Record-breaking Nat Sciver-Brunt leads England to series victory over Sri Lanka

By Sports Desk September 14, 2023

Stand-in captain Nat Sciver-Brunt marked her 100th ODI with a record-breaking century as England thumped Sri Lanka to wrap up their summer in scintillating fashion.

Deputising for an under-the-weather Heather Knight, Sciver-Brunt gave a masterclass in controlled aggression as she flayed a 66-ball hundred – the fastest in women’s ODIs by an England batter.

After eclipsing the previous best off 70 balls by Charlotte Edwards against New Zealand in March 2012, Sciver-Brunt made 120 from 74 deliveries before England prevailed by 161 runs for a 2-0 series win.

Her record would only have stood for a couple of minutes if Maia Bouchier had hit her 65th ball for six but she was lbw for 95, ending a boundary-laden 193-run stand in 121 deliveries with Sciver-Brunt.

Their efforts underpinned England’s mammoth 273 for eight in a contest reduced to 31 overs each because of a rain-delayed start at Grace Road, with Charlie Dean’s five for 31 hastening Sri Lanka’s demise to 112 all out in a doomed pursuit.

Bouchier and Sciver-Brunt came together after England had lurched to 18 for two, with Tammy Beaumont edging a wild heave to slip before a flat-footed Alice Capsey saw her stumps disturbed by a Udeshika Prabodhani inswinger.

With Sri Lanka’s coterie of spinners still to bowl, England might have feared the worst in their final outing of their summer programme.

They laboured when batting first against Sri Lanka’s slower options in a shock defeat in the preceding T20 series, but Sciver-Brunt was rested for those matches and she exhibited why she is regarded as one of the best batters against spin in the women’s game.

After taking two singles from her first seven deliveries, Sciver-Brunt settled into her stride with one of several back-foot punches through cover off Inoka Ranaweera before larruping through midwicket to bring up England’s 50 and then shimmying down to the slow left-armer and elegantly driving for six.

Opposite number Chamari Athapaththu rotated her options but the spinners offered very little threat and no containment, with all of them going at more than 10 an over when Bouchier and Sciver-Brunt batted.

Sciver-Brunt drove, pulled and swept expertly, scooping once, going proficiently through the gears as she brought up her third ton in four ODI innings, reaching the milestone in understated fashion as she nudged seamer Achini Kulasuriya off her pads for a single.

Bouchier offered ample support. This was just her second ODI innings but she matched Sciver-Brunt blow for blow, registering a dozen fours and two sixes, having benefited from Emma Lamb’s continued absence with a back spasm.

Her timing was excellent as she effortlessly whipped left-armer Prabodhani and fellow seamer Hansima Karunaratne over the leg-side fence, while she was also fluent driving down the ground and pulling across the line.

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After three successive fours off Oshadi Ranasinghe, Bouchier might have been stumped on 55 when she overbalanced against the off-spinner but wicketkeeper Anushka Sanjeewani fumbled the take.

Bouchier was eventually out five short of a maiden hundred after playing all around one from Kavisha Dilhari, but the opener’s innings went some way to justifying England giving their fringe players a chance in this series.

Sciver-Brunt had not offered so much of a sniff in compiling the sixth fastest ODI century in the women’s game but her stay, containing 18 fours and a six, ended when she holed out to long-off off Ranaweera.

Her departure marked the start of England losing five wickets in their last 32 balls although debutant Bess Heath’s cameo 21 off 14 deliveries helped them add 50 to a monumental total that would have stretched Sri Lanka in a regulation 50-over game.

Having amassed 106 for nine in Tuesday’s abandonment at Northampton and been skittled for an identical total in a seven-wicket defeat at Chester-le-Street on Saturday, Sri Lanka simply never got going.

Lauren Filer continued her excellent summer by uprooting Sanjeewani’s middle stump and castling Imesha Dulani. Teenage left-arm seamer Mahika Gaur, recalled after being rested at Wantage Road, located the outside edge of Harshitha Samarawickrama before Charlie Dean ran amok.

Unperturbed at being thrashed for two fours in her first over, Dean invited another swipe from Athapaththu, who missed a slog sweep and fell lbw to the off-spinner for the second match in a row.

The Sri Lanka captain was the big wicket and any faint hope disappeared with her although Dean still rubberstamped the win by snaring Karunaratne, Hasini Perera and Dilhari in the same over.

A maiden five-for in England colours was assured when Prabodhani dragged on and Sri Lanka quickly subsided in 24.5 overs.

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