Hosts facing elimination if they cannot arrest slump in form, as group-stage hots up
England, the defending champions, made a disastrous start to their campaign with a trio of narrow defeats against Australia, West Indies and South Africa in their opening three games. However, they ended a run of six consecutive ODI losses by beating India by four wickets in their last outing, and it is now New Zealand who are encountering a slump in form following back-to-back losses to the tournament’s two unbeaten teams, Australia and South Africa.
Failure to reach the semi-finals would be a desperate disappointment for Sophie Devine’s team, who can expect a strong home support in Auckland, but whose hopes of qualification would be all but over if they slumped to their fourth loss of the group stages.
Looking back on England’s own experiences of hosting the World Cup in 2017, Brunt recalled how their opening-match defeat against India in Derby had served as a “wake-up call”, meaning that they never sailed quite so close to elimination in the first round.
“We didn’t experience that ourselves in 2017 because we had that wake-up call very early on,” Brunt said. “So we got ourselves right pretty early and then won every game thereafter. So we didn’t have that nervousness of everything being a knockout.
“So, I would say that would definitely add some tension, especially with it being at Eden Park, and I’ve no doubt there’ll be a very good outpouring of people for that game to support their country. So 100%, it will add pressure on them.”
Assuming both sides win their remaining fixtures, Net Run Rate could be the deciding factor in the race for a top-four finish, with England potentially having an advantage in that regard given that they have two matches against the group’s bottom two sides, Bangladesh and Pakistan, to come.
“Obviously we’re in a position where we are relying on other people’s results,” Brunt said. “So there’s something of becoming a fan of other teams, as it may be, which is not what you want but that’s just the reality of it. But it’s been great to watch all the other nations, and be a part of games like that, putting on exciting games of cricket.
Reflecting on the glut of cliffhangers in the tournament to date, Brunt added: “As players it’s certainly never a situation you want to be in, and every game has been that kind of situation. Obviously in the last three games we’ve lost, we’ve probably lost by a total of about 20 runs [three wickets, 7 runs, 12 runs], which is mad.
“These things generally happen rarely, so for every game to be going down the wire just shows you how many nerves there are, and how much teams have improved. We don’t necessarily take it for granted or think less of these teams, it’s just we’ve not played these teams in forever. People can improve in six months, never mind three or four years. So it’s been a learning experience along the way, and it’s great to see everybody playing good cricket and different people coming out of the woodwork.”
Despite the victory over India, Brunt is conscious that England’s standards have been a long way short of the levels that carried them to the title in 2017. But, she said, after a bruising Ashes campaign and a tricky first three weeks at the World Cup, an experienced squad can yet be galvanised by the chance to finish their winter on a high.
“We’ve had 10 weeks with our backs against the wall,” Brunt said. “We fought a lot in Australia. We gave everything in the Ashes. From there we were probably not in the best headspace. But we are certainly learning to show fight and adapt quickly, and move on pretty quick from disappointments
“You can’t be in form all the time. But what you can do is always show fight and turn up, and that’s what we’re doing. It might not be pretty at times. But that’s just how we’ve got to do it, and how we’re going to get past each game. Hopefully things will improve.”