Fearless Sophia Dunkley steers England out of danger and into World Cup semi-final

Inspired innings from the batter helps defending champions recover from 96-4 for a spot in the semi-final, beating Bangladesh by 100 runs

Fearless Sophia Dunkley steers England out of danger and into World Cup semi-final

Sophia Dunkley hit 67 off 72 balls for England


Credit: GETTY IMAGES

“Let’s get down to business” reverberated around the Basin Reserve and that was just what England needed to do. Victory would guarantee them a semi-final spot while Bangladesh were on the hunt for their second World Cup match win. Despite a gulf in experience between the two sides, the debutants were not to be underestimated.

Heather Knight won the toss and chose to bat hoping they could boost their net run rate, finish third and avoid the Australian banana skin in the semi-final.

England’s openers had failed to put together a partnership and the narrative continued. Danni Wyatt, off the back of her stunning performance against Pakistan, was caught by Fahima Khatun off Jahanara Alam for six. Another failed opening partnership from the defending champions cemented their position at the bottom of the table for average opening stands.

Bangladesh kept the squeeze on Knight and Tammy Beaumont. England limped to 26 in seven overs before Salma Khatun struck. Knight looked to cut and captain Sultana Joty appealed behind the stumps and the review went upstairs. Knight’s poker face had the on-field umpires fooled but a clear spike confirmed an edge, overturned the decision and she headed off for six. England were wobbling at 26-2.


Lata Mondol of Bangladesh plays a shot


Credit: Getty Images AsiaPac
/Fiona Goodall

Bangladesh were smiling and playing with the confidence of seasoned pros rather than World Cup newbies. Beaumont struggled with her timing but toiled away alongside Nat Sciver and the two rebuilt slowly. Boundaries proved hard to come by and after 17 overs the defending champions had reached 60-2, dealing mainly in singles.

Beaumont never managed to find fluency and eventually was put out of her misery at 33 from 69. A full ball from Ritu Moni held in the pitch and she was too early on it, chipping it up to Fahima at cover. The vital partnership was broken and Amy Jones came to the crease to join Sciver.

The most decorated player on the pitch, Fahima, couldn’t be kept from the action. With flags painted on her face, a pair of iconic spectacles and a headband, the next accessory for her repertoire was the wicket of Sciver. Initially given not out, the LBW was sent upstairs and she was on her way.

Sophia Dunkley strode out ready to use her trademark aggression which was much needed for England’s run rate and hopes of posting a score. She and Jones were the backbone of England’s innings and put together a fifty partnership. When Jones fell looking to hit over cover, veteran Katherine Brunt came to join the accelerating Dunkley. The pair, who are at opposite end of their England careers, continued to take it to Bangladesh.


Bangladesh’s Nahida Akter is clean bowled by England’s


Credit: Charlie Dean Melville / AFP

Dunkley had navigated England through the choppy waters to earn a well-deserved half century until one risk too far saw her stumped off the bowling of Salma. Her hard-fought 67 off 72 was crucial for England. Sophie Ecclestone joined Brunt at the crease ready to have a swing. The pair managed to get England to 234, helped by Ecclestone’s six off the final ball.

The action started from the first ball of the chase as Dunkley had the chance to run out Shamima Sultana. But a poor throw granted the opener an extra life. The two openers continued to battle against the bowling of Brunt and Sciver and it was a game of dot-to-dot until consecutive fours from Supta took them to 20 from eight overs.

When you’ve got the world’s best bowler in your side, you can remain confident defending a total and for England, Ecclestone was on hand to strangle. Bangladesh were feeling the pressure before the excellence of the spinner cleaned up Sharmin for 23. Bangladesh were 42-1 and going nowhere fast. It wasn’t long before Ecclestone had another when Sultana looked to go over the top but could only find Kate Cross and had to leave for 24.


England now have a place in the semi-final


Credit: Hagen Hopkins-ICC

Charlie Dean joined the spin wicket party, claiming Pinky for 11, leaving Bangladesh 69-3. Also playing in her first World Cup was Freya Davies, who bowled some tight overs before eventually coming away with the wicket of Rumana Ahmed for six. Knight’s golden arm then claimed Salma Khatun caught by Davies. Dean soon claimed a second and third as the resistance wound up with the run out of Khatun before Freya Davies claimed her second. Bangladesh all out for 134. Ironic that a safe catch should finish it after such poor fielding early in the tournament.

Heather Knight: “It says a lot about this group, the way we’ve turned things round. Not getting too down, we were on the wrong end of a few close ones. I’d have certainly bit your hand off a few weeks ago to be in this situation.”

There were times it looked unlikely, but England are into the semi-final. They must now wait for the result of India and South Africa to see who they will face.

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