Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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Darkley plans ‘very special’ England summer finale

Sophia Dunkley has her sights set on a fitting final in the England international summer, but knows the prospect of a grandstand finish at the hinges of Lord in Wednesday’s must-win clash against India.

The third Royal London ODI between the teams will mark cricket’s first home outing for England women since the triumphant 2017 World Cup final, as well as the last match in charge for head coach Lisa Keightley.

But, having lost by seven wickets in the opener, the hosts must first settle the score at Canterbury to make their long-awaited return to St John’s Wood on Saturday a series decider.

“We have to win the next two games to win the series,” Dunkley said. “If we can put him in place as a decision-maker at Lord’s, that should make for a really great opportunity.

“This will be Lisa’s last game with us and Tammy Beaumont’s 100th game, so moving him up to a decider would be great. We have a lot to think about. It’s really exciting to play at Lord’s for the first time since the World Cup final, so we want it to be a very special game.

“We’ve had a lot this summer – it takes a lot away from you – but to have that at the end adds that extra motivation to end the season on a high. We’re going to put all of our energy into those last two games.”

Dunkley finished top scorer in the recent T20 series between the sides, which England won 2-1, with 115 points from three sets. India’s Smriti Mandhana was close behind with 111 and continued her strong form with a winning 91 at Hove in the first ODI.

The pair got to know each other during their time together in Southern Brave in The Hundred, but Dunkley has yet to discover any obvious flaws in Mandhana’s armor.

“We had a few conversations about the stick and stuff, but Smriti is just a very good, very experienced player. Here are pretty limited weaknesses,” she said.

“But we showed in the T20s, if we can start really well, we can pass their first order and get in the middle. We just have to show up and look our best.

“We’ve analyzed pretty well and if we execute, let’s see what she can come back with.”

England have released Freya Davies and Maia Bouchier to play in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final but can still freshen up their squad with dressmaker Lauren Bell and all-rounder Freya Kemp waiting in the wings.

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