Bhatia, Verma, Goswami star as young and old combine to break Australia’s winning streak

Yastika Bhatia (L) and Shafali Verma © Getty Images

Invincibles of Australia scrapped so hard almost till the end, but finally found themselves at the wrong side of the result as their winning streak 26 matches came to a close with a thrilling loss in the third ODI in the multi-format series against India. And it took some team effort from visitors as they pulled off their highest successful to sneak home by two wickets with three balls to spare at the Great Barrier Reef Arena in Mackay on Sunday (September 26) . Poetically the winning shot came from the old hands of Jhulan Goswami after two young cubs – Shafali Verma and Yastika Bhatia – set up the chase with a century partnership before lower order rallied around to take the chase home.

Chasing 265 to win their first match of the series, India openers started positively with Verma hitting three early boundaries and was on 14 from her first 14 balls. With Australia being generous with the extras, the tourists raced to 25 runs from the first three overs.

In the eighth over, Smriti Mandhana drove Tahlia McGrath to find her first boundary before glancing Ellyse Perry through fine-leg for another as the opening duo got India over the fifty-run mark. Meanwhile, Verma was slowing down at the other end as Sophie Molineux bowled Australia’s first maiden over.

The slow down had an effect on Mandhana as she tried to take on the off-spin of Ashleigh Gardner. The left-hander edged the first ball of the 11th over for a four before she was caught superbly by Annabel Sutherland for 22.

At that moment, Bhatia joined Verma in the middle. With a collective experience of nine ODIs between them, the duo didn’t show any signs of nervousness in taking on the Australia bowlers. Bhatia was the aggressor with a sedate Verma playing the second fiddle. The 21-year-old left-hander lofted Gardner over mid-off for a four to start her innings.

Having scored only 23 off 56 balls, Verma drilled debutante Stella Campbell through mid-off for a four. Bhatia continued to look good against Gardner as she stepped down the track to hit another boundary. She also took on Nicola Carey with some deft touches through the off-side.

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Both the batters were on 49 when India brought up their 150 in the 27th over, Verma was the first to reach her maiden fifty from 86 balls with a single off Molineux and three balls later Bhatia joined the opener to get to her milestone from 56 balls.

Just when it looked like the young duo would take India deep into the chase, Molineux brought Australia back into the game as the left-arm spinner castled Verma for 56. The move to promote Richa Ghosh to number four failed as she walked back for a duck off Sutherland.

Bhatia continued her impressive stroke play with two more boundaries but was brilliantly caught by Molly Strano when she tried to take on Campbell with consecutive pulls with the second ball getting big on her.

Needing 79 runs from last 13 runs, the visitors were looking to Mithali Raj to take the chase home and although she found a maximum off Campbell, Sutherland struck twice to remove Pooja Vastrakar and the Indian captain in quick succession.

Deepti Sharma started promisingly with three boundaries and along with Sneh Rana took India closer in a hectic partnership with some close run out calls, missed catches and a reprieve for Rana off a no-ball. They added 33 runs for the eighth wicket to reduce the target to 24 off the last four overs.

Australia were in no mood to give up as McGrath removed Sharma 31 off 30 balls. However, Rana exuded confidence at the crease and played some inventive shots hitting McGrath for three consecutive boundaries. First, she scooped the allrounder over short fine-leg and then upper cut her to third before lofting one over mid-on.

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It came down to eight from the last two overs, there was another twist in the tale with Rana finding Hannah Darlington on the boundary for a well-made 30 off 27 balls. India got themselves into the history books as they broke the famous streak with Goswami thumping one down the ground for the winning runs.

Opting to bat, Australia got out of the blocks quickly with Rachael Haynes joining Alyssa Healy back at the top. The left-hander started with a boundary off the second ball with Goswami erring on the leg-side and she hit Meghna Singh through cover in the next over. But apart from those two boundaries, Haynes struggled to rotate the strike even as Healy found an edge through the slips to kickstart the innings. That got the wicketkeeper-batter going and she smashed Singh for four boundaries in five balls to take Australia’s score to 41 in eight overs.

However, having struggled to get Healy back on strike, Haynes took on Goswami and skied one to Verma mid-off for 13 off 28 balls. Soon, things got better for India as the pacer drew an edge from Meg Lanning with the Australian skipper getting caught behind for a duck.

From 41 for two, Australia’s momentum was halted with Perry taking her time – she got off the mark only in her ninth delivery – as India bowled three maiden overs in a row. Boundaries were dried up and only 21 runs came from overs nine to 17 before one straight drive from Perry from ricocheted off Rajeshwari Gayakwad’s hands to hit the stumps at the non-striking end with Healy finding herself short of the crease.

Fresh from her century in the second match, Beth Mooney also started slowly with the spinners Gayakwad and Rana keeping the batters in check. The stalemate was broken when Sharma was introduced into the attack in the 20th over as Perry hit the off-spinner through point for a boundary.

Perry’s innings eventually came to an end when she hit a wide half-volley from Vastrakar straight to Sharma at backward-point for 26 with the score reading 87 for four in 25 overs.

That brought Gardner to the crease and she steadied the Australian innings in the company of Mooney before taking on Singh over mid-off for a boundary. At the other end, Mooney received a reprieve with Singh dropping her at cover off Gayakwad.

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In the 36th over, Gardner found consecutive boundaries off Rana with the bowler over stepping with the first boundary off the over as the duo brought up their fifty partnership.

From there, Australia upped the ante to hit six fours and a six in the next five over phase. Mooney hit Rana for back-to-back fours while Gardner peppered Sharma through the leg-side for two fours.

Gardner reached to her run-a-ball fifty in style when she launched Rana over long-off and Mooney joined her two deliveries later with boundary through mid-wicket. But the southpaw got out in the next ball as she tried to sweep a fuller ball only to be bowled for 52.

With ten overs left to play in the innings, McGrath got into to act straight away as she swept Gayakwad for a four before opening the face to guide Rana through the off-side while Gardner hit another six through mid-wicket.

Post some fielding lapses, India finally found a breakthrough when Gardner found Raj at short fine-leg for 67 off 62. McGrath hit three more boundaries to take Australia over the 250-run mark and just as she was looking good for more, Vastrakar struck again to remove her for 47 off 32 balls. The hosts eventually finished on 264 for nine from their fifty overs.

For India, Goswami was the best bowler on display and she finished with figures of three for 37 while Vastrakar also picked up three wickets.

Brief Scores: Australia 264/9 in 50 overs (Ashleigh Gardner 67, Beth Mooney 52; Jhulan Goswami 3/37) lost to India 266/8 in 49.3 overs (Yastika Bhatia 64, Shafali Verma 56; Annabel Sutherland 3/30 by two wickets. POTM: Jhulan Goswami