Opener's 174-run stand with Deepti Sharma and Shikha Pandey's bowling the highlights of 125-run win over Ireland
Such has been the focus on the future in India Women’s cricket in recent times that MD Thirushkamini, who made her debut in 2006 and is still only 26, had almost slipped out of everyone’s mind. It was only fitting that she restated her credentials as an opener with a career-best 113 not out against Ireland Women in a Group A clash of the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers 2017, at a venue as old world as P Sara Oval in Colombo on a Poya Friday (February 10).
Kamini and Deepti Sharma (89) put on 174 runs – India’s first opening century stand since the 2013 World Cup win against West Indies Women – to take the team to 250 for 2. After that, Shikha Pandey led yet another disciplined bowling performance to bowl Ireland out for 125 in 49.1 overs.
India’s 125-run win, its third of the tournament in as many matches, made it the first team to qualify for the Super Six. This means that if Sri Lanka Women and Ireland too qualify, then India, by virtue of having beaten it, will carry four points into the second round.
The heat was always going to be a factor for Ireland, who was playing its third match in four days. It showed in the lack of punch in its bowling. Even if Isobel Joyce bowled tight in her first spell, there were loose deliveries on offer from the other end for Thirushkamini and Deepti to feast on.
With the pitch and opposition not offering a big challenge, the openers built a massive base, even after Kim Garth pulled things back with her first spell of 7-0-21-0. It was surprising that Garth, who looked the fastest, was not given the new ball. Ireland was also affected by the lack of assistance for spinners from the surface, hence nullifying Ciara Metcalfe, the legspinner who conceded 62 runs in her eight overs, and Gaby Lewis.
Thirushkamini has had issues with her fitness in the past, but her ability to bat long while maintaining a healthy run rate is her strength. Her front-foot drives and strike rotation complemented Deepti’s style of play. Assured that someone was looking after the other end, Deepti opened up every time there was an opportunity. She stamped her authority in the 34th over when she lofted Metcalfe twice and swept once for three boundaries. Just before that over, Thirushkamini had stepped out to Lewis for her first six of the match over midwicket.
There was just one misunderstanding between the two in the 39th over when Thirushkamini played to midwicket and set off for a run. Deepti did not respond, but the fielder failed to collect the ball.
Deepti, who now has two half-centuries in as many innings, fell soon after that when she cut to point to give Garth a much-deserved wicket. The pair fell five short of recording India’s third-best partnership in ODIs.
The focus then shifted to Thirushkamini, and she did not waste much time in moving from the 70s to 99 with the help of three sixes and a four. She spent only 13 balls in the nervous 90s before scoring her second hundred; the first since that West Indies game.
Promoted to No. 3 to up the scoring, Veda Krishnamurthy fell against the run of play, but Harmanpreet Kaur had an unbroken 38-run stand with Thirushkamini, who became the first India opener since January 2006 to make an unbeaten century in an ODI. Mithali Raj, Jaya Sharma (both twice) and Reshma Gandhi are the others to have achieved the feat.
Ireland’s chase got off to a bad start as Shauna Kavanagh played across the line to the first ball of the innings from Pandey to be lbw. Pandey, who generated good pace, then produced a supreme yorker to uproot Garth’s stumps.
As has been India’s wont through the tournament, the spinners came into play early, and once again choked the opposition. Poonam Yadav, the legspinner, took the leadership role on the day. She had Isobel Joyce stumped and Clare Shillington caught just inside the midwicket fence with two loopy stock balls in the 29th over.
Not long after Yadav finished with figures of 3 for 30, Devika Vaidya picked up her second wicket to give India its ninth ODI win on the trot.
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