Poonam Yadav’s leg-spinning masterclass saw India complete an unlikely turnaround to open the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 in style with a pulsating victory over Australia.
The defending champions looked to be cruising in their chase of 133 but four wickets for six runs from Poonam saw the game flip on its head at the Sydney Showground.
Alyssa Healy had returned to form with a timely 51 but her teammates struggled around her, Ashleigh Gardner (34) the only other batter into double figures.
Shafali Verma’s opening burst had set India on their way with the bat while Deepti Sharma’s career-best 49* steered them to 132/4, a total that eventually proved defendable.
Healy had failed to reach double figures in her previous six innings, but started positively at the Showground, a plethora of boundaries lighting up her innings. The openers put 32 on for the first wicket but Beth Mooney fell for 6 at the end of the Powerplay, caught at backward point off Shikha Pandey (3/14), while captain Meg Lanning was caught behind off Rajeshwari Gayakwad.
A full toss thumped over deep mid-wicket took Healy to 50 but the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2018 top-scorer fell next ball when offering a return catch for Poonam's first wicket.
The spinner has the most wickets for India in women’s T20Is and showed exactly why in her next over, deceiving Rachael Haynes with a googly to be stumped by Taniya Bhatia.
Ellyse Perry was bowled without scoring – nine years since her previous first-ball dismissal – and Poonam was inches from a hat-trick when Bhatia dropped an edge from Jess Jonassen.
But she wasn’t to be denied her fourth scalp with Jonassen getting a fine edge when attempting to sweep, Bhatia atoning for her error with the catch.
Gardner struck a superb six down the ground off Gayakwad to keep Australia fighting but partner Annabel Sutherland was the seventh wicket to fall when Pandey had her stumped, brilliant work from Bhatia completing the job.
Delissa Kimmince was then run out while Gardner and Megan Schutt fell in the last over, Australia all out for 115 to lose by 17 runs.
Sharma’s unbeaten 49 earlier helped India battle their way to 132 after their star batters fell within the first seven overs.
Verma started in outstanding fashion with 29 from just 15 balls, with four boundaries in one Schutt over the highlight of a stunning opening to the tournament. A magnificent loft over mid-on for six saw Molly Strano – drafted into the XI at the expense of injured Tayla Vlaeminck – under pressure as India raced to 40 without loss in four overs.
Smriti Mandhana’s supporting role ended when trapped lbw by Jonassen (2/24) and from there Australia forced their way back into the match. Verma miscued a pull to mid-on off Perry while Harmanpreet Kaur was out in the next over, stumped off Jonassen after the ball ricocheted off Healy’s knee.
India needed to rebuild thereon with Deepti and Jemimah Rodrigues (26) tasked with taking the innings deep, though Australia ensured the boundaries dried up. Indeed there were just three in the last 16 overs of the innings though Sharma and Rodrigues kept the scoreboard ticking the singles, while the former swept herself into the 40s with boundaries off Jonassen.
Rodrigues eventually fell lbw to Kimmince while Schutt finished wicketless for the first time in 24 T20I innings, a record dating back to October 2018.
It seemed at halfway that the lack of boundaries would prove key but India had other ideas, reducing the hosts from 67/2 to 115 all out to complete a remarkable start to the Women’s T20 World Cup.