was Heather Knight who came out victorious as England took the opening T20I of the five-match series in Dunedin by 27 runs.
Knight, who opted out of the WPL to lead England from the start of this tour, put together a superbly-paced 63 off 39 balls to steer the visitors to 160 for 4 with handy contributions from Sophia Dunkley and Maia Bouchier.
Suzie Bates, standing in for Sophie Devine as she returns from the WPL where she won the title with Royal Challengers Bangalore, did her best to carry the chase with 65 off 51 balls but a batting line-up without Devine and Amelia Kerr couldn't provide enough support at a high enough tempo.
New Zealand should be boosted by the return of the two stars for the next match in Nelson while England's WPL players - Alice Capsey, Sophie Ecclestone, Nat Sciver-Brunt, and Danni Wyatt - won't enter the series until after the third game.

Dunkley provides early impetus

Tammy Beaumont returned at the top of the order for her first T20I in more than two years and the 100th of her career. She was given an early life on 1 when Hannah Rowe couldn't hold onto a chance above her head at mid-on and then there were some positive signs for Beaumont before she found mid-off against the left-arm spin of Fran Jonas.
Either side of the powerplay ending, Dunkley hit her stride having initially reached 11 off 14 balls. She twice found the boundary in the sixth and seventh overs against Rowe and Rosemary Mair as 27 runs came to give England's innings a shot in the arm. Dunkley was starting to motor when she picked up her sixth boundary, but Lea Tahuhu struck back the next ball with a short delivery that was top-edged behind.

Knight goes through the gears

At the midway point, England were 72 for 2 with Knight and Bouchier working to give themselves a platform. It took Knight a little time to get going and she was 8 off 10 balls before collecting her first boundary with a thumping straight drive off Jess Kerr. Then she was up and running.
The England captain needed just another 23 deliveries to bring up her half-century from 33 balls which included taking Tahuhu over wide long-on for six in the 18th over that cost 18 runs. At that point, 170 was well within sight for England but New Zealand clawed the innings back well in the last two overs, leaking just 11 runs.
The third-wicket stand of 91 off 64 balls ended when Knight walked past a full delivery from Jess. Bouchier, who had been dropped on 26 and 37, the first a sitter by Maddy Green at mid-on, ended with a career-best in T20Is but, unlike Knight, couldn't elevate her scoring rate in the same way.

Too much left to Bates

Lauren Bell struck in the first over of the chase to have Izzy Gaze caught at cover second ball (she could have been run out off her first) but stand-in captain Bates ensured New Zealand remained level-pegging to what England have achieved in the powerplay - 44 for 1 compared to 41 for 1.
Bates took on the opening over of debutant quick Lauren Filer with three boundaries - a strong clip, a big top edge to third and a bludgeon over the on side - to lay down the gauntlet. But England's spinners, including Knight, proved harder work and there wasn't the required scoring rate from the other batters.
George Plimmer showed glimpses before skying Sarah Glenn to short fine leg then Green was becalmed early in her innings as the asking rate grew. Green's stay was ended in somewhat unfortunate circumstances when Bates crunched a straight drive into Charlie Dean which ricocheted onto the non-striker's stumps with Green well short.
Bates just about kept New Zealand alive before picking out deep square leg for 65 off 51 balls at which point 52 were needed off the last three overs. The trio of Plimmer, Green and Brooke Halliday managed 56 off 61 balls between them.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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