Nat Sciver-Brunt leads England home in comfortable chase
Hayley Matthews provides bedrock for West Indies but England reach target with 5.3 overs to spare
England 138 for 3 (N Sciver-Brunt 40*, Dunkley 34) beat West Indies 135 for 7 (Matthews 42, Ecclestone 3-23) by seven wickets
England swept aside the challenge of West Indies in a punchy opening Group 2 encounter in Paarl, Nat Sciver-Brunt and Heather Knight sealing the chase with an unbroken 67-run stand. Hayley Matthews struck the ball cleanly with 42 off 32 for West Indies but a solid total of 135 for 7 was made to look far from adequate by England as the top order dealt in boundaries to hunt down victory with 33 balls to spare.
West Indies were buoyed at the toss by the return of Stafanie Taylor and were given a fast start by Matthews, reaching 47 for 0 at the end of the powerplay. But Taylor looked rusty, falling for 3 off 15 soon after, and when Matthews was second out in the 11th over - one of three wickets for Sophie Ecclestone - it was left to Shemaine Campbelle to try and hustle a defendable total.
West Indies' No. 3 made 34 from 37 before falling to some smart glovework from Amy Jones and England pulled off two run-outs to help keep the shackles on through the closing stages. It was, nevertheless, West Indies' best total batting first in a T20I against England since they made 140 for 6 at Bridgetown in 2013.
In reply, England's spark came from Sophia Dunkley, who belted 34 from 18 as the powerplay yielded 58 runs - their best in World Cups. Both of the openers had departed by then but Alice Capsey continued the freewheeling approach before Sciver-Brunt and Knight ensured there would be no slips-ups in the manner experienced by the hosts, South Africa, during their opening-night defeat to Sri Lanka. Victory was sealed in emphatic fashion by Knight pumping Chinelle Henry over long-off for six.
Slam Dunkley sets the toneEngland have talked up the aggressive approach adopted since the arrival of Jon Lewis as head coach, and they walked the walk at the start of what could have been a tricky chase. Dunkley was the aggressor in chief, the opener taking particular liking to Matthews' offspin when the West Indies captain brought herself on in the third over.
Matthews' first ball was dumped serenely over long-on for the first six of the match, and she proceeded to go over the top twice more with a pair of controlled lofts towards long-off. England had 37 on the board when Danni Wyatt holed out to deep cover in the next over, and raised their 50 from just 29 balls before Dunkley's fun was cut short by a magnificent reflex caught-and-bowled from Henry.
Sciver-Brunt and Knight keep the foot downEngland were already more than halfway to their target when Capsey was stumped yards out of her ground giving Afy Fletcher the charge. After eight overs, the requirement was a comfortable 61 from 72 but Sciver-Brunt and Knight ensured they would not get bogged down by scoring at almost ten an over during their partnership.
Zaina James, the 18-year-old spinner playing her second T20I, saw her first ball - a high full toss that was a called a no-ball - swatted disdainfully over the rope at deep square leg by Sciver-Brunt, while Knight brought out the reverse sweep for her first boundary later in the over. In all, there were six overs in which England scored two or more boundaries, and no letting up as West Indies were handed their 14th consecutive defeat in T20Is.
Matthews flies, Taylor stallsHaving won the toss, West Indies sent out their two most-experienced batters at the top of the order. Matthews has been carrying her side in recent times, but the return of Taylor for her first T20I since July 2021 following a back problem came with the promise of greater support - although, in the event, Matthews continued to do the bulk of the hard work.
She was in regal touch during the powerplay, during which eight fours flowed off her bat. Matthews got stuck in to Lauren Bell's wayward third over of the innings, cutting and driving successive boundaries, took a brace of fours off Ecclestone and then three more from Katherine Sciver-Brunt - two deftly steered to deep third, the other a rocket pull - in the sixth to leave West Indies in a healthy position.
Taylor had been far less fluent, struggling to get bat on ball and taking 10 deliveries to get off the mark. She was given out in Bell's first over but successfully overturned Vrinda Rathi's lbw decision. After six overs, she had 3 off 13 - while Matthews had peeled off 37 from 23 at the other end. But then, to the second ball after the powerplay, Taylor played back to Sarah Glenn and was put out of her misery.
Campbelle keeps Windies out of the soupThe dismissal of Matthews, lbw attempting to sweep Ecclestone, was the point at which England began to exert their grip. Shabika Gajnabi was run out in the next over attempting to come back for two, and West Indies were grateful to Campbelle's nimble feet and hands during a stand of 41 from 31 with Henry. Campbelle struck four fours and five twos but was brilliantly held by Jones standing up to the wicket, before Knight's direct hit ran out Henry.
Ecclestone helped prevent any lower-order heroics, finish with tidy figures of 3 for 24, as England conceded just one boundary from the final 23 balls of the innings.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick