On 8 March, Harmanpreet Kaur-led India women’s cricket team will set their sights on lifting their first-ever ICC T20 World Cup trophy when they lock horns with hosts and defending champions Australia at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in the tournament’s final.
The two teams, drawn together in Group A for the tournament, had met in the very first match of the current edition on 21 February and while the Women in Blue have remained unbeaten so far, the opening game loss remains the only defeat for Meg Lanning’s Aussies.
The Aussies were dealt with a huge blow midway through the tournament when Ellyse Perry hobbled off the field during their clash against New Zealand after picking up a hamstring injury.
The hosts, sans Perry, then went onto edge South Africa by five runs via the Duckworth Lewis method in a contest where the ghosts of the 1992 men’s 50 over World Cup returned to haunt the South African women.
India, meanwhile, faced stiff competition against the Kiwis, the only team to have given some fight against Harmanpreet’s side. Their semi-final clash against Heather Knight’s England, however, was called off due to rain and as a result, they made their way to the final on virtue of ending up as group winners.
With the finale just two days away, let’s take a look at India’s road to final:
Bowlers seal the game for India against Australia
Australia won the toss in the tournament’s opening clash and put India to bat on a sluggish surface. As a result, India managed 46 runs in the powerplay but were reduced to 100-4 by the 16th over, thanks to an impressive bowling display from Jess Jonasson. However, with the likes of Shafali Verma (29), Smriti Mandhana (10) and Jemimah Rodrigues (26) failing to capitalise on their starts, Deepti Sharma came to the Women in Blue’s rescue with an unbeaten knock of 49, leading the visitors to 132-4.
In reply, Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney got the Aussies off to promising starts, but Mooney departed in the sixth over courtesy a back of a length ball from Shikha Pandey.
Healy (51) and Ashleigh Gardner (34) were the only Aussie batters who produced an outcome, with the rest of the team collapsing for single figures.
From being in a potentially winnable position at 67-3 in the 10th over to losing seven wickets in the span of the last 10 overs, with Poonam Yadav (4/19) doing the damage along with Shikha Pandey (3/14) as India opened their campaign with a 17-run win.
Brief scores: India 132-4 from 20 overs ( Deepti Sharma 49*; Jess Jonassen 2/24) beat Australia 115 all out (Alyssa Healy 51; Poonam Yadav 4/19)
India’s bowling display impresses against Bangladesh
The Indian bowlers once again stole the show in their second group game against Bangladesh. India were dealt with a blow before the game, with Smriti Mandhana being forced out due to viral fever and they replaced her with 16-year-old Richa Ghosh. Wicket-keeper Taniya Bhatiya opened the batting with Shafali Verma.
Taniya was dismissed early for after scoring two, but Shafali made an impact by scoring 39 off just 17 balls.
Jemimah (34), too, looked promising at the crease but a run-out cost her innings dearly
India’s middle-order problems resurfaced, with captain Harmanpreet and all-rounder Deepti Sharma failing to go big. Veda Krishnamurthy came to the rescue with a cameo of 20 off 11 balls to lead India to 142-6.
India then got off to a dream start with Shikha Pandey seeing off Shamima Sultana in the second over.
However, Bangladesh regained momentum in the match with Sanjida Islam and Mushida Khatun building a 39-run stand, and just when things were going in their favour, Arundhati removed Khatun in the eighth over. The pendulum swung to India’s side with Poonam Yadav continuing her impressive display with figures of 3-18. Shikha Pandey and Arundhati finished with two wickets each, while Rajeshwari Gayakwad picked the wicket of Nigar Sultana (35) as India completed an 18-run victory.
Brief scores: India 142/6 from 20 overs (Shafali Verma 39, Jemimah Ridrigues 34; Panna Ghosh 2/25) beat Bangladesh 124/8 from 20 overs (Murshida Khatun 30, Nigar Sultana (35; Poonam Yadav 3-18)
Nervy India overcome Kiwi scare
India overcame a scare against Amelia Kerr and New Zealand. The Kiwis won the toss and put India to bat. Mandhana returned to action, but was dismissed early for 11 by Lea Tahuhu. However, Shafali remained calm and played a gritty knock of 46 as she built a crucial 51-run stand with Taniya Bhatia.
However, the biggest moment came for the Kiwis when Kerr dismissed Shafali in the 14th over, who went for a maximum towards long-off but found Hayley Jenson. New Zealand bowlers' splendid show in the second half of the first innings meant that India finished at 133-8.
In the chase, New Zealand were restricted to 77-4 inside 14 overs, with Shikha, Poonam Yadav, Deepti Sharma and Rajeshwari Gayakwad picking a wicket each. Then came Amelia Kerr (34), who showed courage and determination to build a 40-run stand with Hayley Jenson for the sixth wicket.
The Kiwis needed 16 off the last over. Shikha Pandey's first ball resulted in a four thanks to Jenson's thick inside edge. With nine runs needed from final two balls, Amelia Kerr came up with the scoop, which went past the short third man for another boundary.
In the final delivery, Pandey unleashed a yorker as Kerr tried the scoop again. The ball hit the pad and the duo go for the double but Jenson ends up being run out. India sealed a semi-final berth with narrow three-run victory.
Brief scores: India 133-8 from 20 overs (Shafali Verma 46; Amelia Kerr 2/21) beat New Zealand 130-6 from 20 overs (Amelia Kerr 34; Shikha Pandey 1/21).
India ease past Sri Lanka
The Indian bowlers continued their impressive show in the tournament with yet another top-notch display. Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat, but it proved to be the wrong decision as Deepti Sharma struck early to remove opener Umesha Thimashini. Only a 24-ball 33 from skipper Chamari Attapattu proved worthy for the Lankans as they were restricted to 113-9 from 20 overs.
Spinners dominated the show for India, with Radha Yadav picking up four wickets.
Shafali Verma continued her good form with another impressive display, scoring 47 runs before getting run out in the 10th over. Mandhana (17) and Harmanpreet (15) disappointed yet again, but Jemimah and Deepti (Both 15 not out) ensured that India crossed the finish line with more than five overs to spare. Most importantly, India finished the group stage unbeaten.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 113-9 from 20 overs (Attapattu 33; Radha Yadav 4/23) lost to India 116-3 from 14.4 overs (Shafali Verma 47).
India vs England, 1st semi-final
Rain played spoilsport in the first semi-final between India and England at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and the match was eventually abandoned without a ball being bowled. This meant that India went through to the final on the virtue of ending up as group winners. England captain Heather Knight expressed disappointment after not getting a reserve day for the knockout stage, hoping that the ICC will change rules.
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