Having chased 247 against the Windies in its warm-up game, Pakistan was confident of beating it and opening the account in the 2017 Women’s World Cup after five losses, when they met each other in Leicester on Tuesday. That was one of the reasons why Sana Mir opted to field in overcast conditions under lights.
Rain stopped play for an hour and nine minutes after Deandra Dottin’s unbeaten 76-ball 104 and Stafanie Taylor’s 107-ball 90 took the Windies to 285 for 4. When play resumed, Pakistan was set a revised target of 245 in 38 overs.
It was positive from the start, evidenced by a second-wicket stand of 80 in 16.1 overs between Nahida Khan and Javeria Khan.
They rotated strike, something losing teams in this tournament have failed to do, and played five consecutive dot balls just once. With the rain threat looming large, Pakistan looked in control. At the end of the 20th over, having lost just one wicket, it was only five runs behind the par score of 102.
Anisa Mohammed eventually broke Pakistan’s best partnership of the tournament in the 22nd over, and once Iram Javed fell to her in what was the last ball of play, Pakistan was reduced to 117 for 3 in 24 overs – 19 behind the DLS par score of 136. Javeria was unbeaten on 54, her best World Cup score.
Things may have been different had Pakistan taken the batting Power Play of four overs when Nahida and Javeria were in the middle. With just three fielders outside the inner circle, they could have taken their chances. It would not have guaranteed them quick runs, and they could have risked their wickets too. But Pakistan would have had a fair chance of staying ahead of the DLS score.
Mir admitted she was to blame for that, adding that the fluctuating weather left them confused about how to approach the chase.
“At one point we thought rain might come at 20 overs, so we were playing according to DL. Then at one point, we thought rain might not come,” Mir said. “So, it was a bit confusing at that point, but definitely when Nahida and Javeria were batting, we had good control of the match and were almost at par with the DL.
“The wicket of Nahida was very crucial, and then we were not able to take the Power Play, which was a lapse on our part,” she added. “That is something that definitely cost us important runs.”
On the first day of the tournament, India had taken the batting Power Play in the 24th over when the opening pair of Smriti Mandhana and Punam Raut was well set. They took 20 runs off Anya Shrubsole to give the innings a push. Tushar Arothe, the coach, had taken that decision.
Mir said that the onus was on the dressing room to be alert and make these calls, as the batters in the middle have other things to focus on.
“From my point of view, I thought about it after the match. That was in hindsight. As management and captain, we should have taken it while the set batters were there and clouds were forming in order to give them a better chance,” Mir continued. “Sometimes when you are batting, you don’t think of these things. This is something that has to come from outside. It’s a lapse from our side.”
Pakistan also has its lethargic fielding to blame. At least three fours were conceded because the fielders allowed the ball to pass through their legs, completely unacceptable at this level.
“All those things actually got balanced when we started batting,” Mir said, rationalising the fielding errors. “The way Nahida and Javeria were batting, they were in control. But definitely, the fielding can improve. The ground was wet and the shots were harder as compared to shots we played. But that’s no excuse. We need to stop those boundaries. In the end, the kind of potential we have seen in our batting; if the message would have gone from us (to take the Power Play), then the result could have been different.”
Pakistan will now play against Sri Lanka in its last league game as both sides try to avoid finishing bottom, but things could have been different had it defended 206 against South Africa in the opening game. It pulled the game back through its spinners spectacularly before Kainat Imtiaz conceded three fours in the 49th over to allow South Africa to pull off a three-wicket win.
“If you can start well against a big team, then the morale goes somewhere else. We have seen in this tournament in the way South Africa now is producing good performances building on the confidence of the first match. It adds up,” Mir felt. “I have led this team in many World Cups, but the way this lot has got back in every match, especially with the ball, restricting India to 169 after being smacked for 377 against England, the character and resilience shown in coming back again and again.
“We are No. 8 and it is not easy to consistently knock big teams. The attitude was good with bowling and fielding, but our batting struggled,” she added. “We have had positives, but consistent negatives is something that has been very concerning. Today the batters showed character as they were under pressure for not having scored through the tournament, and it is important for the morale of the team.”