Poonam Yadav’s four shakes Australia to the core
India set the World Cup on fire by defeating Australia by 17 runs in a low-scoring thriller at the Sydney Showground on Friday (February 21), leaving the hosts and tournament favourites one bad day away from a home World Cup campaign going up in flames.
The Aussies seemed to be cruising at 67 for two in 10 overs chasing India’s 132 for four, with opener Alyssa Healy just having brought up a fifty with a six to announce a return to run-scoring ways. But Poonam Yadav had different ideas. Trying to hit towards long-on, Healy ended up giving a simple return catch to Yadav a ball after she completed her fifty.
It was the first time in the night, Yadav was introduced into the attack and the pint-sized magician thereafter tuned the game completely on India’s head to weave a web around the Australians. In her next two overs, Yadav took three wickets, including two in two balls, dismantling Australia’s middle order. Among those wickets was the first ball dismissal of Ellyse Perry. Yadav should have had a hat-trick, but was denied when Taniya Bhatia grassed a thick edge off Jess Jonassen behind the stumps. The leggie removed Jonassen an over later, leaving Australia tottering at 82 for six after 14 overs.
The Indians then rallied around her, with Shikha Pandey conceded only two off the 17th over including the dismissal of Annabel Sutherland courtesy a brilliant stumping by Bhatia, who was standing up to the stumps. Ashleigh Gardner provided resistance, top-scoring after Healy with a 34 off 36 balls, but that wasn’t enough and dismissed in the last over, ending Australia’s challenge. Australia were eventually bundled out for 115 with a ball to spare.
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Earlier, it seemed India did not have enough runs on the board after a bright start. After eight boundaries in the first four overs, India subsided to hitting none in the next six and only one in the next twelve. The innings seemed destined to be littered by big hits when India began, with Shafali Verma racing to an attractive 29 off 15, taking 16 of those off a single over from Megan Schutt, the No. 1 ranked bowler in the world. But her wicket was bookended by the scalps of Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur, and just like that, Australia had a stranglehold on the match in the seventh over.
As a stabilization act, the pair of Jemimah Rodrigues and Deepti Sharma excelled, stitching together for a partnership of 53 off 56 balls, but both failed to accelerate. Rodrigues, was eventually pinned in front of the stumps for a boundary-less 26 off 33 balls.
Jess Jonassen was the architect of India’s slide, claiming both Kaur and Mandhana on the back of a career-best performance in the final of the T20 Tri-series, where she picked up five wickets to bowl Australia to victory. She conceded a couple of boundaries to Sharma in the 17th over, helping the batter to her highest T20I score, but no boundaries came in the last three overs for India. 132 eventually proved enough on a slowish pitch, and the Australians failed to chase down that sort of total for the first time since 2017, giving the World Cup the most dramatic of starts.
Brief scores: India 132/4 in 20 overs (Deepti Sharma 49*, Shafali Verma 29; Jess Jonassen 2/24) beat Australia 115 all out 19.5 overs (Alyssa Healy 51, Ashleigh Gardner 34; Poonam Yadav 4/19, Shikha Pandey 3/14) by 17 runs. PoTM: Poonam Yadav