Shikha Pandey and Jhulan Goswami in action. ©ICC/Getty Images
Posiview-InPost

The first thing I noticed on Twitter before the start of the second One-Day International between India and England at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai was the coach of the visiting team kneeling down and bowling leg-spin in an attempt the point from where the short-heighted Poonam Yadav releases. It’s a tactic that teams around the world have adopted, but little did England know that while they were training for solutions against Indian spinners, it was to be the pace duo of Jhulan Goswami and Shikha Pandey who seemed to have come out of syllabus and stolen the show.

Today for the first time in two Indian pacers combined to take eight wickets in an international match. Both of them picked up four wickets each, piercing through the opposition. Their extraordinary display of bowling set up India’s seven-wicket, helping them clinch the series and collect another two points in the ICC Women’s Championship. What made the occasion even more delightful was the crowd count was more than the first match, which added excitement to the atmosphere. With India having dominated both the games, they now have more reasons to turn up for the third ODI on February 28.

Jhulan and I were teammates when I used to play for India. Those were her initial years, and the way she has evolved from then is just remarkable. The only bowler in the world with 300-plus international wickets, she is the GOAT – Greatest of All Time.

She was outstanding with the new ball and then with the old ball, and provided breakthroughs every time her captain got her in. It reminded me one instance from our 2006 tour of England. Charlotte Edwards used to open for England, and she never found a way to tackle her bowling. She got out to Jhulan match after match, and after a point demoted herself to the middle-order in a few games in order to avoid facing Jhulan. Interestingly, even then Jhulan used to account for her. In that series Jhulan dismissed Edwards six times across three formats.

This is the kind of dominance on which Jhulan’s reputation is built. She has instilled fear among the best of the batters around the world and is known to get the captain’s wicket, like today she accounted for Heather Knight who checked her drive to be caught at covers.

Shikha on the other hand is just continuing her form from the tour of New Zealand is gaining more confidence with every passing game. Accuracy, consistency and swing are the three weapons she possesses. It helped her return career-best figures of 4 for 18. She bowled fuller lengths and maintained a good line consistently.

She was Mithali Raj’s go-to bowler today, as she was given an extended first spell of seven overs and then returned for her second, taking two wickets in both her spells. It was her timely strikes that was chiefly responsible for England being dismissed for a below-par 161.

For two Indian pacers have such a partnership is a delight. It reminds me of how Jhulan used to have an understanding with Rumeli Dhar and Amita Sharma in the first and second parts of her career.

While the duo picked up eight wickets, the most important wicket of the day belonged to Poonam, who dismissed Lauren Winfield to break a threatening fifth-wicket stand of 49 with Natalie Sciver. She was also economical, which made up for a comparative bad day that the other two spinners – Ekta Bisht and Deepti Sharma – had in the office.

This is fourth time in five ODIs that India have dismissed the opposition for less than 200, and a lot of credit once again goes to Mithali’s captaincy. She was spot on with the bowling changes though I felt the fielding placements when Winfield was batting against Poonam could have been better as the batter was only sweeping her throughout and there was just one fielder on the leg side. In fact, most of the England batters were countering Ekta and Poonam by sweeping and that’s where they got most of the runs today.

The Indians have done their homework pretty well against Sarah Taylor. She loves to walk and play against pacers and is usually busy at the crease. India set a ploy for her by getting Taniya Bhatia to stand up the stumps and it fetched them the reward as a ball from Jhulan held its line to hit the inside edge of the bat before uprooting the stumps.

As is well known, Taylor is not a regular in the England side these days due to her issues with anxiety. She missed the World Twenty20, but was added for this series as championship points are up for grabs. The team management have been pretty cautious about the amount of workload they give her. She looked like lacking match practice while batting, and her current form is a concern for the visitors.

England did not look like crossing the 150-run mark before Sciver opened up after they had become 119 for 9. She put on a tenth-wicket stand of 42 with Alex Hartley who remained unbeaten on 0 off 17 balls.

Sciver was brilliant in her calculative 85, but unfortunately lacked support from the other end. The way she put her head down and batted through with an intent of playing out the overs made a strong impression in the commentary box and would have definitely had a similar impact in the England dressing room.

The chase of 162 was never going to be that challenging, and with Smriti Mandhana and Punam Raut, who replaced Harleen Deol, setting the base with a second-wicket stand of 73 only made things much easier. Smriti’s elegant 63 and Mithali’s unbeaten 47 completed the formalities, as India ensured that England’s streak of not winning an ODI series in India continues.

From an Indian perspective, there was the obvious question of whether it was right to drop Harleen after just one game, and with the series wrapped up maybe the team management would think of giving the youngster another chance.

Leave a Reply