India’s semifinal prospects suffered a massive setback after Australia cantered to a convincing eight-wicket win, riding on a superb batting show by their top-order in the ICC Women’s World Cup.
Put into bat, opener Punam Raut’s fighting century and a 69 from record-breaking skipper Mithali Raj enabled India to post a decent 226 for seven in their sixth group league encounter.
Australia overhauled the target with 29 balls to spare, scoring 227 for two, courtesy some fine batting by skipper Meg Lanning (76 not out) and Ellyse Perry (60 not out).
Beth Mooney (45) and Nicole Bolton (36) laid the foundation with a 62-run opening partnership in 15.4 overs.
Mithali said at the post-match presentation ceremony, “It was a decent total after losing our first wicket in the first couple of overs. We should have got more runs in the middle overs, but it was still a competitive total. But the bowlers didn’t look penetrative, it was a slow wicket.”
After this loss, India are now placed at the fourth spot with eight points. They will have to win its next and final league match against New Zealand to make the knockout stage.
“Even for New Zealand, probably, it will be a do-or-die match. If we look forward to qualifying, we really need to upgrade our quality of cricket.”
Mooney and Bolton made a watchful start to their innings as Indian pacers Jhulan Goswami and Deepti Sharma bowled maiden overs first up.
Left-arm spinner Ekta Bisht was introduced into the attack and Bolton exploded with three back-to-back fours.
Mooney and Bolton helped Australia score 57 in the first 15 overs before the latter was sent packing by Poonam Yadav in the next over.
Mooney then blasted a couple of fours off Sharma in the next over, while new batswoman Lanning too joined the party with a clean strike over Yadav’s head and then hitting one over mid-off as Australia reached 82 for one.
The duo brought up the hundred in the 23rd over, but Mooney was run-out with Deepti producing a brilliant fielding at short extra-cover.
Perry then joined Lanning and the took the ones and twos and occasional boundaries to keep the scoreboard ticking. They brought up the 150 when Perry bisected the deep mid-wicket and long-on with a boundary in the 32nd over.
In the first ball of the 35th over, Lanning picked up a single off Goswami to complete her fifty. The duo continued to rotate the strike and crossed the 200-mark in the 41st over.
Perry, who completed her 22nd ODI fifty, cracked a straight drive off Goswami to bring up the winning runs.
“We’ve come into this World Cup looking to win it, just like every other team. There’s been some very good cricket played, and every game from here on is going to be high- quality,” Lanning said.
Earlier, Raut (106, 136 balls) and Mithali (69, 114 balls) added 157 runs for the second wicket but they consumed more than 37 overs in the process.
The highlight of India innings was Mithali surpassing former England captain Charlotte Edwards’ aggregate of 5992 runs to become the highest run-getter in the history of women’s ODI.
En route her 49th ODI half-century, she also became the first batswoman to reach the individual milestone of 6000 runs.
Talking about the milestone, Mithali said: “I think that since I’ve had a long career, (the milestone) is part of it. It’s very important for me to get runs for my country from my bat. I can say I’m happy even though I’m not happy in terms of the result or the way I scored them today.”
Pint-sized Punam, who hit 11 fours, played confidently against the spinners. Mithali, however, was very slow off the blocks even though her innings had four boundaries and a six.
She simply couldn’t find the gaps as the dot balls kept on piling. The only time she tried chancing her arms was when she lofted Beans for a six to complete 6000 runs.
Once Mithali was out, Harmanpreet Kaur (23, 22 balls) tried to get to move on but after she was dismissed, the Indians couldn’t accelerate in the final overs.
Feature image: ICC