Australia survive Renuka Singh Thakur’s spell to take CWG 2022 opener

Australia won CWG 2022 opening game © Getty Images

Australia survived an excellent spell from Renuka Singh Thakur to beat India in a thriller in the opening fixture of the Commonwealth Games 2022 cricket competition on Friday (July 29). Jess Jonassen was the star with the ball, while Ashleigh Gardner played a match-winning knock and she was helped by a brutal cameo from Grace Harris. Earlier at Edgbaston, India were powered by a captain’s knock from Harmanpreet Kaur as they posted 154 runs on the board.

Shafali’s luck and audacity

Opting to bat first, it was Smriti Mandhana who played the role of the aggressor early on in the innings, as she had the bulk of the strike. But after getting two boundaries off Darcie Brown, the southpaw went for a waft outside off stump and was caught behind to become Alyssa Healy’s 100th victim in T20Is – the first wicket-keeper to achieve the feat in the format.

Post Mandhana’s dismissal, Verma took on the bowlers with some assistance from the Australia fielders. After glancing Alana King to fine-leg, she hit Tahlia McGrath for three consecutive boundaries. Healy missed a stumping in the same over before some confusion between the fielders allowed Verma to survive a possible catch.

Post Mandhana and Yastika Bhatia’s dismissals, Kaur joined Verma and got going straight away. After the India captain started with two early boundaries, Verma took on Brown to hit three consecutive fours against her as well. However, she fell to a good leg side catch and a review by Healy. It was Verma’s seventh score between 46 and 48 from just 34 innings.

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Captain Kaur

Having started her innings with two early boundaries, the wicket of Verma made Kaur a little bit circumspect. But she pulled out her trademark sweeps from time to time and she also cut Gardner through point. She didn’t let the dismissals of Jemimah Rodrigues and Deepti Sharma to Jess Jonassen in quick succession affect her and controlled the proceedings in the last four overs.

In the 17th over, Kaur slog swept Megan Schutt through mid-wicket for a boundary before hitting Alana King for two more fours. India skipper ended the penultimate over with a huge six off Jonassen. She got to her seventh fifty with another sweep in the final over.

India eventually finished on 154 for 8 from their 20 overs with Kaur scoring 52 off 34. For Australia, Jonassen was the pick of the bowlers with four wickets.

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Thakur’s dream spell

In order to defend 154, India needed their inexperienced pacers to give them a good start. And Thakur gave them more than that. With the third ball of the opening over, she got the ball to slightly go away and Healy edged it to Sharma at first-slip.

Thakur then got Meg Lanning on the cut as she was caught by Radha Yadav at point. Beth Mooney chopped one on to the stumps after getting hit on the pad before. But she reserved her best for the in-form McGrath, who started with three boundaries off Rajeshwari Gayakwad. Thakur got the ball to swing in sharply to castle the allrounder to leave Australia reeling at 34 for 4.

Thakur bowled her four overs in a continuous spell and eventually finished with 4 for 18 from her four overs.

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Harris mayhem and sedate Gardner get Australia back on track

Walking in at 49 for 5, Harris kept going for her shots from the get go in her first batting innings on her return. She took on the left-arm spinners in an ultra-aggressive cameo with Gardner playing the sedate role. By the time an excellent catch from Kaur ended her innings, she had scored 37 off just 20 balls.

Once Harris went, Gardner took over despite losing Jonassen also at the other end. From 110 for 7, she got found good company in King. The leg spinner took on Meghna Singh, hitting her for 15 runs in the 17th over to reduce the target to 21 off the last three overs.

Yadav also went for runs in the next over, with Gardner bringing up her fifty. From there, it was just a matter of time and Australia got home with an over to spare to end the whirlwind day.

Brief Scores: India 154/8 in 20 overs (Harmanpreet Kaur 52, Shafali Verma 48; Jess Jonassen 4/22) lost to Australia 157/7 in 19 overs (Ashleigh Gardner 52*, Grace Harris 37; Renuka Singh Thakur 4/18) by 3 wickets