It was a tough day out for India in the first game of the ICC Women’s Championship series against Australia at Reliance Stadium in Vadodara.
First came the news that Mithali Raj, the inspirational captain, was unwell and wouldn’t be able to take the field, and then the batting just didn’t get going till Sushma Verma and Pooja Vastrakar lifted the innings towards the end. However, they could only take the total up to 200, which Australia got past in just 32.1 overs, Nicole Bolton leading the way with an unbeaten 101-ball 100, for an eight-wicket win.
“It’s really up there,” gushed Bolton, the Player of the Match, afterwards. “I was really looking forward to this series against India. I think they are an amazing team, so to be able to come out here and put on a full performance from our girls today to get one-up early is really awesome.”
Meg Lanning, back leading the Australia team after a long layoff – her last appearance was in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 semi-final against India in July – was understandably happy with the result.
“You want to start off a series well. We wanted to do that, we were chasing 200 and we wanted to play our way and make sure we were really aggressive. Nicole Bolton really led the way in that. Nice to finish it off well,” said Lanning, who scored a 38-ball 33 before being run out, getting to 3000 one-day international runs in the process.
“They probably got away from us a little bit in the first few overs. But I thought we did pretty well at the back end. To adjust to the conditions and to get them out for 200 on that wicket was a pretty good effort. I thought our consistency in the field and with the ball was probably not there. We had really good patches but we also let it slip a little bit.”
On her own return, which has been long in coming, Lanning said, “Nice to get out there and get a good win. Certainly felt more comfortable once I was out there for a little bit. Happy to get through that first one.”
Harmanpreet Kaur, leading India in Raj’s absence, was disappointed with the team’s performance, and felt that it wasn’t just the batters but also the bowlers, who let the team down.
“It was a hard day for us. We didn’t play good cricket, and we didn’t deserve to win today,” acknowledged Kaur, who rued the fact that Raj’s late withdrawal left the team a major batter short. “We have to focus on our batting. We have good batters who can give us good starts; we need contributions from the bowlers also.
“Playing against Australia you need to come out with a good, positive approach and I think next game we have to come out with a good approach.”
There were positives, though; the 76 runs Verma (41) and Vastrakar (51) added for the eighth wicket the biggest of them.
“I am happy that our lower middle-order came out and played a good innings for us,” she said, adding that Vastrakar, who became the first to score a half-century from No.9 in women’s one-day international cricket, was a big plus. “She played very well in South Africa and she has shown her character today also. We are expecting more good innings from her, and in the bowling also.”
For Bolton, it has been a good run with the bat of late. She finished third in the run-getters’ list at the last edition of the Women’s Big Bash League with 483 from 16 games, and scored 58 in one of Australia’s warm-up games against India Women A.
“It’s probably having a bit more intent and being positive and being able to back my strengths. That’s the way I want to go about my one-day cricket now,” she said. “To get an opportunity to do that is awesome. I was well supported throughout the innings but to the job done at the end of the day is pretty good.”
The next match of the series will be played at the same venue on Thursday.