A ferocious half-century from Nat Sciver saw England to an 18-run win on DLS in the first T20 against India at Northampton, taking them to an unassailable 8-4 lead in the multi-format series.
Put in to bat by India, England reached 177 for seven as Sciver blasted a half-century from 24 balls – the joint-fastest fifty recorded by an England player in the format.
Sciver hit the ball so hard down the ground that Indian bowler Arundhati Reddy twice had to swiftly take evasive action to avoid being taken out.
Amy Jones (43 from 27 balls) shared in the fun, slogging and reverse-slogging Radha Yadav for 16 runs off the 15th over before hitting an imperious six over long-on, as the pair added 78 runs in 42 balls for the fourth wicket.
“I got a bit of opportunity to bat with a bit more freedom today,” said Sciver, who was handed the Player of the Match award. “I managed to feel comfortable quickly. I just went on from there and gathered a bit of momentum.”
“I knew after I’d hit that first ball that I would be able to hit through the line of the deliveries. I was able to use my feet and, if it was full, get my hands through it. I’ve got stronger physically in the gym and it seemed to work today.”
Both Sciver and Jones were eventually dismissed by Shikha Pandey (three for 22) in the penultimate over – Sciver caught by a diving Harmanpreet Kaur at long-on, before Jones fell victim to an astounding piece of work at wide long-off by Harleen Deol. Just inside the boundary rope Deol raised her hands to catch the ball then, realising she was about to overbalance, tossed it back in the air, turned herself around, and somehow managed to dive back into the field with her legs at a right angle to her body and take the catch at the second time of asking.
Unfortunately India could not back up her athleticism with the bat, hobbling to 54 for three in the first 8.4 overs of their chase before the rain came down and DLS did the rest.
Shafali Verma set the tone with the limpest of dismissals, backing away from a perfectly ordinary straight ball from Katherine Brunt and bowled for a duck, leaving India nought for one.
Smriti Mandhana looked in better touch, launching Sciver over mid-off before steering Katherine Brunt for successive boundaries in the third over of the chase. But she then pulled straight into the hands of Sophie Ecclestone at deep backward square and departed for a 17-ball 29.
Sarah Glenn’s dismissal of Kaur in the seventh, continuing a miserable run in which India’s T20 captain has contributed 49 runs in six innings across the series to date, then ensured that India were well behind DLS when the heavens opened.
“I’m really pleased with how we went today,” was the captain Heather Knight’s verdict. “Nat was outstanding in the middle overs and we were really clinical with the ball.”
Earlier England had set out their stall with a successful powerplay which yielded 48 runs without loss. Danni Wyatt – who has sat out this series so far but finally reclaimed her place at the top of the order in the shortest format – looked a touch rusty, only just about clearing the ring fielders on several occasions, but forced her way to a 28-ball 31.
Richa Ghosh, taking the gloves for the first time in the series in place of Taniya Bhatia, eventually intervened to have Wyatt caught behind attempting the reverse sweep – a sharp grab followed by an equally sharp DRS review, which showed clear contact and saw the on-field not-out decision overturned. Four overs later Ghosh was instrumental in the run out of Knight, as England sunk from 50 for 0 to 85 for 3, courtesy of the Indian spinners.
Sciver, though, seemed unflustered: she walloped her first ball for four through the covers, a harbinger of what was to come. From there it was all about Sciver, with England the beneficiaries. They will look to wrap up the series in style in the remaining two T20s at Hove on Sunday and Chelmsford on Wednesday.