Knight off to winning start as England captain
DEVON’S Heather Knight made a wining start as England Women’s captain and put her name in the record books at the same time.
Knight marked her debt match as captain with a victory over Pakistan at Leicester in the first of three Royal London One-Day Internationals.
Knight, appointed to the job last month as successor to Charlotte Edwards, led from the front by taking five wickets with her off-spin and adding an unbeaten 50 with the bat as England cruised to victory with 18.1 overs to spare.
It is the first time in 50-over international women's cricket that any captain has scored a half-century and taken five wickets in the same match.
Chasing 166 to win at the Fischer County Ground in a match originally scheduled for Monday but delayed because of a waterlogged outfield, England cantered home by seven wickets after Kent opener Tammy Beaumont made an international career-best score of 70.
It was a day to remember, too, for strike bowler Katherine Brunt, who became only the fourth England player to take 100 ODI wickets.
Although Pakistan are one of the less accomplished women's teams - England have beaten them comfortably in all of their five meetings - the circumstances created an element of pressure, with Knight aware that she could hardly be following a tougher act than the record-breaking Edwards, who scored more than 10,000 international runs and captained the side a record 220 times over 10 years.
Coach Mark Robinson, whose decision it was to call time on the Edwards era to facilitate the fresh start he felt England needed, would also have felt some relief that Pakistan, who gained a shock T20 win over England when they last played here, in 2013, did not spring another surprise.
There was a nervous moment at the start of England's chase when opener Lauren Winfield was caught at slip off the first ball but though Pakistan's captain, the off-spinner Sana Mir, bowled Georgia Elwiss for 12, at 53 for two from 10 overs England were already on target for a comfortable win.
Beaumont's 70, which surpassed her previous best score of 44 for England in 67 appearances across all formats, was made off 75 balls and included 11 fours. Until she was caught at mid-on in a miscued attempt to hit Asmavia Iqbal's medium pace over midwicket, her only real scare came when she was almost run out on 49, sent back by Knight after setting off for a single.
Her partnership with Knight added 96 in 20 overs for the third wicket as England enjoyed the best batting conditions of the day. Nat Sciver then joined Knight, hitting 27 of the 37 more required at the fall of Beaumont's wicket but contriving to allow Knight to complete her half-century before securing the winning single off Iqbal.
Pakistan's score was their highest in five one-day internationals against England but would have been regarded as disappointing given the platform provided by opener Sidra Amin's maiden ODI half-century.
The 24-year-old right-hander from Lahore had made more than half her side's runs off the bat when she was fifth out at 106 in the 32nd over but support was lacking from Pakistan's top and middle order and had it not been for a late show of aggression from Sidra Nawaz and Asmavia Iqbal then England's task would have been even more straightforward.
Asked to bat first on a surface that was predictably sluggish after the wet weather that forced this match, scheduled for Monday, to be played in its entirety on the designated reserve day, Pakistan struggled to build early momentum.
They crawled to 29 for one after 10 overs, the wicket that fell being the one that mattered in particular to Brunt, when Javeria Wadood, tempted by some width, edged the first ball of her fourth over and Amy Jones, keeping wicket for England for the first time in almost two and a half years, held the catch.
It ended a frustrating wait to move from 99 to 100 for the Yorkshire right-armer, who took three wickets in the first ODI against Australia at Taunton last July but did not take another in the series and was also wicketless in the series in South Africa in February.
Pakistan's fate was probably decided in the middle phase of their winnings, when Knight and Laura Marsh, the two off-spinners, combining to frustrate and tie down Pakistan's batters, who added only 28 runs between the 20th over and the 30th. Neither found much turn but maintained steady accuracy. Knight struck with her second ball, Lauren Winfield taking a sharp catch at slip to dismiss Iram Javed.