England 2 for 176 (Knight 108*, Sciver 59*) beat Thailand 7 for 78 (Chantam 32, Shrubsole 3-21) by 98 runs
Heather Knight took England’s early World Cup campaign by the scruff of the neck after an early fright against Thailand with a maiden T20I hundred as her team secured an emphatic 98-run victory which gave them a handy net run-rate boost.
The early thoughts of what could transpire at Manuka Oval, when England lost their openers in the first two overs, turned to something a touch more prosaic as Knight and Nat Sciver added an unbeaten 169 for third wicket, England’s highest stand in T20Is, followed by a professional performance in the field.
At 7 for 2 after 10 balls, England were far from comfortable coming off the back of their opening defeat to South Africa, but by the end of the powerplay had settled and were rarely challenged after that. Legspinner Suleeporn Laomi bowled her for four overs for a very creditable 26 but Thailand, who pride themselves on their fielding, will have been disappointed by some the lapses.
Knight has spent the last few days defending England’s tactics and batting order; whatever they decide to do, there is little doubt that she is key to the make-up of the side. Her form was impressive in the tri-series with back-to-back career-best scores on this ground and this time she raced to just the fourth century in T20 World Cups, plundering some increasingly wayward bowling from Thailand in excellent batting conditions. Knight was on 97 at the start of the last over and briefly lost the strike but carved a brace through backward point to reach three figures off 63 balls then marked the milestone by clubbing her fourth six over long-on. Knight and Sciver, with her second fifty in two matches, added 102 in the last 10 overs and, if they had really pushed, they may have earned a few more.
The early scare
The second ball of the match Amy Jones advanced down the pitch to a yorker from Nattaya Boochatham and a brilliant piece of work from keeper Nannapat Koncharoenkai pulled off the stumping. If that was an early test of England’s nerve, it was multiplied in the next over when Danni Wyatt drove her first ball to point where Wongpaka Liengprasert held a terrific catch. Thailand were joyous. Was something extraordinary unfolding? In the end, there wasn’t, but it was another little moment in this tournament that will linger in memories. Meanwhile, England’s opening pair has not fired yet in Australia – across the tri-series that preceded the World Cup and the first two matches of the tournament their best stand is 26. With two openers batting lower down the order – Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield – it is an issue for England to ponder for two vital matches to come.
Anya Shrubsole struck with her fourth ball but there was no surge of inroads for England with the new ball. Power is something Thailand need to develop, but there are some solid techniques in the top order. Nattakan Chantam is one who has a promising game to work with and she unfurled a few very pleasing strokes, a square drive off Shurbsole and a cover drive off Sciver among the best. It was clear from the off that Thailand were purely focused on batting out the innings, which is understandable, although their development could also be helped by pushing their own boundaries.
Wyatt’s rare bowl
The day before this match, while defending England’s decision to play Winfield as a No. 8 batter who doesn’t bowl, Knight said it was because they felt another bowler would be wasted. She also cited herself and Wyatt as other options with the ball. Knight is a regular bowler in T20Is, but that certainly isn’t the case for Wyatt whose bowling duties have shrunk as her batting has grown in recent years. When she was brought on for the 12th over it was just the sixth time since 2015 in T20Is that she had bowled. It was her only over of the day as England’s frontline bowlers gained some success in the latter part of the innings in a situation where they needed to create their own intensity.