The graceful Smriti Mandhana once again enhanced her reputation as one of India’s greatest match winners with an attractive 91 that literally decimated England by seven wickets in the opening WODI here on Sunday. Harmanpreet Kaur won a good toss and veteran Indian pacemaker Jhulan Goswami was personified with 42 dot balls in one of her last international matches when England managed a sub-par 227 for seven, thanks in large part to lower-middle-class efforts. India never ran into trouble during the chase as Mandhana (91 from 99 balls) literally drove her way and made her way before missing a creditable sixth WODI hundred by nine runs.
But by the time she was fired, Mandhana secured a 45th over finish for the Women In Blue, who are now leading 1-0 in the three-game series.
Failing to do justice to her enormous talent, Yastika Bhatia (50 from 47 balls) also improved her third half century, scoring with more than run-a-ball strike rate.
Yastika-Mandhana’s second wicket score of 96 in just 16.1 overs set the stage and then Harmanpreet (74 not out in 94 balls) made her way to another fifty as she added 99 runs with her substitute and then finished it off in style with a slog sweep six.
Mandhana’s innings had 10 fours and a nice six over long-on-off seamer Issy Wong.
While both Yastika and Mandhana rode majestically through the covers during the Powerplay, the Indian vice-captain also played plenty of pull shots with English bowlers drifting down the legs.
It must be said that Harmanpreet read the conditions at the County Ground in Hove much better than her English counterpart Amy Jones.
While Indian spinners Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Deepti Sharma varied the pace of their deliveries to make stroke play difficult, English sailors were Kate Cross (2/43 in 10 overs), Alice Davidson-Jones (0/48 in 7.2 overs) , Wong (0/35 in 5 overs) along with off-spinner Charlie Dean (1/45 in 10 overs) let the visiting team’s batters use the pace of their pitches to score runs behind the square.
In the first 15 overs, India hit 13 fours and a six (by Yastika) and it was all over for England.
Previously, Goswami, the 39-year-old legend, was thrifty, conceding just 20 runs in 10 overs with a whopping 42 dot balls.
She didn’t concede a line or six and also threw a fine off-cutter to get rid of the seasoned Tammy Beaumont (7).
On a course where the ball didn’t always reach the bat, India captain Harmanpreet Kaur did the right thing by choosing to field.
After Sear Meghna Singh (1/42 in 8 overs) rushed the other opener Emma Lamb (12) with a short ball, Goswami and the two spinners Deepti (2/33 in 10 overs) and Gayakwad (1/40 in 10 overs) choked the run flow consistently.
However, Sneh Rana (1/45 in 6 overs) and Pooja Vastrakar (0/20 in 2 overs) leaked a few runs along with Meghna as the home side eventually scored 220 plus.
Dani Wyatt (43 out of 50 balls), Alice Davidson-Richards (50 not out of 61 balls) and Sophie Ecclestone (31) were the notable contributors for England.
Even Charlie Dean played a nice cameo (24 none out of 21 balls) towards the end to bolster the goal.
Harmanpreet will be a little disappointed that despite England being on the mat 128 for 6 to 34th left, England’s Nos 7, 8 and 9 added over 100 runs to give the total some respectability.
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