India swept to an eight-wicket victory in the second T20 at Derby, levelling the series with one match left to play after chasing down their 143-run target inside 17 overs.
England had fought back from 54 for five in the 10th over to post a total of 142 for six thanks to a brilliant half-century from the 17-year-old Freya Kemp, who became the youngest woman to reach the landmark in T20 internationals.
But India severely punished the bowling of the left-armer, with Shafali Verma (20 off 17) and Smriti Mandhana smashing 19 runs off her one over, en route to an opening stand of 55 from 35 balls.
Verma fell caught and bowled by Sophie Ecclestone at the end of the powerplay, but Mandhana powered on to a 36-ball half-century. Alongside her, Harmanpreet Kaur – put down by Danni Wyatt at deep midwicket on 20 – sailed along to 29no from 22 balls as India romped home.
Since Kemp made her England debut against South Africa in July, ostensibly for her seam bowling, she has been itching to showcase her skills with the bat; but in the late middle-order, opportunities to do so have been thin on the ground.
But on Tuesday, having shared a 65-run partnership in eight overs with Maia Bouchier (34 off 26), Kemp finally came to the party. Bouchier was stumped in the 18th over, but Kemp went on to bring up her half-century in style off the penultimate ball of the innings with a four driven straight down the ground, after earlier punching three sixes over the top. She is the first woman to make a fifty in T20 internationals batting outside the top six.
England had got off to a rocky start, finding themselves three down in three overs – setting up their worst powerplay since March 2021. The in-form Sophia Dunkley went in the second over, stumped after coming down the ground and taking a huge swing at Deepti Sharma’s first ball. In the next over, Renuka Singh Thakur got just enough away movement to tempt Wyatt into nicking one to slip.
Kaur had partly blamed India’s defeat in the opening T20 at Durham on an injury to Radha Yadav, who hurt her shoulder diving in the field and was unable to bowl. But Yadav did not seem overly affected. Her diving stop at deep extra-cover in the third over not only prevented an Alice Capsey boundary, but left the young batter run out after Yadav swiftly relayed the ball back to Kaur on the ring.
In the eighth over, Yadav sprinted round from long-on to take a spectacular diving catch, sending Bryony Smith back to the dugout and handing Sneh Rana the first of her three wickets.
Despite Kemp’s heroics, England never quite recovered.