Fast bowler Katherine Sciver-Brunt went into England’s final Women’s T20 World Cup group-stage game feeling the pressure.
For the side’s leading wicket-taker in white-ball cricket and winner of three World Cups, it was unfamiliar territory.
England were already through to the semi-finals before the game, but desperate to head into the next round unbeaten.
After a crucial 11-run win against India, Sciver-Brunt walked off the pitch by herself, visibly frustrated and emotional after a disappointing personal bowling display that saw her concede 39 from three overs.
But with 2-14 in England’s thumping 114-run win against Pakistan, it was a pleasing return to form for one of England’s longest-serving icons.
“I’ve had a bit of a shocker,” Sciver-Brunt admitted. “I’m not happy when I’m not contributing so I was desperate to do that.
“Today was the day of starting that process for me and starting to peak at the right time. It fills me with a lot of confidence going into the semi and the final, it meant a lot to me and I’m going to take a lot from it moving forward.”
The 37-year-old had Sadaf Shamas caught behind from the second ball of Pakistan’s innings which set the tone, a performance that former England spinner Alex Hartley said was “incredibly important”.
“She was relaxed and happy out there. She wasn’t angry today and that is the Sciver-Brunt that everyone wants to play cricket with,” Hartley said on BBC Test Match Special.
Seamer Lauren Bell was rested for the fixture, having played in England’s first three wins against West Indies, Ireland and India. She will likely return to join Sciver-Brunt with the new ball for the semi-final after her replacement Freya Davies went wicketless.
Pakistan were admittedly woeful, stuttering to 99-9 in reply to England’s record 213-5, but confidence was key for the veteran seamer’s display.
“She’s shown character and resilience, and admittedly not against the best Pakistan side, but you’ve still got to bowl and take wickets and put it in the right area,” said England and Southern Vipers all-rounder Georgia Elwiss on BBC Test Match Special.
“That is something she has struggled with, but she’s been able to come in and do that today and she is charging around in the field too. It is nice to see her back with a smile on her face.”
‘We’re very much going for the win’
England’s place at the top of Group 2 crucially means they avoid reigning champions Australia in the last four, and they will be firm favourites against opponents South Africa, who have lost two games in the group stage.
When competitions reach the knockout stage, players are often apprehensive of stating their confidence, with cautious statements of “taking things one game at a time” or “not looking too far ahead”.
So Katherine Sciver-Brunt’s openness is refreshing, but not surprising, for a team on a winning streak and playing with freedom and positivity.
“There is a good feel about this,” said Sciver-Brunt. “And it’s not from me. Usually, I’d expect to be contributing to reaching a semi-final but it’s not, and that fills me with a lot of hope to win this World Cup.
“We are extremely excited about it and it is one step away from us – and we are very much going for it.
“We are up for the task and when it comes around, we will be ready.”
In terms of her own form, Sciver-Brunt admits the pressure of playing in her last World Cup led to a dip in her usually high standards.
“I can see now that I was trying too hard,” she added. “It is my last and I am desperate to put in a good performance – and any cricketer will know that when you try too hard, it all goes down the toilet!
“So I am trying to rein it in, get my emotions right, and we’re in a good place.
“I’m good, the team’s good and we’re ready to go.”