Indian Women’s Cricket – India women’s cricket team lose to New Zealand in first ODI

Skipper Mithali Raj’s well-crafted half-century went in vain as Indian batting failed yet again and the visitors lost their first WODI to New Zealand on Saturday by 62 runs.

Indian Women’s Cricket

Indian Women's Cricket

Choosing to bowl, New Zealand bowled off a century from Suzie Bates (106 off 111 balls) to score a challenging 275, with India all out in the last over for 213 in 49.4 overs and never seemed be in pursuit.

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39-year-old Mithali, playing her 221st ODI, continued her dream form in the format – seven fifties in her last 11 ODI innings – to keep India in the hunt with a 73-ball 59 (6×4).

The Indian women’s team in their latest ODI recorded their highest ever chase since the 265 set by the Australians in September last year, a victory which ended their rivals’ 26 match match.

Mithali also joined Charlotte Edwards in scoring 1,000 runs against four different teams – Australia, England, Sri Lanka and New Zealand – in ODI cricket.

Mithali received excellent support from lefty Yastika Bhatia, who dropped to her usual seat of no.

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But she died to Hayley Jensen’s short ball (2/36), something which sparked India’s collapse before Jess Kerr sealed the deal for the hosts with a match-winning 4/35 as India collapsed to 213 in 49.4 overs to follow by five – ODI series match 0-1.

India also paid the price for Harmanpreet Kaur’s poor form as she came fresh from her exploits in the Big Bash where she was adjudged the ‘Player of the Tournament’ she failed to die by 10 out of 22 balls .

He last scored 50 in March 2021 against South Africa, as his last five innings have been a measly 10, 16, 19, 1, 30 not out, painting a grim picture for India ahead of the World Cup which starts here on March 4th.

Indian Women's Cricket

The absence of their star Smriti Mandhan, who is serving his extended controlled isolation and quarantine, has once again severely hurt India, especially in their quest for a record 275.

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There was no longer a left-right opening combination with southpaw Yastik Bhatia dropping to his usual No. 3, while Meghana partnered Shafali Verma in the offense.

Rewarded for her impressive T20I outing (30 balls 37 in the 4th over) the other day, Meghana was alert early on as India’s chase got underway with a 12 ball, thanks to early overs from Tahuhu and Jess Kerr.

Her wobbly deliveries (four off 14 balls) finally ended in the fifth over after she slipped one when Shafali (12 off 16b) grew impatient to lose her entire off stump to be trapped lbw soft.

Wicketkeeper batsman Richa Ghosh made a cameo with a 22 off 27 balls, but following her precision dismissal, India’s run collapsed.

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Previously New Zealand were eyeing a score of over 300 with veteran Suzie Bates’ sparkling 11th ODI century but India came back strongly taking the last five wickets for 25 runs to group them for 275 in 48.1 overs.

Suzie capitalized on the reprieve she got on 14 when she was dropped by Rajeshwari Gayakwad as Pooja Vastrakar bowled to score a stunning 106 from 111 balls, interspersed with 10 bounds.

Suzie hit her 38th fifty in 66 balls, her first ODI half-century since January 2020 to match fellow White Ferns Debbie Hockley.

Indian Women's Cricket

Subsequently she recorded her hat-trick in 107 balls, with a single off Poonam Yadav, and in the next she made clear her intentions by pulling her back foot for a boundary against Deepti Sharma.

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Sometimes cheering a fighting performance in a lost cause is dangerous, because it hides many of its flaws. The combat shown is the very nature of the game you have to win. And Harmanpreet Kaur showed that struggle and that hunger and that last push. As the Indian women’s cricket team battled the dew, an in-form South African line-up and injury concerns, they lost sight of what was in front of them, a place in the World Cup semi-finals.

With the Protea fire burning bright at Hagley Oval with Mignon du Preez and Sune Luus putting together a partnership, the racing speed required hovered around the seven-run mark and all they needed was one run on each ball. With three spins turning the ball into two right corners, Mithali Raj awarded deep leg side to everyone.

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Since the beginning of the 40th year, India has been handing out singles and doubles with the same energy as educational institutes hand out sweets during Independence Day celebrations. In that span, more than 30 runs were scored in matches one and two in that region as the South African batsmen hardly ever felt the pressure on the board.

The captain’s job is not easy. It never happened. There is always the fear of not doing enough. But in Mithali’s situation, he had to decide if he needed protection behind the square on the side of the leg or in front. He could have a square leg back or a medium short wicket inside the circle. He wanted both players on the ropes and unfortunately that worked out for the chasing side.

But the Indian campaign cannot be reduced to this last phase. It was a tournament where they had championship stages, but looked mediocre as a unit at times.

Indian Women's Cricket

Shefali Verma had two ducks to start but Smriti Mandhana escaped with her lazy elegance. Even after winning their first few matches, that swing at the top was magnified against the hosts in match three as India lost to New Zealand. Mandhana and Kaur looked after West Indies with tons taking India to a huge first innings total. The top order collapsed once again in the game, this time against England who suffered their second defeat of the tournament.

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The loss to Australia may haunt them more. When both openers collapsed, Yastika Bhatia and Raj had to rebuild, which they did, but at a struggling strike pace. Kaur’s blitzkrieg eventually posted a competitive total, but it was never enough against an Australian side who always save their best for the World Cup.

The only game in which three of India’s top five hitters got over a hundred strike rate was against the West Indies. It was also the only time they posted over 300. In all other bouts, mostly Raj and everyone else except Verma and Kaur batted slow. After Jemimah Rodriguez was busted from the sideline, there was a serious void on the team in terms of quick scoring. Unfortunately, that empty space remained throughout this expedition.

Captain Raj dropped his seat on the White Fern. Then they made mistakes over and over again in that game. It was clear that the pitch is India’s weakest link in this World Cup. He failed against South Africa in a game where they couldn’t afford to be sloppy. Mistakes and missed tricks reduced their chances as the Proteas won the match in the last over.

For someone like Verma, whose level of skill is world class, he comes from a facility where fielding has long been on the back burner. Not only Verma, there are hundreds of girls playing cricket in India in the most remote districts where they are taught only batting and bowling. Modern cricket prioritizes fielding more than any other skill and it is time coaches and mentors working at grassroots level pay close attention to the same.

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(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion. The views expressed are the author’s and have nothing to do with the paper or the views of OTV. OTV assumes no responsibility for the same.)

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Indian Women's Cricket

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