In the other semi-final, despite Deepti Sharma’s brilliant ton, all-round performance from the batters helped Railways beat Bengal comprehensively by six wickets. Railways reached the target of 251 with six overs to spare in the second semi-final at the Saurashtra Cricket Stadium in Rajkot. The Final will be played on Sunday (April 4), at the same ground.
After Rumeli Dhar chose to bat, her decision seemed vindicated as Bengal got off to a strong start with Mita Paul and Sharma putting on 86 for the opening wicket from 20 overs. Sharma was the more aggressive of the two, scoring her 50 from 63 balls even as she lost her partner to a run out for 38.
Soon after Bengal crossed 100 Railways got the big wicket of Dhar through another run out in the 24th over. Walking in at number four, young Richa Ghosh put on a 62-run partnership with Sharma scoring an enterprising 33 off 36. Post Ghosh’s dismissal by Swagatika Rath, Bengal struggle for a brief period with only 24 runs coming from the next seven overs with Ekta Bisht accounting for P P Paul.
However, once Bengal crossed 200 in the 45th over and Sharma brought up her century from 139 balls Prativa played an attacking cameo of 30 from just 18 balls to take Bengal to the 250 mark. They scored 50 runs from the last 5.1 overs even as Sharma was eventually dismissed for a well-made 113 from 148 balls.
Chasing 251 for a place in yet another final, Railways were off to a rapid start thanks to MD Thirushkamini and Punam Raut putting on 64 runs from just 10.1 overs. Thirushkamini, in particular, was highly aggressive scoring 43 runs from just 37 balls with nine boundaries.
Although, Thirushkamini was dismissed eventually by Rukmoni Roy in the 11th over, with the help of consistent partnerships through the order, the strong Railways batting line-up, kept the chase under control. Raut added another 66 runs for the second wicket with Nuzhat Parween before the wicket-keeper was run out for 30.
Raut completed her fifty from 66 balls, while at the other end, Sneh Rana played an aggressive cameo and scored 27 off 24 balls before being castled by Gouher Sultana. Soon Railways found themselves having two new batters at the crease as Raut retired hurt with some cramps for 69 off 90 balls.
However, in the company of Mithali Raj, Mona Meshram kept going for her shots, not letting Bengal bowlers settle into a rhythm. Even though Meshram was eventually dismissed for a 31-ball 36, Raj and Rath eased through the chase as Railways cruised through to the target with six overs to spare.
Opting to bat, Jharkhand got off to a bad start losing two wickets – including the in-form Indrani Roy - with only two runs on the board inside the first four overs with B Anusha striking twice. In the company of Sonia, Gudia added 49 runs to take their score past 50 before C H Jhansi Lakshmi struck to remove Sonia for 14 in the 16th over.
Gudia brought up her fifty from 73 balls and formed small partnerships with Durga Murmu and Ashwani, but both fell in their 20s with Saranya Gadwal accounting for Murmu and Ashawani becoming Jhansi Lakshmi’s second victim.
Jharkhand were reduced to 176 for 7 from 46 overs losing a couple of more wickets including that of skipper Niharika. However, from there Gudia cut loose from the last four overs while bringing up her century from 130 balls in the process. Gudia and Arti scored 40 runs from the last four overs with Arti contributing only nine of those runs.
Jharkhand eventually finished on 216 for 7 from the fifty overs with Gudia remaining unbeaten on 122 from 139 balls. Her knock included 15 fours and two sixes.
For Andhra, Jhansi Lakshmi was the most successful bowler with figures of 3 for 47 from nine overs.
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In reply, Andhra openers N Anusha and Jhansi Lakshmi began confidently, putting on 85 runs from 18.4 overs. N Anusha brought up her fifty from 65 balls before offering a caught and bowled chance to Devyani.
Despite losing her skipper, Jhansi Lakshmi batted on as Andhra went past the three-figure marks. But her dismissal by Niharika triggered a collapse as they went from 101 for 1 to 108 for 6 in the space of six overs.
When all seemed lost for Andhra, P V Sudharani took the counter-attacking route even as Niharika accounted for B Anusha and G Chandra Lekha leaving Jharkhand needing only one wicket for the final. Sudharani scored a scintillating fifty from 47 balls and added 39 runs for the last wicket before becoming the last wicket to fall as Andhra were bundled out for 189 in 48.3 overs. For Jharkhand, Niharika was the most successful bowler with figures of 4 for 25 from her ten overs.
Brief Scores: Bengal 250/6 in 50 overs (Deepti Sharma 113; Ekta Bisht 2/61) lost to Railways 254/4 in 44 overs (Punam Raut 69, MD Thirushkamini 43) by six wickets.
Jharkhand 216/7 in 50 overs (Rashmi Gudia 122*; C H Jhansi Lakshmi 3/47) beat Andhra 189/10 in 48.3 overs (P V Sudharani 57, N Anusha 51; Niharika 4/25) by 27 runs.