An embarrassing 138-run loss to Sri Lanka ensured that hosts India were knocked out of the ICC Women's World Cup at the Brabourne stadium in Mumbai. It was also the first time Sri Lanka have beaten India in 18 ODI encounters.
The Indians, who allowed four Sri Lanka batters to score half-centuries, were out for just 144 runs in 42.2 overs. It was a match where India could have gone through despite losing --- but they needed to score at least 251 runs to ensure their passage to the Super Six on account of a better net run-rate.
But they made a disastrous start to their run-chase as Eshani Kaushalya trapped Poonam Raut LBW in the third over. It was up to skipper Mithali Raj and Thirush Kamini to stabilise the innings and the two patiently forged a 31-run partnership before the wickets started falling.
It looked like Mithali Raj would finally click in the tournament when she scored a couple of lovely drives through the offside which raced away to the fence. But Udeshika Prabodhani sent her back to the pavilion (LBW) and Harmanpreet Kaur (0), Kamini (22) and Karuna Jain (8) quickly followed--leaving India reeling at 69-5 after 21.3 overs.
Hard-hitter Jhulan Goswami and Reema Malhotra tried to salvage India's fate, but the pressure was growing with every dot ball. Jhulan was soon caught at short mid-wicket and that signalled the end of any hopes India had of advancing to the next stage of the tournament.
Malhotra, whose direct hit had dismissed Siriwardene was herself run-out after scoring 38 runs-- the highest for India on the day. With no able batters remaining, Sri Lanka had no trouble dismissing Amita Sharma, Ekta Bisht and Shubhlakhsmi Sharma.
Such was the team effort on the pitch that by the time India had folded, every Sri Lankan bowler had taken at least one wicket.
Earlier, a combined effort from Sri Lanka's batters helped them post 282-5 against an Indian bowling line-up missing one of their best bowlers in the form of Nagarajan Nilanjana.
India had a fine start, dismissing Chamari Atapattu on just the fifth ball of the day but Deepika Rasangika and Yasoda Mendis led the recovery with a 117-run partnership. Rasangika missed out on what would have been a fine century but managed to do most of the damage with 84 runs (109 balls, 11x4).
Rasangika's wicket did not stop the run-flow, with skipper Shashikala Siriwardene and Mendis both scoring fifties. The captain scored at a brisk rate, making 59 runs (67 balls, 6x4) before being run out by Reema Malhotra's direct-hit.
But it was Eshani Kaushalya's incredible knock of 56 runs (not out) from 31 balls that should be credited for taking the match out of India's hands. Her innings consisted of six fours and three sixes.
India will now play Pakistan in the seventh place playoff.
After the match, Indian skipper Mithali Raj said that she did not expect Sri Lanka to set a 283-run target. Click here for a detailed report on her post-match reaction.
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