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Sophia Dunkley targets 'must-win' games after Smriti Mandhana puts India in command

England seek answers to rampant top-order with lure of Lord's finale to come

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
Sophia Dunkley helped England rebuild from 21 for 2 in Hove  •  Getty Images

Sophia Dunkley helped England rebuild from 21 for 2 in Hove  •  Getty Images

Stopping India's rampant top-order - especially Smriti Mandhana - is England's target if they are to keep their ODI series alive and prevent the final match at Lord's from becoming a dead rubber.
Mandhana produced a match-defining knock of 91 as India overhauled a target of 228 with seven wickets and 5.4 overs to spare at Hove on Sunday, to go 1-0 up in the ODI leg of their tour. She was well backed up by Harmanpreet Kaur's 74 not out and Yastika Bhatia's half-century as the visitors reached 232 for 3 in reply to England's 227 for 7.
That performance came after Mandhana had kept her side in the T20I series with an unbeaten 79 as India won the second match in Derby before England sealed it 2-1 with victory in the decider in Bristol.
Sophia Dunkley - the leading run-scorer for the T20Is with 115 runs at 57.50, just ahead of second-placed Mandhana's 111 at 55.50 - said England had it all to play for in Wednesday's day-night match in Canterbury. Apart from the 50-over series being on the line, it will be Lisa Keightley's penultimate game as England head coach and marks the 99th ODI for Tammy Beaumont, who lost her place as T20I opener to Dunkley this summer.
"We've got a lot to think about tomorrow," Dunkley said on Tuesday. "The next two games for us are must-win games if we want to win the series. It would be great if we could set it up to be a series decider at Lord's and make it a really great occasion... Lisa's last game and Tammy's 100th game as well."
In Hove, Dunkley scored 29 off 52 balls at No. 3, while middle-order batters Danni Wyatt (43 off 50) and Alice Davidson-Richards (50 not out off 61) pushed the hosts towards a competitive total after slumping to 94 for 5 and 128 for 6. Davidson-Richards was given handy late support from Sophie Ecclestone, who made 31 from 33 balls, and Charlie Dean with 24 not out from 21.
"They've got some experienced players all the way down, so it just depends really on the day what we're coming up against, but Smriti and Harman batted extremely well the other day and really took us out of the game so they're definitely key wickets for us," Dunkley said. "Smriti is obviously a very, very good and experienced player and the weaknesses are quite limited but I think we've done really well in our analysing chats to know where we want to bowl, so I think if we execute that it's, 'see what she can come back with'.
"The other day we just weren't probably at our best with bat or ball so it's just little things that we need to rectify, to get on top and go again tomorrow."
Mandhana moved up three places in the ICC's T20I rankings released on Tuesday to a career-best No. 2 behind Australia's Beth Mooney. In ODIs, Mandhana also advanced three places to No. 7.
Dunkley, who re-established her place in the England set-up when India toured England last summer - initially in the middle order, has since moved to open in T20Is and No. 3 in ODIs.
"For me, probably the biggest achievement was probably just pushing up the batting order in both formats," Dunkley said, after a remarkable 15 months which began with her Test debut against India in Bristol, in which she scored an unbeaten 74 at No. 6.
"It's really exciting. It's where I want to be in both those formats and just a great opportunity going forward to take a bit of responsibility with the bat and try and impact our game for England going forward."
In the opening T20I of this tour, Dunkley overcame a difficult and chance-laden start to guide England's successful run chase with an unbeaten 61 in 44 balls, after legspinner Sarah Glenn had kept India well contained with a career-best 4 for 23. Dunkley backed herself to soak up similar pressure from an India bowling attack which has added the vastly experienced duo of Jhulan Goswami and Rajeshwari Gayakwad since the T20Is.
"Still these positions are very new to me," Dunkley said of her batting-order promotion. "I'm still learning and hopefully in the next year I'll really nail on how I want to go about it."
"Gayakwad and Goswami are very experienced bowlers and they bowled very well against us in the in the first ODI for sure," Dunkley added. "We had a fairly successful T20 series and the ODI format's slightly different, so I think it's looking at the plans we've got to combat that, and how we're going to come back in the next game."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo