Host New Zealand and defending champions England are in a must-win situation when they clash in a league match of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup at the Eden Park here on Sunday.
With just one win from four outings so far, the Heather Knight-led England were able to turn around their losing streak when they defeated India in their previous outing, earning their first points in the process.
The Sophie Devine-led White Ferns have fumbled on home turf, managing just two wins in five matches.
England are on two points from four games, while New Zealand have four from five matches. While the defending champions have three outings remaining, including the one against the White Ferns, the hosts have two outings left to touch eight points and brighten hopes of making the semifinal knock-outs.
Both teams will need to win their remaining encounters in order to make the knockouts, while a loss on Sunday will eliminate one of the sides from the competition.
It was a fixture against the White Ferns that sent England through to the last four of the 2017 Cricket World Cup, a tournament that they went on to win, and victory in Auckland would go a long way in putting them into the last-dour again five years on, with fixtures against Bangladesh and Pakistan to come.
England’s recent record against New Zealand has been good, with a 4-1 series win coming the last time the sides squared off in English conditions last summer.
Losses at the start of the tournament to Australia, West Indies and South Africa have put huge pressure on England to win all of their remaining games in the group stage if they want to have a chance to defend their trophy. Veteran bowler Anya Shrubsole says that the scenario has given the side an extra element of motivation.
“I think we want to win every game of cricket that we play — we’re here representing England, and we take a huge amount of pride in that and we’re here to win every game that we play,” said Shrubsole to ICC.
“But I guess we’re motivated by wanting to put some things right that we feel like we haven’t achieved in this tournament so far, and everyone will individually have their own, I guess, their own motivations,” she added.
New Zealand have suffered defeats to the same three opponents as England, with losses to West Indies, Australia and South Africa setting up this head-to-head clash at Eden Park.
And the two-wicket last-over loss to the Proteas last time out was particularly frustrating for the White Ferns, with captain Devine saying her team need to sharpen up for the final group stage matches.
“I think we’ve played good cricket probably 70-80 per cent of the time,” Devine said.
“It’s just that final 20 per cent. We know World Cup pressure is on, we know that every ball something’s on the line. So we’re really close, two more runs and we win that game.
“We’ll look at the positives to move forward quickly, and it’s about resetting and looking forward because it’s another really exciting opportunity to play at home in front of hopefully a really big crowd at Eden Park.”
Devine’s experience with bat and ball will be invaluable, but it is perhaps her tactical acumen that is her most underrated asset. The White Ferns skipper always sets good fields and generally rotates her bowlers well to ensure batters don’t become too comfortable. Devine can also turn a game with bat or ball and will be crucial to the fortunes of the home nation.
On the other hand, England opener Tammy Beaumont is a big-match player, so one can see the 30-year-old score plenty of runs in New Zealand. Beaumont topped the scoring charts at the 2017 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup with a mind-boggling 410 runs.
England: Heather Knight (c), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Freya Davies, Charlie Dean, Sophia Dunkley, Kate Cross, Sophie Ecclestone, Tash Farrant, Amy Jones, Emma Lamb, Nat Sciver (vc), Anya Shrubsole, Lauren Winfield-Hill, Danni Wyatt. Travelling Reserves: Lauren Bell, Mady Villiers.
New Zealand Squad: Sophie Devine (c), Amy Satterthwaite (vc), Suzie Bates, Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Fran Jonas, Jess Kerr, Melie Kerr, Frankie Mackay, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Georgia Plimmer, Hannah Rowe, Lea Tahuhu. Travelling Reserve: Molly Penfold.