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White Ferns down to final life

When the White Ferns look back on their final-over defeat by South Africa, there will be countless hypotheticals about what they could have done differently. 

When they look forward to what is required to remain alive at their home World Cup, the scenario is much less complex. 

“It’s pretty simple for us – we win the rest of our games,” captain Sophie Devine said after last night’s excruciating loss in Hamilton. 

“There might be a bit more outside noise, there might be a bit more pressure, but we certainly know what’s on the line and don’t need any help reminding us about that.” 

At the risk of being redundant, here is one brief reminder: New Zealand must win their final two matches to have any chance of making the semifinals. 

Given they finish pool play against winless Pakistan, Sunday’s encounter with England at Eden Park will go a long way to determining the White Ferns’ chances. 

And given those stakes, with England also scrapping for their lives, Devine’s side will need close to a complete performance, something that has so far been missing. 

“We’ve played good cricket for 70 or 80 per cent of the time, it’s just that final 20 per cent,” Devine said. “We know with World Cups, pressure’s on, every ball something’s on the line. We’re really close.” 

They certainly were last night, much closer than looked likely for the majority of South Africa’s innings. 

After Devine’s opening knock of 93 was largely squandered as her side were dismissed for 228 in the 48th over, South Africa reached 161-2 and were cruising to a perfect four-win record. 

But Amelia Kerr (3-50) made the crucial breakthroughs and Hannah Rowe (1-32) tightened the clamps, leaving South Africa eight down and needing six runs from the final over. 

Despite Jess Kerr and Lea Tahuhu being available, Devine turned to the offspin of Frankie Mackay, and Marizanne Kapp slogged her first delivery to the fence as South Africa completed their chase with three balls to spare. 

“You can go back through that game ball by ball and find a million different ways to do things,” Devine said. “I’ll probably need a bit of time to sit back and reflect on that and talk with the coaches and other players. 

“Jess is really effective, it’s a really tough one to answer. Could have done something differently but in the same breath we were one or two wickets away from winning.” 

A greater point of regret would surely be the way the White Ferns ended their own innings, losing their final six wickets for 30 runs and, pivotally, failing to bat out their overs. 

Devine accepted some blame after her dismissal prompted the collapse, but New Zealand’s middle and lower order has been deficient for much of the tournament. 

“It was disappointing to get out when I did – it was heading into party time for me,” Devine said. “We speak at length about someone in the top four or five batting through to the 50th over, so that was probably me. I should’ve put my hand up and done that. 

“We were probably 30 or 40 runs short with the bat, but the way we scrapped back and the way Amelia bowled through the middle swung momentum back in our favour. 

“We clawed our way back so you’ve got to focus on the positives, because if we dwell too long on the negatives or what we could’ve done differently, it’s going to be a pretty miserable dressing room.” 

The main positive? Just like their requirements for the rest of the World Cup, there’s a simple answer. 

“It’s heartbreaking to not get across the line,” Devine said. “But our tournament is certainly not over yet.” 

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