Mandhana, spinners set up India's top finish


India Women finished unbeaten through the League stage, defeating Australia Women by 48 runs to top Group A. The victory was set up by some tremendous batting by Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur after India opted to bat – which took them to 167 – while the spinners, led by Deepti Sharma, delivered the goods in the second innings to bowl out the opposition for 119.

Partnered again with Taniya Bhatia, after an unwell Mithali Raj was kept out, it was Smriti who led India’s charge early on. Even as she saw her teammates – Bhatia and Jemimah Rodrigues – fall cheaply, Smriti kept up the run-rate in the powerplay singlehandedly. By the end of the first six overs, Smriti, lofting and cutting with aplomb, had raced to 37 off 22 balls in India’s 46.

India’s lack of runs at the other end was was nullified by the arrival of skipper Harmanpreet who seemed to have started straight on fourth gear. Taking over the role of the aggressor almost immediately, Harmanpreet lofted three clean sixes and struck as many boundaries in her 27-ball stay which yielded 43. The partnership of 67 for the fourth wicket saw India push towards a total that could have been near 180. However, with Harmanpreet’s dismissal, the onus was once again back on Smriti to score the bulk of the runs. While she managed to do the job for a while, registering her highest World T20 score of 83, regular wickets at the other end meant that Australia could restrict them to 167, with Elysse Perry picking up three in the wicket-glut.

Australia began the chase effectively with a wicket already lost. Wicketkeeper and opener Alyssa Healy had been ruled out of batting after getting into a collision with Megan Schutt in the penultimate over of the Indian innings. However, Australia still managed a brisk start through Beth Mooney and raced away to 27 in the first four overs.

India’s strength of spin, though, led the fightback once again, this time through Deepti’s offspin. In the fifth over, Deepti had both the openers off consecutive balls. While Villani swept to Veda Krishnamurthy, giving her her first of four catches, at deep midwicket, Mooney was out next ball bowled around her legs. With that, Australia’s innings was thrown into early disarray and one from which they would never recover from.

Meg Lanning, who had been kept quiet by the spinners’ tossed up wide outside off line, fell with the scoreboard pressure increasing. Her slogsweep was taken well by Veda at deep midwicket, leaving Australia in big trouble by the halfway stage, needing 111 more with effectively six wickets in hand.

Ellyse Perry kept the fight going with an unbeaten 39 but at no stage did India feel under threat from there on, as they kept their fielding energetic and catching safe throughout to get through to the semifinal on a high note.

Brief scores: India 167/8 (Smriti Mandhana 83, Harmanpreet Kaur 43; Ellyse Perry 3-16) beat Australia 119 (Ellyse Perry 39*; Anuja Patil 3-15) by 48 runs.

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