MATCH REPORT: India v New Zealand

It very nearly was the perfect game. Like coal spontaneously igniting when the conditions are just right, India rekindled their fading World Cup campaign with all three departments coming together. They beat New Zealand by 186 runs, and reached the semi-final of a ICC global event for the first time since 2010.

It began with the flip of the coin. In England, they say ‘look up and then look down’. But even that advice left one confused. Above, it was overcast, but the pitch itself was hard and reflected runs. Fortunately, Kiwi skipper Suzie Bates opted to field. And it seemed a good decision when both Indian openers were sent back with just 21 on the board. But that was about all that went wrong for India.

Harmanpreet Kaur, batting at No. 4, had faced an average of just 30 balls per game in the six matches before this. So she took her time early, facing 28 dot balls for three runs against fast bowler Hannah Rowe. But with the patience of a big cat stalking its prey, she waited for the spinners to come on, and then scored at a run-a-ball against them. Her 60-run knock ended prematurely: a soft dismissal off the very first ball of the batting power play. it threatened to leave India wondering what could have been. But Veda Krishnamurthy ensured that it didn’t happen.

Mithali Raj was there all along, batting on 71 off 86 balls when Harmanpreet fell. Raj must have some kind of ferropliquid running through her veins; a pressure situation magnetises her. Under fire, she is as hard as steel and just as cool. But her century – her first against a top-three side — was reduced to a sideshow after Veda started batting.

Since Smriti Mandhana’a 90 off 72 in India’s win against England, no Indian batter had scored at a strike-rate of more than 100. That meant that India had been missing the push at the end of the innings, and Veda provided exactly that. With a relentless 70 off 45 balls, she helped India take 90 runs in the last 10 overs. She made New Zealand pay for dropping her on 32 in the 46th over, scoring 27 runs off the next eight balls she faced. The pair took India to 265, by far their highest-ever total against New Zealand.

The bowling and fielding dovetailed like never before in this tournament: two slip catches, one outstanding catch running back from Deepti Sharma, and a five wicket-haul for Rajeshwari Gayakwad. First the fast bowlers accounted for the openers – ticking another box — and then came perhaps the biggest period in play. Left-arm spinner Gayakwad was playing her first World Cup game, despite being India’s highest wicket-taker in the ICC Women’s Championship. She was brought in to replace the most experienced Indian spinner, Ekta Bisht, so she had big shoes to fill.

Up against her were Amy Satterthwaithe, scorer of four consecutive centuries not eight months past, and Sophie Devine, who smashed 93 off 41 against Pakistan last week. The pair could have taken the game away from India; instead Gayakwad took the ball away from them. She had Satterthwaite stumped off an arm ball that went the other way, and after cramping Devine for room from over the wicket, she drew the false shot with a wider delivery. She went on to take three more and cross the 50 wicket mark, also claiming the best-ever World Cup figures for India. New Zealand were all out for 79, giving India their biggest World Cup win in terms of run margin.

“I’m extremely happy (with) the way the girls made a comeback”, said Mithali Raj after the game. “In earlier editions, we have seen one bad day and then we never made a comeback into the tournament… I think this is a new Indian team.”

Raj’s ‘New India’ now play the defending champions Australia on Thursday. Lanning’s side have not yet played in Derby, where India have won all four of their games. With the nation tuned into their progress thanks to a late decision to televise the game, India’s team have ensured there is more to look forward to this week than just Game of Thrones.


This article first appeared in the Economic Times, India

Comments

  1. I'm very interested to see how India fare against the Australians on Thursday. Let's face it, the challenge will be huge but this side are capable of getting the better of Lanning's outfit if they play well enough. It will be a momentous result if they pull off a win.

    There are a few things going India's way - the form of some of the batters and bowlers, results at this ground where India must feel at home by now, and the conditions and wicket which are likely to suit India a bit more if anything.

    I hope India have a good game - better than when they last played Australia when I was a bit disappointed with their performance, as they subsided a bit near the end and never really looked like winning.

    I've been an admirer of Krisnamurthy since I first saw her play, and and she is a very talented player in my opinion, no worse really than Mandhana or Kaur, but not as often thought about. I'm glad she managed to show what she can do against a top side like New Zealand.

    I wonder what the fallout will be for NZ, will they take this disappointment in their stride and move on or will there need to be a postmortem or one of those "root and branch" reviews you sometimes see following a side's exit at a slightly earlier stage than perhaps expected?

    And will the BCCI finally now start taking their women cricketers a bit more seriously if they think they could actually start winning world events? We can but hope...

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