Half-centuries from senior trio take India home in the final ODI before World Cup
Smriti Mamdhana, Harmanpreet Kaur and Mithali Raj © Getty Images
Half-centuries from Smriti Mandhana, Harmanpreet Kaur, and captain Mithali Raj propelled India to a six-wicket victory against New Zealand at John Davies Oval in Queenstown on Thursday (February 24). India's spin unit bowled 38 overs as the hosts took the series 4-1. Amelia Kerr continued her 'purple patch' with yet another half-century, but for the first time in the series, it was not enough for New Zealand.
Chasing 252 for their first win of the tour, India opened with the familiar opening pair of Mandhana and Shafali Verma. Mandhana survived a swinging delievery from Hayley Jensen in the very first over and ended it with a lovely clip-off the pads to get India’s chase away. While Mandhana got off to a good start, Verma struggled, and that brought up her wicket in the fifth over. Lauren Down took a stunning catch at the backward-point to send Verma back. Unfortunately, she injured her right thumb and had to leave the field as well.
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India promoted Deepti Sharma to three and she started with a cracking backfoot punch for four. New Zealand missed their lines and lengths and offered many extras which in turn helped the left-handed pair settle down. India were in a strong position as they amassed 53 runs off the power play. Sophie Devine’s efforts to curtail the run rate with the pace were fruitless with Rosemary Mair getting hit for 12 runs off her first over.
While Mandhana was picking the gaps to perfection, Sharma played the role of the second fiddle. The pair brought up the partnership of 50 runs, making most of the dropped chances from New Zealand fielders. Sharma finally ran out of luck and she was caught at a backward-point for 21 by Mair. With Kaur at four, Devine introduced Amelia Kerr in the 19th over but, Mandhana swept her hard to bring her 20th ODI half-century.
Kaur soon found her groove back as she hit young Fran Jonas for a massive six over deep mid-wicket. The right-hander batter got a life when she was dropped by Suzie Bates 19 and she brushed that aside by hitting two back-to-back sixes in the same Mackay over. When it looked like India had found the rhythm, Mandhana was caught by Bates off Kerr, who broke the vital partnership of 64 runs.
Raj walked in at five when India needed 99 runs off 21 overs. The two white-ball captains combined to keep the run rate going. The pair went after Jonas and played smartly against Kerr. Devine introduced herself in the 37th over but that only delayed the inevitable. Kaur announced a return to the form with a fine half-century off 58 balls. She could not see her side through as Amy Satterthwaite took a fine catch as the allrounder skied one trying to go after Hannah Rowe.
It was left to Raj and Richa Ghosh to finish off the chase for India. The skipper remained unbeaten while scoring her 62nd half-century and led the team to a six-wicket victory to deny the hosts a whitewash.
After opting to bat first, New Zealand raced to 26 in four overs before losing Suzie Bates for 17. Meghna Singh gave India the first breakthrough as Bates missed a whip and was trapped in front. Run-machine Kerr joined Devine at three and started her innings with a cracking pull shot against Jhulan Goswami. After an early blow, the hosts got through the power play unscathed and were 49 for one by the end of it.
Immediately after the end of the power play, India introduced the left-arm spin of Rajeshwari Gayakwad. Devine welcomed her to the crease with a massive six over deep mid-wicket. India continued with spin from the other end as Sharma tried to control the flow of runs. Gayakwad was taken out of the attack after two overs as she conceded 23 runs off it. The spin strategy continued for India, as Raj replaced Gayakwad with the off-spin of Sneh Rana.
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Rana-Sharma partnership tightened the screws and boundaries were not coming off at all. The pressure kept building and finally paid off with a wicket of Devine. The frustrated New Zealand captain tried to go over cover only to find a top edge. Gayakwad took an excellent diving catch at point to end the partnership of 68 runs. By the end of the 20th over New Zealand were 102 for 2.
Rana was particularly impressive in her first spell as she bowled five overs and gave away only 13 runs. India continued to trust their spin strength and it reaped its results with Satterthwaite losing her wicket to Sharma for 17. Meanwhile, Kerr continued her extraordinary form with the bat and brought up her fourth consecutive 50+ score of the series off 60 balls. That joy didn’t last for long as she was dismissed shortly by Sharma trying to up the scoring rate.
Lauren Down and Katey Martin tried to manufacture a partnership, with the former going after Goswami for a whopping six over the bowler's head. Their partnership of 38 runs proved to be the last hope for New Zealand as they couldn’t build any substantial partnership after that. Indian spinners continued to chip away with wickets as New Zealand added 57 runs in the final ten overs and lost nine wickets.
Indian spin quartet took seven wickets amongst themselves and New Zealand finished with 251 for nine in the first innings. Apart from the performance of the bowlers, tidy fielding efforts were the highlight of India’s bowling innings.
Brief Scores: New Zealand: 251/9 in 50 Overs (Amelia Kerr 66, Sophie Devine 34; Sneh Rana 2/40) lost to India: 252/4 in 46 Overs (Smriti Mandhana 71, Harmanpreet Kaur 63; Hayley Jensen 1/29) by six wickets.