India's home season got off to a great start with India A getting the better of England A in a thrilling encounter at the Wankhede Stadium in first of the three-match T20 series on Wednesday (November 29). After the visitors restricted the A side to 134 for 7, Indian bowlers put on a good display even as England A formed a big partnership in the middle overs. Karnataka and Royal Challengers Bangalore allrounder Shreyanka Patil kept her nerves in the final over despite bowling a wide first up with England needing 13 off six deliveries. Charlie Dean's side fell three-run short of the target with Lauren Filer getting run out in the last ball.
All or nothing in the power play
Earlier, after India A won the toss and elected to bat first, they hit six boundaries in the power play including one six and yet could score only 33 runs at the end of it. Wicket-keeper Uma Chetry hit Issy Wong for two fours before getting out to a terrific catch from Ryana MacDonald-Gay. Vrinda Dinesh took a liking to Freya Kemp as she played trademark shots through the off-side including a six over long-off. But in between all this, they played out 24 dot balls in the power play. Disha Kasat in particular struggled during this phase and could score only six off 14 balls.
Middle order struggles
If Dean's two overs yielded only six runs in the power play, the middle overs saw India A losing Vrinda to the extra pace of Filer in the eigth over. Left-arm spinner Kirstie Gordon followed it up another good over. Just as Kasat was starting to look better, she fell to an attempted big hit that was caught on the long-on boundary. Only 39 runs came from overs seven to thirteen with the India A batters struggling to hit out during this phase.
It was Filer's third over that gave some impetus to India A's innings as 15 runs came from it with an erratic delivery going for five wides. Although the big finish never came, the home side did manage to score 26 from the last three overs and eventually that proved to be the difference. In her short stay at the crease, southpaw Kanika Ahuja impressed everyone with her willingness to go after the bowling by using her feet and moving around the crease. Ahuja's 19 off 15 and Patil's reverse-swept four helped India A put up 134 for 7 on the board.
Mirroring the power play
England A's start also mirrored the hosts' power play as they finished on 32 for 2 at the end of it with Mady Villiers, who hit four fours, falling in the sixth over to left-arm spinner Mannat Kashyap. But it was Patil who provided the early breakthrough the wicket of Grace Scrivens when the England Under-19 captain yorked herself in the second over.
Armitage using her experience
At 26 years and 168 days, Hollie Armitage is the oldest member in the England A squad. The Northern Chargers captain used all her experience to guide the visitors from 40 for 3 to almost a winning position. In the company of wicket-keeper Seren Smale, she reduced the target to 31 runs off the last five overs.
With some luck that included a dropped catch and some close run out calls, the duo added 70 runs for the fourth wicket and Armitage brought up her fifty from 37 balls.
Familar troubles for England
In recent times, England's senior side had their struggles against spin and that led to a series loss against the visiting Sri Lankan side at home. It was no different for the juniors as young players struggled to force the pace against spin.
Having already scored only 33 off combined six overs of Patil and Kashyap, England A made only four runs off Ahuja's off spin in the 16th over. For India A, skipper Minnu Mani followed it up another tight over where she provided the big breakthrough as she broke the partnership with the wicket of Armitage. The set batter hit one back tamely to the bowler for 52 off 41 balls.
Hosts ending on a high
With Kashyap and Patil having one over apiece left, England A needed to take on the pace of Kashvee Gautam. But the Chandigarh fast bowler kept bringing the ball back to the stumps without providing any room and it eventually resulted in the dismissal of Smale. Wong also didn't last long leaving the visitors 18 off 12 to get from the spinners.
From there, it eventually came down to 13 off the last over and the 20-year-old Patil didn't panic despite conceding five wides at the start of it.
The two teams will face each other again on December 1st at the same venue. India A will be looking for a better performance with the bat while England A will have their task cut out against a spin-dominant bowling attack.
Brief Scores: India A 134/7 in 20 overs (Disha Kasat 25; Charlie Dean 2/19, Freya Kemp 2/30) beat England A 131/8 in 20 overs (Hollie Armitage 52, Seren Smale 31; Kashvee Gautam 2/23, Shreyanka Patil 2/26) by 3 runs POTM: Shreyanka Patil