India heads into the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 in good form, having beaten South Africa in the final of a Quadrangular Series also featuring Ireland and Zimbabwe.
In the final on Sunday, India won comfortably by eight wickets, thanks to an unbeaten 127-run stand by opener Punam Raut (70) and captain Mithali Raj (62).
The four-team series was excellent preparation for the ICC Women’s World Cup to be held in England and Wales from 24 June to 23 July and also helped players gain in the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s ODI Rankings. Raut gained 33 positions to reach a career-best 32nd rank among batters even as Mithali maintained second rank in a list led by Australia captain Meg Lanning.
In an earlier game against Ireland, Deepti Sharma and Raut put on a world record 320-run opening partnership, the first 300-run stand by any pair in women's cricket. It was also better than the highest opening partnership in men's ODIs - 286 between Sri Lanka’s Upul Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya in 2006.
Speaking about the world record, Raut admitted she had no idea that they had broken the previous best in the women’s game of 268 set by England’s Sarah Taylor and Caroline Atkins in 2008 or the men’s stand.
She said: “I had no idea about the record in women's ODIs and not even the one by the Sri Lankans. However, because I've always looked up to Sachin [Tendulkar] ever since my initiation into the game, I was aware of the 250-something opening partnership between him and Sourav [Ganguly] as being the highest by India.
“But even when we were closing in on the 300-run mark, little did we know we had already broken England women's record. It was only after our post-match recovery session in the pool that we got to know about the records from messages we received on our team's WhatsApp group.”
And India’s impressive Quadrangular Series was not limited to that as Jhulan Goswami became the record wicket-taker in women’s ODIs when she went past Australia’s Cathryn Fitzpatrick’s previous best of 180 wickets.
Fast bowler Goswami ended the series with a tally of 185 wickets from 155 ODIs with an average of 21.70 and maintained her third rank among bowlers.
South Africa will travel to England after five victories including a morale-boosting eight-run win over India earlier in the tournament.
Andrie Steyn was in good form as she scored 117 runs off just 123 balls against Ireland and overall it was a satisfactory preparation ahead of the World Cup for coach Hilton Moreeng.
Moreeng said: “It’s great to see players putting their hands up and demanding to be counted, it bodes well for the future and also for the World Cup itself.”
For Ireland and Zimbabwe, who are not heading to England for the ICC World Cup, the Quadrangular Series provided good experience for them to develop in one-day cricket.
None more so than Ireland’s Louise Little, who featured in an ODI at the age of just 13 years 360 days when she played against South Africa on 4 May.
On her debut, Little picked up one wicket and remained unbeaten on eight off just five balls.
But it is India and especially Raut, Raj, Sharma and Goswami who head to the ICC Women’s World Cup in confident mood after this impressive series win.