The template of the one-day internationals spilled over to the Twenty20 International tri-series opener between India and Australia.
Smriti Mandhana once again scored a half-century, as she had done in the last two ODIs against Australia, but the visitors were stronger as a unit and eased to victory by six wickets in the first T20I at Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday 22 March.
Beth Mooney and Elyse Villani played the big roles in the visitors recovering from two early wickets with a 79-run stand before captain Meg Lanning took the chase home with an unbeaten 25-ball 35 as Australia got past India’s 152/5 with 11 balls to spare.
THERE'S NO STOPPING AUSTRALIA!— ICC (@ICC) March 22, 2018
The @SouthernStars have chased down @BCCIWomen's 152 in just 18.1 overs, registering a six-wicket win in the opening tri-series WT20I. #INDvAUS SCORECARD ➡️ https://t.co/3vnU67Gjn7 pic.twitter.com/drlpDxXqpd
India were in the driver’s seat when Jhulan Goswami, back after an injury layoff, bowled Alyssa Healy (4) in the very first over of the Australian reply, finding the gap between bat and pad. She repeated the feat in her next over to clean up Ashleigh Gardner, who had found the fence four times already, and Australia were 29/2.
It was then that Mooney and Villani turned the match with their stand. They decided attack was the best form of defence, and Mooney laid into Shikha Pandey, picking three fours to claim 14 runs off the fifth over of the innings. Villani did the same three overs later to Rumeli Dhar, and with both batters inclined to attack, the Indian fielders were made to chase leather.
After 10 overs, Australia needed just 58 more, at less than a run a ball. The stand was eventually broken in the 13th over, with Mooney holing out off Goswami for a 32-ball 45. Poonam Yadav then deceived Villani with a slower ball in the next over, and with Australia still needing 37 runs with six overs remaining, India’s hopes were reignited.
However, Lanning came out and took charge. She picked 12 runs off the 15th over from her counterpart Harmanpreet Kaur, including a mammoth six, and continued to keep the runs flowing even when she couldn’t find the fence. With Rachel Haynes (12* off 19) for company, Lanning took Australia through for what was, in the end, a comfortable, comprehensive victory.
In the morning, India seemed well set for a high score, despite being asked to bat by Lanning, as Mandhana and Mithali Raj added 72 for the opening wicket in just over nine overs. Mandhana was striking the ball well, finding the fence twice off Gardner in the second over before picking 14 runs off the next one from Jess Jonassen, hammering two fours either side of a six down the ground.
With Mandhana in such good nick, Raj decided to play second fiddle. She rotated strike, although when given the chance, she did look for the fence. The two carried on, with Mandhana bringing up her half-century – her third in T20Is – off just 30 balls with a maximum off Ellyse Perry.
The stand was broken in the very next over, though, with Raj coming down the track looking to up the ante, only to be stumped off a wide delivery from Gardner. Kaur came in and looked to hit the ground running with a couple of fours off Delissa Kimmince, but a slide was just around the corner.
Mandhana fell next, holing out off Gardner after attempting another biggie. Perry then dismissed Jemimah Rodrigues and Kaur within three balls, and from 72 for no loss, India were 100/4.
Veda Krishnamurthy and Anuja Patil managed to arrest the freefall with some counter-attacking cricket in the death. Patil took 14 runs off the 18th over, sent down by Perry, with a six and two fours. She then hammered three consecutive fours in the next over off Kimmince before holing out for an excellent 21-ball 35.
Krishnamurthy then plundered a six and a four off the final over from Megan Schutt to take the total past the 150-mark. It was a decent total, but not a formidable one, and India will rue the loss of wickets after the big start that hampered their chances.