Despite eve-of-game nerves surrounding a potential security threat, the third one-day international at Leicester between England and New Zealand took place without a single hiccup. Unless, that is, the home side’s batting counts: for the second time in as many matches, England’s top-order looked shot, as they stumbled to 78 for 7 after 23 overs.
The 30-year-old Lea Tahuhu wreaked the havoc, finishing with five for 38 – her best return in 10 years of international cricket. The debutant Molly Penfold, billed as a “beast” by her captain, Sophie Devine, then chimed in with two for 42.
England’s tail added another 100, including an unbeaten 49 from Katherine Brunt and a career-best 29 off 40 balls from Kate Cross, setting up a nervous chase for New Zealand. But while wickets fell at regular intervals, Maddy Green’s unbeaten 70 – her second highest score in ODIs – saw New Zealand chase down the required runs with three wickets and 25 balls to spare, to deny England a series victory with two games left to play.
“We all know as a group we’ve made some really good strides this winter, we’ve been working really hard and it’s nice to see some reward for that,” Green said. “With wickets falling around me, I knew my job was to dig in and keep going. I’ll take some confidence from this into the next innings.”
The series had come under the spotlight on Monday, after reports emerged that a bomb threat had been made against the New Zealand team. An investigation was launched by the ECB and security tightened around the team. But a statement by New Zealand Cricket later suggested the threat had been deemed “not credible”, and Devine said at the toss that there had never been any doubt about the match going ahead. “We got some really clear information and we were able to sit tight and wait for the people to do their jobs,” she said. “In instances like this, like with Covid, we’ve learned that there’s experts in the field that we need to trust and we’ve been really lucky with the communication that we’ve received and have full faith in what they’ve told us.”
“In terms of what was reported, it was over-egged,” agreed England’s captain, Heather Knight at the close. “It was just a case of an email had been sent that had to be looked into properly. We had to stay at our hotel in Stratford for a little bit longer but I don’t think it would be right for us to use it as an excuse [for the loss].”
At the start of the game a six-over spell from Tahuhu reduced England to 32 for four in the powerplay - their worst showing in an ODI since they were routed at Canterbury by Ellyse Perry in 2019. Tahuhu’s reputation in a decade of international cricket has been founded on sheer pace, but following multiple foot surgeries earlier in the year, this was a steadier display, with nothing more or less complicated than disciplined line and length yielding substantial returns. The openers, Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield-Hill, were trapped leg-before in successive overs – a smart DRS review which overturned Sue Redfern’s not-out decision doing for Beaumont – before an away-swinger took Knight’s outside edge on the way through to the keeper, and Sophia Dunkley was clean bowled by a straight one.
Amy Jones played a beautiful hand to reach 21 before Penfold darted one between bat and pad to bowl her and then did for Danni Wyatt thanks to a brilliant diving catch from Lauren Down at backward point. Tahuhu then returned to take her fifth: a nervous-looking Charlie Dean playing on. At that point New Zealand had England by the scruff of the neck but Brunt and Cross proved frustratingly hard to dislodge and gave England a target to defend.
In reply Brunt – who returned 4 for 22, along the way becoming only the second woman in history to take 300 wickets in international cricket – had New Zealand 13 for two. But after Green shared important partnerships with Amy Satterthwaite (33) and Brooke Halliday (25), Tahuhu (19 not out from 15) seized the initiative with the bat, smashing three fours before lofting the ball over Tash Farrant’s head for six to seal the win.