Invincible Australia extend winning streak; Darcie Brown, openers steal headlines

Alyssa Healy, Darcie Brown, Rachael Haynes © Getty Images

Darcie Brown’s brilliant four-fer followed by some clinical batting performance from Alyssa Healy and Rachael Haynes helped Australia beat India by nine wickets in the first ODI at the Great Barrier Reef Arena in Mackay on Tuesday (September 21).

In the pursuit of their 25th consecutive ODI victory, Healy and Haynes started the chase well for Australia. They were cautious against the good length deliveries but did not miss out on anything that was on the shorter side. Healy pulled Jhulan Goswami in front of square and off the front-foot twice to the deep mid-wicket boundary. 

Goswami’s new-ball partner Meghna Singh swung the ball away from the right-hander, trying to get an outside edge. Wary of a probable weakness, Healy used a trigger movement, shuffling across to off-stump guard just before the seamers released the ball. That way, she was covering the line and the swing, playing the ball under her eye.

When Pooja Vastrakar came on, Healy welcomed her with three consecutive boundaries – a pull in front of midwicket, a full toss clobbered over the cow corner, and a short-arm jab between mid-on and midwicket. Haynes, who was happily playing second fiddle to Healy, lofted Sharma over mid-off in the next over.

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Aiming to break the partnership, India skipper Mithali Raj brought Poonam Yadav in to bowl. However, Healy negotiated the leg-spinner carefully and even drove her between cover and mid-off for a boundary. She brought up her 13th half-century with a hoick down the ground off Sharma. 

Healy took on Yadav, smashing her down the ground for a massive six. When Healy tried to follow it up with another shot down the ground, she picked out Vastrakar at mid-off, getting out for a run-a-ball 77. During the course of the inning, Healy became the ninth Australian to score 2000 runs in ODI cricket, with her last 1364 runs coming in the previous 25 matches.

Meanwhile, Haynes cruised to her 16th fifty at the other end. Meg Lanning wasted no time getting her eye in, keeping the momentum going with Haynes. She creamed Singh through the covers and followed it up with a pull shot in the same over. She countered Yadav with the sweep shot, hitting back-to-back boundaries off the leg-spinner. The duo navigated Indian bowlers comfortably, marching towards victory. Lanning, too, brought up her 16th half-century as Australia chased down the target in 41 overs. Haynes finished with an unbeaten 93 from 100 balls.

Earlier, after being asked to bat first by the hosts, India were off to a quick start with Perry struggling to get her lines right with the new ball. The allrounder was hit for a couple of boundaries by Shafali Verma, including a gorgeous drive through the covers. In her first two overs, she gave away 26 runs, and that helped India get a head start early in the innings.

However, Brown, at the other end, was bowling into the pitch, hitting the deck on the back-of-a-length, pushing Verma and Smriti Mandhana on the back-foot. The 18-year-old provided Australia with their first breakthrough, making Verma edge a short-pitched delivery to Healy. She followed it up with the wicket of Mandhana as the left-hander sliced one straight into the hands of Haynes at backward point.

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Tahlia McGrath replaced Perry from the other end, and with Brown, she tightened the screws in the power play. In the next six overs, Mithali Raj and debutant Yastika Bhatia were able to add only 17 runs. Australian spinners tried to keep the run-rate at check, and India took their time to settle, building a partnership for the third wicket.

Raj broke the shackles, lofting Georgia Wareham over mid-off to bring up their fifty partnership. Halfway through the innings, India were going steady at 115 for two, with Bhatia and Raj trying to up the ante. Lanning brought Brown back to break the partnership, and she delivered with the wicket of Bhatia for 35 runs from 51 balls. 

Though Lanning dropped Sharma in the slips off Brown, the teenage speedster bounced out the Indian allrounder in her very next over, taking her fourth wicket of the match. Meanwhile, Raj kept the innings going, bringing up her 59th ODI half-century in 92 balls – her fifth consecutive fifty in 2021.

With Vastrakar, she added 36 runs before getting out to Sophie Molineux for 61 runs from 107 balls. At this point, India were 166 for six, with 12 overs left in the innings. Australian debutant Hannah Darlington came for her second spell and struck twice, sending Vastrakar and Rana back to the dressing room.

Richa Ghosh was joined by her Bengal teammate Goswami and the duo kept the scorecard moving with singles and doubles. Going into the last few overs, Ghosh smashed back-to-back boundaries off Molineux. Goswami, too, joined the party, launching McGrath over the deep midwicket boundary. Ghosh followed it up with another six down the ground in the same over. She finished with an unbeaten 32 runs from 29 balls. India recovered well from 178 for seven and finished with 225 for eight in 50 overs.

Brief Scores: India 225/8 in 50 overs (Mithali Raj 61, Richa Ghosh 32*; Darcie Brown 4/33) lost to Australia 227/1 in 41 overs (Rachael Haynes 93*, Alyssa Healy 77; Poonam Yadav 1/58) by nine wickets. POTM: Darcie Brown

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