Sciver and Knight hundreds propel England to comprehensive victory
Natalie Sciver converted her maiden ODI century into a blistering innings of 137 from 92 balls, and Heather Knight, the captain, also passed three figures for the first time in limited-overs cricket
converted her maiden ODI century into a blistering innings of 137 from 92 balls, and Heather Knight,
the captain, also passed three figures for the first time in limited-overs cricket, as England dusted themselves down after their opening-match defeat against India to rack up a formidable total of 377 for 7, and a commanding if rain-interrupted 107-run victory over Pakistan at Grace Road.
England's total was their highest in a World Cup match, and second only to Australia's tournament record of 412 for 3 against Denmark in 1997. But it didn't seem entirely on the cards during a cagey first ten overs, in which England lost both of their openers, Sarah Taylor and Tammy Beaumont, to the erratic but occasionally penetrative swing bowling of Kainat Imtiaz. At 42 for 2, the hosts still appeared to be suffering from a certain degree of stage fright.
Sciver and Knight, however, took it upon themselves to stamp their authority on the innings. In June last year, Sciver had played an integral role in England's last great statement performance, against the same opponents at Worcester, by smashing 80 from 33 balls
to apply the finishing touches to what remains, by one run, England's highest total in all ODIs.
On that occasion, Sciver had arrived at the crease in the 39th over, with full licence to have a swing, following a formidable opening stand of 235 between Beaumont and Lauren Winfield (who was once again missing from today's match with a wrist injury). This time, although she turned on the after-burners late in her stay with three consecutive sixes off Asmavia Iqbal, her initial duty had been one of consolidation. Steadily at first, but with increasing intent, she and Knight bent England's innings back into shape, and Pakistan's prospects decisively out of kilter, with a stand of 213 in exactly 30 overs.
Sciver's poise at the crease is the source of her formidable power, and two brusquely dismissed straight drives in her first six balls were an ominous sign for Pakistan, whose impact faded as the new balls lost their shine and the change bowlers their lines and lengths. The left-arm spinner, Nashra Sandhu, was treated with disdain as Sciver helped herself to four consecutive fours - including one off the toe of the bat through third man - to rattle through to a 35-ball fifty, and having nudged calmly through the nineties with a diet of singles, she drilled Sadia Yousuf into the covers to bring up her maiden hundred from 76 balls.
Knight, whose 46 against India had given her team a glimmer of hope in their opening defeat against India, nailed an early drive through the covers to settle into her new day's work, but she stepped up the ante when Sana Mir entered the attack with her offspin. Using her feet with good intent, she dumped a lofted drive through long-on for four, before picking off two more fours in her next over, with a paddle behind square and a thump through point.
And, just as she had done against India, Knight also led the way in clearing the ropes, cracking a brace of sixes over cow corner en route to her own century from 105 balls. She fell one over later, caught in the deep for 106 as she launched Asmavia to wide long-off, but Danni Wyatt was on hand to keep England's impetus going. She finished unbeaten on 42 from 27 balls, with five fours and a six over midwicket, although Pakistan saved themselves from conceding a new record total by chiselling out Fran Wilson and Jenny Gunn in consecutive deliveries in the penultimate over.
In reply, Pakistan battled hard but were unable to make much headway in the face of England's towering total. Katherine Brunt, who had born the brunt of Smriti Mandhana's onslaught in the India match, settled much more quickly into her day's work by extracting two early wickets - Nahida Khan, caught pulling a long-hop to midwicket for 3, and Javeria Khan, brilliantly bowled by devious slower ball for 11.
Ayesha Zafar refused to be cowed, and kept going for her shots, cracking eight fours in total in reaching a 67-ball fifty. But Alex Hartley pinned Asmavia Iqbal lbw as she danced down the crease and missed a hoick across the line, and the contest was dead in the water long before the Grace Road rains applied a literal interpretation.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket