India put their desired ‘killing stance’ under pressure as they delivered a relentless performance to defeat arch-rivals Pakistan by eight wickets and boost their chances of a semi-final spot at the Commonwealth Games in Edgbaston, Birmingham on Sunday. Pakistan’s decision to bat first backfired when Indian bowlers choked the batters to throw them out for a paltry 99 all-out in the 18 overs-a-side game after rain delayed the start of play. Spinners Sneh Rana and Radha Yadav stood out with two wickets each.
The chase was also clinical with Smriti Mandhana (63 off 42 balls), arguably the most attractive batter in women’s cricket, showing off her streak of strokes en route to a nice undefeated half-century. As a result, India shot down the target in just 11.4 overs.
India showed an approach that they have tried to play with in recent months and it would certainly have satisfied captain Harmanpreet Kaur.
Mandhana’s special effort consisted of three sixes, including an exit hit from spinner Tuba Hassan for her half-century. A seemingly effortless loft over cover from pacer Diana Baig in the third over was also of the highest quality.
It was the second time this year that an Indo-Pak match failed to deliver a close game, with India comfortably beating their opponents even in the 50-over World Cup in New Zealand.
However, the highly anticipated Commonwealth Games match lived up to the hype off the pitch with fans showing up in large numbers at Edgbaston.
Occasional showers delayed the start of the game by 45 minutes, reducing the game to 18 overs per side.
Compared to the women’s cricket opener between India and Australia, fans flocked to the 25,000-capacity stadium, although it didn’t seem to be sold out.
The city is home to a large Indian and Pakistani diaspora, but the former had a greater presence in the stands with the Indian flags visible from all parts of the ground.
Dance numbers by Punjabi star Diljit Dosanjh added to the atmosphere and it felt like the match was taking place in Mohali and not Birmingham.
Normally you would have to pay a fortune for an Indo-Pak cricket match, but the Sunday morning match offered a much cheaper alternative.
“I paid £20 for the ticket. For a men’s match I might not even get it for £200. It feels lucky to be here,” said Rajeev Chauhan, who lives in Coventry.
The Indian fans certainly got their money’s worth in the first half of the match.
Renuka Singh, who cast a dream spell in a lost case against Australia, started with a rare virgin in the T20 format.
Three balls later, Pakistan was one run down with no runs on the board when pacer Meghna Singh caused an outside edge on opener Iram Javed’s bat with a ball that shaped away.
Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur went into the playing eleven for the extra all-rounder and brought in Sneh Rana at the expense of spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad. Batter S Meghana, who joined the team here late after recovering from COVID, was admitted to Harleen Deol’s place.
Rana made an immediate impression by removing a well-placed Muneeba Ali (32) and Pakistani skipper Bismah Maroof (17).
Muneeba played some daring strokes in her 30-ball attempt, including a six with a slog sweep from Meghna. Maroof perished while trying to sweep, while Muneeba was beaten by flight and offered a catch to Rana.
Renuka made it 64 for four in the 12th by losing Ayesha Nadeem.
Even India opener Shafali Verma rolled her arm over and took a wicket from a sharp return catch.
Pakistan tried but couldn’t break free and ended up with a subpar total.
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