The White Ferns friends and family club, perhaps the largest travelling contingent here at the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, were more than a little distracted at the start of New Zealand’s game against Pakistan at Taunton on Saturday.
The All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team, were fighting for the series against the British and Irish Lions back at home. Perhaps the only two good things about the 15-15 draw was that a) it wasn’t a loss and b) the match got over just in time for the Kiwis to take their seats for a solid bowling performance from the women, and eventually collect the sixes Sophie Devine sent their way.
Hannah Rowe just missed a hat-trick on World Cup debut, but her three wickets, along with two each for Leigh Kasperek, Lea Tahuhu and Amelia Kerr, ruined Sana Mir’s 100th One-Day International to bowl Pakistan out for 144. There weren’t enough runs there for Devine to get to her century, even though she had a massive go at it, smashing a record nine sixes in her innings as New Zealand chased down the target in 15 overs for an emphatic eight-wicket win.
Devine’s 41-ball 93 not out was an exhibition of impressive hitting. She made the mid-wicket and long on areas all hers, dispatching six after six over the ropes and well into the stands. The biggest of them, the first of her innings, made it all the way to the second floor stand in the pavilion end. The Pakistan bowlers were guilty of giving her balls in her arc – not like they could have done much in the mood she was in.
Her 50, which came off 27 balls, was the second-fastest of the tournament.
Amy Satterthwaite, who came into the game with three hundreds in a row against Pakistan, was promoted up the order to get some time in the middle. Devine, though, denied her that. Satterthwaite didn’t get to see much of the ball, but was there at the end to hit the boundary that brought up the winning runs. Her 42-ball 38 included six fours.
Mir made a fighting 50, the third of her career, in her milestone game, showing the best ability to read New Zealand’s slower bowlers and take on anything loose from the pacers. But for her, it was another disappointing performance from Pakistan's batters, who demonstrated no inclination to move their feet and dig in after choosing to bat.
Kasperek, who had three wickets on the same track two days before, struck first, getting Ayesha Zafar to reach out for one only to deposit it into the hands of Rowe at mid-on. Marina Iqbal then played for turn when there was none and was bowled.
Rowe was welcomed into her second over with a boundary past covers, but struck back with two nearly identical wickets leg before in two deliveries, the ball moving after pitching just outside off.
Kerr, having kept the batters quiet with her variations, had Bibi Nahida bowled around the legs and Pakistan had lost half its line-up for 56 by the 16th over.
New Zealand showed greater inclination to be attacking in this game, with slips in place and close in fielders threatening the new batters. Tahuhu was rewarded for her aggressive bowling all morning, taking the top of off to end a 28-run sixth-wicket partnership. She would later bow out with the big wicket of Mir, bowling short, banging it in and getting it to rise.
Rowe returned for her second spell to have Kainat Imtiaz as her third wicket, caught at point with a fuller delivery that shaped away.
Rachel Priest didn’t stick around long enough to reprise her big hitting from the last game, but Devine, who had wrapped up the Pakistan innings, seemed inclined to see off the chase quickly.
Imtiaz was taken for a 6-4-6 sequence, before the bowlers found out that it was only the beginning. Marina Iqbal went for 24 in the 12th over; the six straight down the ground in the last delivery was Devine’s eighth, breaking the record of most in any one innings (seven) set by South Africa’s Lizelle Lee in the other match of the day.
Devine would finally perish from a mistimed skyer caught by Nashra Sandhu off her own bowling. But by then, it was only academic.
The result ruled out Pakistan from making it to the knockouts of the tournament, while New Zealand stayed on course for a spot in the semis.