ICC Women’s T20 World Cup: Renuka’s five-for not good enough for India Women

Nat Sciver had already made headlines even before the T20 World Cup started. Before the tournament began, in a first, Nat and her partner and teammate Katherine Brunt announced that they would bring their married name Sciver-Brunt to cricket.

And just a few days into the tournament, she became the joint-costliest overseas player in the Women’s Premier League as Mumbai Indians bought her for Rs 3.2 crore.

Not even a week has gone by since the WPL player auctions and the money Mumbai Indians spent looks every bit priceless for Nat Sciver-Brunt single-handedly resurrected England against India on Saturday and all but ensuring that they will finish top of Group B and avoid Australia in the semifinal.

At 29/3, Renuka Thakur (5/15) had England on tenterhooks and with three spinners in the mix, India looked to have taken early control of the match. A win at Gqeberha would have given Harmanpreet Kaur & Co a genuine shot at finishing top of the Group and thereby avoiding facing Australia in the last four.

However, Nat had other plans. Even though momentum was very much on India’s side, the Tokyo-born Nat calmly turned the tide.

As England found themselves in trouble, she used the scoops, reverse-sweeps to good effect as India’s spinners – Deepti Sharma, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Radha Yadav — went for 76 runs in 9 overs and picked up just one wicket between them.

While Nat played herself in, she got excellent support from captain Heather Knight with whom she stitched a 51-run game-changing partnership for the fourth wicket. Even though Knight departed, wicketkeeper Amy Jones 27-ball 40 meant Nat got more support in the end as England put 151/7.

“She’s so unbelievable, I think, and I don’t really need to speak much on that,” Sophie Ecclestone who returned with figures of 4-0-14-1 said of Nat. “I think she’s one of the best players in the world and all-rounders in the world, and she’s so calm at the crease, she’s one of the most calm person, one of the nicest people. So, I think for her to keep scoring runs like she does for England is crucial for us to win this World Cup,” she said.

While the conditions still seemed ideal for India to chase the target, they once again lost Shafali Verma, Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur by the 11th over with just 62 runs on board. Although Smriti Mandhana and Richa Ghosh played their role to perfection, India were always behind the eight ball and it showed in the end as they fell short by 11 runs.

Peak of her powers

Born to an English diplomat (her mother) in Tokyo, Nat was raised in the Netherlands, where football and tennis were her first love. Cricket, understandably, was nowhere in the picture. Nat briefly played women’s league football in Poland as well. She took to cricket only when she went to college in Surrey before studying sports science from Loughborough University.

At 30, Nat is at the peak of her powers. With a wealth of experience to bank on, she is used to bailing out her team from dire situations. And as they are chasing their first T20 World Cup title since 2009, they have their hopes pinned on Nat.

Having returned to the team only in December after taking a break from excessive cricket last September, England are again beginning to see the best of Nat, who had walked away from cricket following a heartbreaking loss in The Hundred.

A bit of context here: With her team, Trent Rockets needing 22 runs off the final four deliveries against Southern Brave, she hit three sixes before holding out in the deep. “I hit three sixes because there seemed no choice. Then, because I wasn’t in a great place, I suddenly didn’t have a plan because the scenario had changed. By that point in the Hundred, it sounds bad, but I didn’t really care if we won or lost. I’ve never been like that before. I am competitive. I have never stepped onto a pitch without giving complete effort, and desire to win. I just needed a break,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

And after spending her off time at home with her family and friends and also enjoying a honeymoon with Katherine, Nat is back on the field again, doing what she knows best.

What would also hurt India is how England’s spinners outbowled them. Charlie Dean, Sarah Glenn and Ecclestone bowled 11 overs and gave only 64 runs for three wickets – Rodrigues, Kaur and Mandhana – to tie up India in the middle overs. From there on, India needed a miracle from Richa Ghosh. And although she played another gem of an innings 34-ball 47, it was never going to be enough.

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