There has been plenty of buzz created for the 11th edition of the Women’s World Cup. The tournament needed a cracking game to set the tone for the next few weeks, and India Women provided that with a thrilling 35-run win over England Women.
India is not used to play in front of sell-out crowd, but the players were switched on for the occasion both with the bat and on the field. Once the signing of autographs for fans and mingling with diplomats was done with, Smriti Mandhana (90), Poonam Raut (86) and Mithali Raj (71) batted beautifully to take India to 281 for 3 – its second highest total in World Cups.
Having never chased more than 243 successfully, England kept the game alive through Fran Wilson’s enterprising 75-ball 81 from No.5. Having handled the spinners well, she looked set to take England home, but Ekta Bisht, the left-arm spinner, was alert enough to stop a straight drive from Jenny Gunn off her own bowling and throw it back to the stumps at the non-striker’s end in the 44th over, catching Wilson short of her ground. It was the third of four run outs in England’s innings, and it proved costly as the side was dismissed for 246 in 47.3 overs, losing the last five wickets for 28 runs.
Mandhana, playing her first international game since her knee surgery in January this year, got India going with high-quality backfoot shots. England bowled short at her on either side of the wicket, and she used the pace of the bowlers to her advantage. Raut played second fiddle in the opening stand of 144 – the third-best partnership for India in World Cups – but was not hesitant to play her strokes when the opportunity arose.
Despite scoring just one single in the first Power Play, India took charge with ten fours and a six. England pulled things back by taking the pace off the ball in the next phase of play, but the openers happily played the waiting game. Once they found a way to rotate the strike well, Mandhana and Raut took the batting Power Play in the 24th over and started that block with 20 runs off Anya Shrubsole.
Mandhana’s 72-ball knock ended when she failed to get underneath a short ball from Heather Knight and offered Danielle Hazell an easy catch at short midwicket. After that, Raj brought her nous to the fore to become the first batter with 47 ODI fifties.
She kept the scoreboard busy and took a particular liking for the midwicket fence, even as Raut remained firm at the other end. The duo’s 78-run association came to an end when Hazell had Raut, who was dropped on 20, 21 and 77, caught at the square-leg fence in the 43rd over. It worked in India’s favour as Harmanpreet Kaur, known for her big hitting, pushed the scoring rate with an unbeaten 24 off 22 balls.
Knowing well that more runs on the board meant a better chance for their spinners, Raj and Kaur kept targeting the boundary. Their 45-ball 59-run stand finally ended off the last ball of the innings when Raj was caught at the midwicket fence to give Knight her second wicket.
On a pitch where the ball was stopping a bit, India got Bisht to open the bowling with Jhulan Goswami. It was Shikha Pandey, though, who provided the early breakthroughs by having Tammy Beaumont and Sarah Taylor, the two openers, caught against the run of play.
The moment of the second innings came in the first ball of the 188th over bowled by Deepti Sharma, the offspinner. Natalie Sciver failed to execute her sweep, but Ahsan Raza, the umpire, did not raise his finger for a caught behind appeal. Raj’s decision to opt for the Decision Review System – the first time in the history of women’s cricket – proved right, as England lost its third wicket.
The game looked out of England’s reach but Wilson added 67 and 62 with Knight and Katherine Brunt for the fourth and sixth wicket respectively to bring the game back into the balance. But it was not to be England’s day as all of Knight (direct hit by Kaur), Brunt (direct hit by Sharma) and Wilson (direct hit by Bisht) were run out.
It was a complete performance for India, but the team would have been happier had Mandhana not gone off the field after falling on her knee, and had the fielders taken all the catches that were on offer.