Shafali Verma, Smriti Mandhana's opening blitz hands India series win

The opening duo added 91 runs for the first wicket as India took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the T20I series

Pranav Mathur
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Smriti Mandhana (L) and Shafali Verma put together a 91-run partnership © BCCI

Shafali Verma's blistering half-century and a clinical bowling display saw India take an unassailable series-clinching 3-0 lead over Bangladesh in the five-match T20I series at the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium on Thursday (May 2). India's opening duo of Verma and Smriti Mandhana stitched together a 91-run opening stand and have now combined for over 2000 runs in T20Is.

India won the toss and opted to bowl first considering the overcast conditions, hoping the decision would work in their favor in the second innings. Renuka Singh Thakur justified the captain’s trust in her by keeping her bowling tight and not giving room for the batters to score, after a disastrous second T20I where she conceded 40 runs in her four overs. 

Although Thakur bowled a tidy first over, the power play immediately swung towards the host’s side, as they went on to score 44 runs. Dilara Akter was doing the major chunk of run-scoring with fortune on her side as she was dropped twice by Harmanpreet Kaur and Sajana Sajeevan in two consecutive overs. Akter had raced away to 33 off 21 balls at the end of the first six overs. 

The end of the powerplay proved to be consequential for the batting side yet again, as Murshida Khatun fell victim to a bad call by Akter and was run out on a free hit off Radha Yadav’s bowling, credit to an accurate throw by Deepti Sharma from covers. Soon after, Akter ran out of luck as the ball grazed her glove trying to sweep Thakur, only for her to give an easy catch to Richa Ghosh behind the stumps. 

Bangladesh were now struggling to accelerate the innings causing them to take risky singles. This led to Shobhana Mostary trying to get a run but falling short of her crease as Thakur and Ghosh combined yet again to run her out from short third. With yet another middle-order collapse looming over the side, Fahima Khatun was then immediately trapped in front of her stumps by Shreyanka Patil, causing the side to lose two wickets in an over.

From 44 for none at the end of power play to 89 for four wickets lost at the end of 15 overs. The run rate had dropped drastically and skipper Nigar Sultana took it upon herself. She went after the bowlers but could not find the boundary until the 18th over, which was Bangladesh's first boundary in seven overs. 

Radha Yadav decided to join in on the wickets spree and took out the opposition captain and Shorifa Khatun, who had come in place of Sultana Khatun, in back-to-back deliveries emulating the second T20I. From what looked like a 130-plus total after the power play, the hosts collapsed and put up a measly 117 runs on the board at the loss of eight wickets. 

The Indian openers Mandhana and Verma put their foot on the gas from the get-go, dealing only in boundaries, with Verma playing the aggressor. She took on Shorifa Khatun in the third over, hit her for three fours, and added three more on the trot against Nahida Akter helping India reach 59 runs in the power play, without losing a single wicket. From then onwards it seemed to be a walk in the park for the Indian side to see victory. 

India slowed down after the power play, dealing only in singles and hitting boundaries only on the loose deliveries. The blistering start helped Verma reach her half-century off just 36 balls, but her innings ended as Ritu Moni pulled off a one-handed stunner off her own bowling. 

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The runs kept flowing as Mandhana played a gritty knock of 47 in 42 balls, until she heaved a ball to deep square leg off Nahida Akter’s bowling, falling short of her first T20I half-century against Bangladesh yet again. Dayalan Hemalatha, second T20I's Player of the Match, also fell victim to spin, this time in the form of Rabeya Khan. But it was too little too late for Bangladesh as the score has slowly, but surely creeped up to a 100 in 14 overs. Richa Ghosh and Harmanpreet Kaur completed the formalities as India went on to win the match comfortably and take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series with Ghosh hitting the winning boundary.

Brief Scores: Bangladesh 117/8 in 20 overs (Dilara Akter 39, Nigar Sultana 28; Radha Yadav 2/22) lost to India 121-3 in 18.3 overs (Shafali Verma 51, Smriti Mandhana 47: Ritu Moni 1/10) by 7 wickets. POTM Shafali Verma