Sophia Dunkley powers England to victory over India in first T20

Sophia Dunkley powers England to victory over India in first T20

The run-up to England’s series against India has been chaotic: captain Heather Knight remains in rehab from a thigh operation, while her regular deputy Nat Sciver pulled out on Thursday citing “emotional fatigue”, with Amy Jones forced to take the reins. But the first T20 at Durham on Saturday belied the difficult build-up, as England made a mockery of their 133-run target, chasing it down with nine wickets and seven overs to spare.

“I’m very quiet in all aspects of life,” Jones said. “The girls know captaincy is not something that comes naturally to me and they all really stepped up today, which made it so much easier.”

Sophia Dunkley may have been let off twice – caught behind before she had scored off a Renuka Singh Thakur no ball, before Shafali Verma put down an easy chance at mid-off – but she made it count, hitting a 36-ball half-century and sharing fifty partnerships with Danni Wyatt (24 off 16) and Alice Capsey (32 not out from 20).

Earlier, leg-spinner Sarah Glenn had been instrumental in restricting India to 132 for seven, picking up career-best figures of four for 23. During The Hundred, Knight spoke about Glenn spending the first part of 2022 paring down her run-up to allow her to concentrate more on the basics, after being omitted from England’s World Cup squad. Here, that work bore fruit.

Bowling with control and deceptive variations of pace, Glenn first had the dangerous Verma caught at long-off, then made further inroads in the middle order. Perhaps the most satisfying moment for the bowler was the baffled look on the face of the India captain, Harmanpreet Kaur, after a flatter, quicker ball bounced on to the bottom of her off stump.

“It was difficult to grip the ball [in wet conditions],” Glenn said. “I had to take my time in between balls to make sure I was clear with what I was doing. I knew if I was hitting the stumps, I’d be in the game. I’m buzzing.”

With rain having delayed the start of play by half an hour, England had chosen to field first. Before play began, both teams marked the death of the Queen with a minute’s silence, followed by the national anthem.

India’a openers Verma and Smriti Mandhana started positively – T20 debutant Lauren Bell’s second over went for 13, as Mandhana cleared the infield with ease and Verma pelted the ball down the ground. Sophie Ecclestone later faced the same treatment from Richa Ghosh, who slog-swept her for six her over midwicket; while Deepti Sharma (29 not out from 24) ended the innings with a flourish.

But between times Freya Davies and Bryony Smith – both back in the side after missing out during the Commonwealth Games – were rewarded with a wicket apiece, as India faltered. Poor ground fielding, only partly excused by a slippery outfield, then cost them big. Dunkley and Wyatt pelted boundaries through fielders’ hands in the powerplay, before Pooja Vastrakar ducked underneath a catchable caught-and-bowled from Capsey, leaving her free to help Dunkley rapidly finish things off.