Pooja Vastrakar and Sneh Rana's record partnership gives India winning start

Mohit Shah
06 Mar 2022
Pooja Vastrakar and Sneh Rana's record partnership gives India winning start

Pooja Vastrakar (L) and Sneh Rana © Getty Images

In ten previous matches between India and Pakistan in ODIs, India had always emerged victorious. They were also unbeaten in three previous matches against Pakistan at the ODI World Cup. After finding themselves in a spot of bother in the first innings, India were bailed out by Pooja Vastrakar and Sneh Rana’s record partnership before the bowlers, led by Rajeshwari Gayakwad's four for 31, never let Pakistan make any headway in the chase to register a win by 107 runs and go top of the table after the first round of group stage matches in World Cup 2022 at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui on Sunday (March 6).

Pakistan strike early

Pakistan, though, tried their best to flip the script early as Diana Baig and Anam Anim probed both the edges of the bat. While Amin was parsimonious, Baig got the ball to move both ways and beat Shafali Verma with a beautiful outswinger before castling her with one that moved back in.

Smriti Mandhana, in particular, struggled to get going against Amin, who conceded just five runs off the 20 balls she bowled to the Indian opener in her first four overs.

Mandhana strikes back

Having missed four of the five ODIs on the New Zealand tour due to MIQ, Mandhana took a while to get going and even survived a miscued shot. However, she found her touch in Nida Dar’s opening over, making room and hitting her for a six over long off.

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Left arm strong

The pitch seemed to be slow and the ball was gripping but Mandhana and Deepti Sharma increased the scoring rate gradually while not taking any undue risks before Pakistan’s left arm spin duo of Amin and Nashra Sandhu struck.

Both Deepti and Mandhana were done in by the lack of pace as Deepti missed a pull and Mandhana chipped a return catch to Amin, who finally got some reward for her persistence.

Dar at the double

Having come under serious pressure from Mandhana in her first spell, Dar made a rousing comeback after Mandhana’s dismissal as she dismissed India’s biggest hitters, Harmanpreet Kaur and Richa Ghosh and also brought the run rate down to a trickle.

Kaur missed a straight ball to be dismissed for five after feeling the pressure of upping the scoring rate, while Ghosh exited for one after dragging the ball back on to the stumps with an attempted sweep.

Bismah Maroof’s captaincy also stood out on her return to the national team post a maternity break as she kept the field up and forced the Indian batters to go out of their comfort zone even to get singles.

All that pressure reaped dividends as India’s lynchpin Mithali Raj was also dismissed after scoring nine off 36 balls by Sandhu as she tried to break the shackles by advancing down the track.

India’s utility players step up

When Raj was dismissed, India seemed to be in deep trouble as they were languishing at 114 for six at that stage. The onus was then on India’s allrounders Rana and Vastrakar to first stem the flow of wickets and then guide the score past 200.

In the end, they not just passed 200 but also broke a spate of records, including putting on a record seventh wicket partnership in ODIs, as Vastrakar’s positive intent from the outset put the bowlers under pressure.

She made particularly good use of the cut shot as Amin dropped short repeatedly towards the end of her spell and Baig also strayed down the leg side as there was no swing to be found with the old ball.

Rana was circumspect to begin with but scored briskly at the death, scoring 43 off her last 27 balls, with her leg side play being a particular stand out. The India innings also marked the first instance in history of both the no. 7 and no. 8 batters scoring 50s in the same innings.

Vastrakar even battled a leg strain through the course of her innings but that didn’t hamper her big hitting abilities. Sandhu (2/36) and Dar (2/45) were the pick of the bowlers for Pakistan as they didn’t let India get away at all in the middle overs before Vastrakar (67) and Rana, who remained unbeaten on 53, bailed them out.

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Pakistan fail to get going in the chase

That seventh-wicket partnership completely changed the complexion of the match as Pakistan never got going in the chase. Having been bowled out for 74 in the last World Cup against India, Pakistan did well to not lose any wickets in the first ten overs with Sidra Ameen looking solid. Javeria Khan, though, had a much more difficult time and was the first to depart for 11 in the 11th over as she failed to loft Rajeshwari Gayakwad cleanly over mid off.

Bismah Maroof played some pleasing strokes on her return to international cricket after her maternity break but she departed for 15 after bottom-edging a sweep into the hands of Ghosh, who did well to hold on to a low chance off Deepti.

Pakistan’s hopes then lay with Dar and Aliya Riaz, their middle overs enforcers, but Jhulan Goswami got good shape away from the batters in her second spell to dismiss Sidra and Dar for 30 and four respectively.

That snuffed out all hopes that Pakistan may have had as Riaz too fell soon after for 11 after getting stumped off Gayakwad, who consistently beat the batters in the flight and lured them out of the crease. That gave Ghosh plenty of work to do behind the stumps and she was impressive on her World Cup debut as she ended the match with a stumping and four catches.

Brief Scores: India: 244 for 7 in 50 overs (Pooja Vastrakar 67, Sneh Rana 53; Nashra Sandhu 2/36) beat Pakistan: 137 all out in 43 overs (Sidra Ameen 30; Rajeshwari Gayakwad 4/31, Jhulan Goswami 2/26) by 107 runs POTM: Pooja Vastrakar

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