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Lisa Keightley takes responsibility as England defeat leaves World Cup defence in crisis

Poor fielding display condemns holders to third straight loss in round-robin stage

Kate Cross is disappointed after another fielding lapse from England, England vs South Africa, Women's World Cup 2022, Mount Maunganui, March 14, 2022

Kate Cross is disappointed after another fielding lapse from England  •  ICC via Getty Images

Lisa Keightley, England's head coach, says that she shoulders the blame for the collapse in form that has left her team's defence of the World Cup hanging by a thread, following their third straight loss of the tournament, and their sixth ODI defeat in a row.
After opening their campaign with narrow defeats to Australia and West Indies, England batted first in Mount Maunganui and posted 235 for 9 in their 50 overs, with half-centuries from Tammy Beaumont and Amy Jones and five wickets for South Africa's Marizanne Kapp.
In reply, however, England missed a number of key opportunities in the field - most notably against Laura Wolvaardt, who anchored South Africa's chase with 77 from 101 balls. Sune Luus and Kapp backed up their earlier efforts with the ball with a pair of important 30s, before Shabnim Ismail and Trisha Chetty sealed a three-wicket win with four balls to spare.
England, who beat South Africa by two wickets in a similarly tense semi-final of the 2017 World Cup, now face four must-win contests in a row, starting with Wednesday's clash with India in Mount Maunganui. Even that, however, might not now be enough for qualification with Australia, New Zealand and West Indies already better placed to push for a spot for the semi-final berths.
"As a coach, I take a huge amount of responsibility," Keightley said. "It's up to me to drive the team and get the wins on the board, that's the job of the coach. And we're trying really hard, the coaching staff and myself, to get the players up and about and we don't have to do too much.
"The players are pretty gutted," she added. "They were pretty gutted after the last match and they wanted to bounce back. They were unable to do it, so the responsibility and the buck lies with me and I'm happy to cop that.
"Moving forward, do I feel the pressure? I don't feel any more pressure than what the players feel and I'm no more disappointed than the players. We came into this World Cup wanting to play better than we have and we haven't, and it's been frustrating."
After an arduous winter campaign, which featured the disappointment of England's Ashes defeat in Australia, the weariness of England's fielding performance will raise inevitable questions about the fitness levels of the squad, with the veteran new-ball pairing of Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt likely to come under particular scrutiny.
Keightley, however, hinted that England would once again be relying on their experience of their proven matchwinners in the India game, rather than rotate them out, despite the likes of Freya Davies and Tash Farrant waiting in the wings as new-ball options.
"We will have to have a look, see how they pull up, and make those decisions," Keightley said. "They've done a great job for England over a number of years and they're working really hard to do their job for the team. I think we're on a new [pitch for the India match]. So it probably makes sense to play some senior bowlers."
One bowler who did once again emerge with credit was the spinner Sophie Ecclestone, whose ten overs went for just 23 runs, including the key wicket of Mignon du Preez for 8.
"Sophie has been amazing," Keightley said. "She bowled well again today, and in the last games she has been fantastic. If we'd taken our chances in the Powerplay, we would have put pressure through the middle with Charlie [Dean] coming infor her first World Cup game. We tried really hard and created chances, we're just not taking them.
"We haven't really put our finger on it really, we have fielded pretty well throughout the Ashes and took a lot more chances than we have today," Keightley added. "The last two days, we've trained really well and the girls have been up and about and putting a lot of effort in. "We just haven't got the rewards in the games that matter, so it is something that we'll have to think about when we review after this World Cup."
Despite England's bleak standing on the World Cup table - only Pakistan, with four defeats out of four, sit below them - Keightley is adamant that the round-robin format can still get them back into the qualification mix.
"We're trying hard to get those wins and once I think we win a close one, we'll get a bit of momentum and finish strong," she said. "We've just got to dust ourselves off, come back out in two days' time and play the way we want to play."