From a winning position of 102 for 1 in the 12th over to bowled out for 136 in their chase of 159 in 20 overs, New Zealand registered a 23-run victory in the first T20I at Westpac Stadium, Wellington.
Mithali Raj again found herself out of the playing XI after India’s tragic end in the semi-final of ICC World T20 2018 against England. Mithali has scored 51 and 56 in her last two outings. After India’s 23 runs lost, T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur said Raj’s exclusion was “only” to give more chances to the youngsters in the team, keeping the 2020 World Cup in mind.
“Well, we are just looking to give chance to young girls,” Harmanpreet said. “We only have these three overseas games and after that, we are playing in more Indian conditions and I think that’s the only reason we’re giving chances to the young girls.”
However, Kaur praised the bowlers for their efforts.
“Bowlers did really well as this track was really good to bat on. We still restricted them to 159. But in the last 10 overs we didn’t bat well,” Harmanpreet Kaur said. “We need to improve our batting in the last 10 overs. That is the area we are always struggling. We need someone who can give us a good strike-rate when we are finishing the innings.”
Talking points of the match:
Smriti Mandhana’s ravishing form:
India’s left-hand opener Smriti Mandhana has been in a great form for the last year. Having smashed centuries in South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia, she has become a trump card of India in overseas. While playing against New Zealand during the first T20I match, she broke her own record of smashing half-century in 25 balls. Today she took 24 balls, the fastest ever T20I half-century by an Indian in Women’s Cricket.
She never looked under pressure while facing Lea Tahuhu while others were struggling. India are over-dependent on Mandhana we can say now. She got dismissed after scoring 58 off 34 and felt that she should have batted till the end and she should be more careful with shot selection.
“Tactically, the best option according to me is that I bat all through. But we will have a discussion about this and I feel it is better that one of the top batters bat through till the 18th over or so so that after that the rest can rally around them,” Smriti Mandhana said after the match. “You have to pick the areas and go for the correct shots. And when we had the run rate under control, under seven, my shot was a bad one to play.”
Lack of partnership in the middle-order:
India were flying high with the Mandhana-Rodrigues’ stormy innings. After Mithali Raj’s exclusion from the squad and Priya Punia made her debut, India were setting a core team for the next T20 World Cup in 2020. But Punia’s debut match didn’t go well as she fell for 4.
Soon, the situation got changed as Mandhana, along with Jemimah Rodrigues took the charge. Both started hitting all over the park. When they got their eyes in, it became difficult for the bowlers to get past them. Both added 98 runs for the second wicket and India reached 102 after 11.3 overs before Mandhana’s dismissal. Hannah Rowe took a well-judged catch at deep-cover and sent her in. Rodrigues was next to follow.
Apart from their innings and Harmanpreet Kaur’s 17 off 15, no other batter was able to reach the double-digit. In a chase of 160, India were bundled out within 136 as the middle and lower middle order batters were unable to carry the momentum till the end. Till the 12th over, the game was pretty much in India’s court as they were at 102/1 but a dismal batting performance under pressure from the middle and lower middle order caused their defeat.
“We were cruising till the 12th over, but in T20 there is always a chance of collapse and we have to be watchful from now on. I don’t think it’s a good idea to think much about the past and we will have to think about the next match,” said Mandhana.
At times, the team might felt the absence of experienced Mithali Raj; who has the ability to anchor the innings. Arguably one of the best batters in the world, Mithali, would have played the other way in the game.
An all-round performance from New Zealand:
Though New Zealand lost their opener, Suzie Bates, very early, another opener Sophie Devine took the anchor’s role. The winning foundation made by her at first. She and Caitlin Gurrey added 36 runs before the later got out for 15.
Then Devine made a partnership with the captain Amy Satterthwaite. Both added 69 runs before Devine’s dismissal. Later Katey Martin ensured that the team went past 150 marks. Her two sixes and one boundary helped her team to reach 159 after 20 overs.
Later, bowlers did the rest of the job. Apart from Mandhana-Rodrigues pair, no other batter troubled White Ferns. Lea Tahuhu was the most successful bowler and ended up taking three wickets for 20. Leigh Kasperek and Amelia Kerr bagged two wickets each while the other bowlers scalped one each. Seven of the last eight batters got dismissed within 33 runs.
With this win, White Ferns have taken an unassailable 1-0 lead in the three-match T20I series. Both the teams will face each other on Friday, February 6th.