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Nat Sciver-Brunt 'sore' but satisfied after learning on the job in allround display

Fighting century and two wickets on bowling comeback condemn Pakistan to heavy defeat

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Nat Sciver-Brunt made a return to bowling at Chelmsford, England vs Pakistan, 3rd Women's ODI, Chelmsford, May 29, 2024

Nat Sciver-Brunt made a return to bowling at Chelmsford  •  Getty Images

Nat Sciver-Brunt declared herself sore but satisfied after a formidable allround performance at Chelmsford, as England's women signed off from their Pakistan series in style with a 178-run victory in the third and final ODI.
Sciver-Brunt top-scored in England's innings of 302 for 5 with a mighty 124 not out from 117 balls, then signalled a return to bowling after a long-standing knee niggle with two wickets in her designated five-over spell, including Pakistan's top-scorer, Muneeba Ali, for 47.
She left the field immediately after her spell with a slight hamstring niggle, with England's substitute fielder Sophia Dunkley claiming the series-sealing catch at long-off. But afterwards she insisted it was "nothing a rest-day tomorrow can't fix".
"I had a great time, and it's a great way to finish the series," Sciver-Brunt said during the post-match presentation. "The body is pretty sore! It's probably not my quickest five overs ever, but I was happy to bowl in a consistent area."
England's bowling performance was set in motion by two wickets for Lauren Bell in the powerplay, then sealed by the spin of Sophie Ecclestone, whose 3 for 15 included her 100th ODI wicket in a women's record 64 matches.
But the batting rested almost entirely on Sciver-Brunt's ninth ODI hundred, and her fourth in her last nine innings. Danni Wyatt was England's next-highest scorer with 44 from 42 balls, and though Alice Capsey finished strongly with 39 not out from 42 at No.7, run-making was never quite as easy as Sciver-Brunt made it look in the final analysis.
"I'm pretty happy with the level of skill, but the mental game of it as well," she said. "I managed to get through those tougher patches today and communicate well with my batting partner. I felt pretty natural going onto the back foot, it's probably more that I've worked on manipulating the field [with paddles and sweeps] and getting fielders into places to make it easier for my more comfortable shots."
After arriving at the end of the 11th over following the loss of England's openers, Sciver-Brunt negotiated the further loss of Heather Knight for 12 before playing second-fiddle to the forceful Wyatt, who took the initiative in a fourth-wicket stand of 79 in 13.2 overs.
After reaching her fifty from a measured 58 balls and her century from 110, it wasn't until the final throes of the innings that Sciver-Brunt truly cut loose, with consecutive sixes off Diana Baig as she and Capsey added 47 runs in the final three overs.
"That probably tells you it was more situational, rather than how I was feeling in that period around 80 to 90," she said. "I did a lot of thinking about my innings whilst I was out there, just trying to be really present.
"I was taking my time because, at times, I didn't feel very free-flowing. But I guess that ebb and flow of the innings is something that I could get through today, which I was really happy with. Hopefully I can use that next time I'm in a bit of strife out there, or it's not coming out that good. It's something to fall back on."
Despite the self-proclaimed scratchiness of her innings, Sciver-Brunt's only clear-cut chance came on 86, when she was dropped by the wicketkeeper Najiha Alvi after charging and missing an attempted whip to leg off Nashra Sandhu.
"I felt like I wanted to get on with it a bit quicker, but I probably could have done that with just getting off-strike," she said. "I was probably [looking to score] a few more boundaries at that point. So, on reflection I probably didn't need to do that too much. Or if I was going to, keep hitting straight."
The extent to which Sciver-Brunt had to battle chimed with Heather Knight's pre-series assessment that England needed to get better at managing the moments that can crop up over the course of a full 50-over innings.
And though the 20-over World Cup is the team's immediate priority, the 50-over version is approaching quickly in 2025, and Sciver-Brunt acknowledged that adapting between formats was something that all the players would have to do better in an ever-more-crowded professional era.
"At the end of the day, the skill is pretty much the same," she said. "It's just elongated, or you might use different things in your armoury at different times. But international cricket is a bit like a merry-go-round. It's evolved massively since I started playing, so individually, it's about working out your freshest mindset for whatever tournament comes up next.
"You used to have two or three months to work on your skills, then go into a tournament or series. But actually learning on the job now is so important, and that's something that we've realised as a group. You don't have that luxury of two months working on a skill, you have to do that live in games. It's something we're a bit more used to now."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket