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Sophia Dunkley seeks slick finish against Pakistan

England looking to overcome late batting collapse which nearly cost them against NZ

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
23-Mar-2022
Sophia Dunkley plays to the leg side, 2nd ODI, England vs New Zealand, Worcester, September 19, 2021

Sophia Dunkley: For me, it would be finishing games off and just getting that win clinically done  •  Getty Images

Sophia Dunkley will be looking to reprise the finisher role that has served her side well when England take on Pakistan in Thursday's World Cup clash in Christchurch.
England, the defending champions, are treating the match as another must-win clash, while Pakistan have been buoyed by their victory over West Indies earlier this week to break an 18-match losing streak at Women's World Cups stretching over 13 years. England have won their last two matches after teetering on the brink of elimination with defeats in their opening three.
Dunkley has scored 142 runs for the tournament so far, at an average of 28.40 and a strike rate of 84.02. Her highest score, 38, came batting at No. 7, but she has moved up to No. 6 since England replaced struggling opener Lauren Winfield-Hill with Danni Wyatt.
During the English summer, Dunkley played some key innings for her side at No. 6, her calmness under pressure standing out. In her maiden ODI innings with the bat, she scored 73 not out and staged an unbroken partnership worth 92 for the sixth wicket with Katherine Brunt as England beat India by five wickets in Taunton last June.
Her unbeaten 33 from 25 balls in a 79-run stand with Wyatt helped bury New Zealand in Canterbury after Tammy Beaumont's century at the top of the order set up victory by 203 runs. Earlier in New Zealand's tour of England, Dunkley also shared important partnerships with Heather Knight and Brunt, scoring 22 not out off 21 balls in the process, as England won with just one ball remaining to clinch their T20I series 2-1.
In the World Cup, England were on track for a comfortable win against New Zealand in Auckland on Sunday, with Dunkley and Nat Sciver putting on 70 runs for the fifth wicket, but then they lost 5 for 20 in 4.4 overs and managed to squeeze home by one wicket.
"For me, it would be finishing games off and just getting that win clinically done," Dunkley said of the improvements she was seeking personally from the rest of the group stage. "The other day we lost a few wickets late on in the game and it put us under a bit of pressure.
"I think having that set batter there at the end would definitely do us the world of good, so definitely looking to finish a few more games off going forward... It's just how we deal with that pressure a bit differently and feel a bit calmer towards the back end. But I think we took a lot from it, so hopefully, it's a good learning point for us."
England can afford to lose one of their remaining two group games - they play Bangladesh on Saturday - if second-placed South Africa beat either West Indies or India. If that happens, and New Zealand beat Pakistan in their last group game, England would be tied on points with New Zealand and either West Indies or India. Net run rate would then come into the equation and, with England well ahead of New Zealand and West Indies, they could still advance.
That so many permutations remain in play points to the closeness of the contest between the mid-table sides.
"We're always under a little bit of pressure throughout the World Cup because it is such a tight tournament," Dunkley said. "But coming off two wins, we're feeling pretty confident in the group, and we're in quite a good place, so looking forward to the challenge. It's quite an exciting opportunity.
"It felt like the last two games were almost semi-finals in themselves for us because, had we lost, it puts us in a terrible position, so I think having those experiences and those feelings will be great. Hopefully, we can get a couple more wins that aren't as nerve-wracking and aren't as close, but good to have that experience for sure."
It is also why England aren't taking Pakistan lightly, especially given their performance to beat West Indies in a rain-affected game by eight wickets, led by offspinner Nida Dar's career-best 4 for 10.
"They played really well the other day and beat West Indies really well, so they've got a lot of good players in that team," Dunkley said. "It's a game that obviously we need to win, and we're going to be looking out for them and making sure we can combat that.
"It was clear to see Pakistan's bowling attack was really good, and they have got a lot of good spinners in their attack, and we know that there's going to be a lot of spin coming our way. So it's just playing the best we can with the bat and putting in a good performance against them. They've come off a great win so it will be challenging, I'm sure."

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo