India 148 for 4 (Verma 48, Kaur 31) beat England 140 for 8 (Beaumont 59, Knight 30, Poonam 2-17, Sharma 1-18) by eight runs
A flurry of late wickets consigned England from a position of strength to a nail-biting eight-run defeat at the hands of India in their second T20I in Hove.
England lost six wickets for 31 runs in the space of 5.4 overs, including three run outs, as India pulled off a stunning fightback in the penultimate match of their multi-format series. In doing so, India kept alive their hopes of ending level on points after the final match in Chelmsford on Thursday, which is worth two points for the win. India now have six points to the England's eight.
Tammy Beaumont and Heather Knight looked set to see their side home in good time to watch "that other match" and with the promise of a guilt-free beer or two while doing so if they could wrap up victory in both the T20I leg and the multi-format series. But when they fell on consecutive balls - Knight run out somewhat controversially - it sparked a slump they would hope wasn't an omen for their football-playing counterparts against Italy just two hours away. Deepti Sharma had a hand in both dismissals - a hand and a leg in fact - while Poonam Yadav ensured there would be no late heroics from Amy Jones or Katherine Brunt.
Both openers showed excellent intent and it was Mandhana who took a supporting role to Verma, the breathtakingly talented youngster plundering eight fours and a six on her way to 48 off 38 balls as Mandhana faced 16 balls for her 20. The pair was looking decidedly dangerous before Mady Villiers played her part in dismissing both.
Katherine Brunt conceded 11 off the second over of the match with Mandhana and Verma each finding the boundary through third man but worse was to come for England's seam-bowling stalwart. In her next over, Brunt leaked 21 runs, Verma carting her for five consecutive fours, punched through midwicket, hammered down the ground and steered deftly through backward point before almost identical thrashings over mid-on.
Nat Sciver could have dismissed Verma two balls after this onslaught, had she held an extremely tough return catch, the speed with which the ball was smashed back at her making the miss forgivable. There was arguably a more genuine chance put down by Sophie Ecclestone off her own bowling a short time later, Ecclestone getting herself in a good position to take the catch before the ball bobbled loose from her grasp. As it turned out, Verma managed to add just nine runs more.
Mady makes things happen
Villiers was pivotal in removing Mandhana and Verma in quick succession, Freya Davies effecting the initial breakthrough when Mandhana tried to dispatch a fuller ball over the top, only to sky it towards cover and Villiers, running round from mid-off did the rest. No sooner had she pulled off that catch and offspinner Villiers was thrust into the attack, striking immediately when she tempted Verma into another big shot to the leg side and Sciver took the catch running to her right from long-on. Villiers only conceded one run from her first over to end with 1 for 9 from two overs.
Left-arm spinner Ecclestone played her part, too, having conceded 11 runs off her first over, she produced a maiden in the powerplay and then gave away just 11 runs off her final two overs - the 17th and 20th of the innings - to keep a lid on India's total.
Kidz Rulz, ok?
Verma's fellow 17-year-old, Richa Ghosh, treated Sciver with some disdain, pulling her over the leg side for six. Ghosh was let off on the next ball, hit to cover point where Sophia Dunkley couldn't wrap her hands around it. But Sciver had the last laugh when she took a sharp return catch to dismiss Ghosh for 8. Or did she?
Danni Wyatt's dismissal, spooning an Arundhati Reddy delivery straight to Harmanpreet Kaur at mid-off on the 12th ball of the innings brought Sciver into the middle with fresh memories of her 27-ball 55 to seal England's 18-run victory on the DLS method in the first match. But when Shikha Pandey's wide to Beaumont was fumbled by Ghosh, the youthful wicketkeeper kept her head. As the England batters tried to sneak a single, Ghosh gathered, turned and threw down the stumps in one fluid movement to catch Sciver well short of her ground having scored just 1.
Not that she really left. Beaumont reached her ninth T20I fifty off just 39 balls and her 59 off 50 after the hosts had stumbled to 31 for 2 in pursuit of a modest target. Having carried her scintillating form from the winter tour of New Zealand into the first part of this multi-format series, Beaumont came in having scored 10, 0 and 18 in the last two ODIs and first T20I.
On this occasion, she played the innings her side needed, striking seven fours and putting on 75 runs with Knight off just 65 deliveries. Having survived India's review when she was adjudged not out lbw to Sharma in the 14th over, replays showing that the ball pitched outside off stump, Beaumont was out two balls later when she failed to overturn her dismissal, again rapped on the pad attempting to sweep Sharma. Given England's batting depth, her dismissal should not have sparked panic.
One India breakthrough turned into two when, with England needing 43 off 38, Knight was out on the very next ball in extraordinary circumstances. When Amy Jones struck Sharma in the direction of mid-on, the bowler moved to her right behind Knight and deflected the ball off her leg onto the stumps as she fell under Knight's feet. Knight, trying to get back inside her crease couldn't get over, round, through or past Sharma and was run out, much to her apparent consternation. The umpires deemed there was no deliberate interference from Sharma and Knight agreed in her post-match press conference.
Two breakthroughs turned into an outright collapse when Sophia Dunkley was run out and Jones was caught by Sneha Rana off Poonam before she struck again to remove Brunt. England went from looking like they were home on the backs of Beaumont and Knight to relying on their tail and, when Villiers was run out by Harleen Deol's throw to Ghosh, England needed 12 off four balls. It proved to be too much.