India get first Commonwealth Games win after smashing Mandhana fifty

Smriti Mandhana smashed a fifty for India in no time. © Getty Images

Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma flexed their muscles as India registered a dominant eight-wicket win over Pakistan at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Sunday (July 31). The win is India’s first in the Commonwealth Games, while Pakistan suffered their second successive loss. The match was shortened to 18 overs as the start of play was delayed by a persistent drizzle in the lead up to the match.

Muneeba all intent

With rain in the air and overcast conditions, there was swing on offer and Muneeba Ali struggled to put bat to ball. She was down the pitch early to try and put Thakur off her length but there was no change in fortunes for her.

Iram Javed had fallen for a first ball duck against Barbados after feathering a catch to the wicketkeeper. She lasted only two extra balls here, falling for a duck yet again to Meghana Singh who bowled a perfect outswinger, while also moving her line closer to off stump.

With two lefthanders at the crease, Deepti Sharma got a go early in the Powerplay and her tight first over only increased the pressure on Pakistan.

Pakistan failed to score a single boundary in the first four overs but Muneeba made use of the crease to first open up the off side and then slogged one over midwicket to put some pressure on Thakur with back to back boundaries in the fifth over.

Those were the only two boundaries they scored till the eighth over where Muneeba swung Meghna over the midwicket fence for a six after edging a short ball over the wicket-keeper for four.

Déjà vu from Sneh Rana

Muneeba put on a fifty run partnership with captain Bismah Maroof, who fed her most of the strike by running well between the wickets, but both of them fell in the same over to Sneh Rana, who replaced Rajeshwari Gayakwad in the XI.

Bismah fell for 17 off 19 balls after failing to get on top of a sweep to be dismissed LBW, while Muneeba’s threatening innings ended at 32 as she she tamely lobbed a catch back to Rana after being deceived in the flight.

Rana had made the decisive intervention for India against Pakistan in the ODI World Cup earlier this year and she completely sucked the momentum out of the Pakistan innings here as well, giving away just 15 runs in her four overs and getting the two set batters out.

The dot ball pressure started to tell and the young Ayesha Naseem fell for 10 after holing out to midwicket off Thakur in a bid to up the boundary rate.

Shafali the death bowler

With both Meghna and Radha Yadav proving expensive, India captain Harmanpreet Kaur threw the ball to Shafali Verma in the 15th over and she made an immediate impact by first running Omaima Sohail out for ten and then dismissing Fatima Sana with a diving return catch off her own bowling in the 17th over, giving away just eight runs in her two overs as Pakistan were bowled out for 99 after losing three wickets to run outs.

A flurry of boundaries

India’s opening pair of Smriti Mandhana and Shafali came out all guns blazing in the chase. Diana Baig bowled a tight first over but Mandhana launched Anam Amin over the long on boundary when she erred on the fuller side.

Mandhana frequently used her feet against both Anam and Baig and the bowlers were hit off their length. Shafali also cashed in whenever the bowlers erred on the fuller side as the duo brought up their fifty partnership in just 29 balls.

Tuba Hassan’s introduction just slowed the scoring rate down and she struck in her very first over after getting hit for two boundaries as Shafali could only edge a cut to Muneeba to depart for a quickfire 16 off just nine balls, who did well to hold on.

There was no let up from Mandhana though as she got to her fifty after dancing down the track and launching another six down the ground. After frequently stepping out to mess with the lengths, Mandhana also did well to hang back and use the depth of the crease to score a few boundaries behind square on the off side.

Such was Mandhana’s dominance, who finished unbeaten on 63* from just 43 balls that none of Pakistan’s bowlers conceded less than six runs an over. S Meghana, who replaced Harleen Deol as India’s other change to the playing XI, failed to make the most of another opportunity to bat in the top three as she was dismissed for just 14 off 16 balls.

India will take on Barbados in their final group stage match, while Pakistan will face World Champions Australia in their last match in Group A.

Brief scores: Pakistan 99/ 10 in 18 overs (Muneeba Ali 32; Sneh Rana 2/15, Radha Yadav 2/18) lost to India 102/2 in 11.4 overs (Smriti Mandhana 63*; Tuba Hassan 1/18) by eight wickets