They were playing it for those two points, attempting to stop Australia from completing a comprehensive whitewash but very early in the game, it became apparent that India were merely trying to curb an Alyssa Healy storm. But ever so unsuccessfully.
Few teams dominate proceedings quite like Australia. Spurred by an electrifying 115-ball 133 by Alyssa Healy, Australia posted a mammoth 332 batting first on a wicket where the ball came as easily onto the bat as a delightful dessert to the mouth.
It’s not every day that the viewer’s attention is diverted from a powerful, glowing lineup elsewhere that boasts of names like Ellyse Perry and Meg Lanning. But on March 18, it was Alyssa Healy-day at Vadodara.
In striking her maiden ODI century, Healy transfixed by the mouthwatering opportunity a relatively flat deck offered- paved way for an utterly one-sided Australian triumph by striking 17 boundaries and 2 sixes. In making lightwork of the Indian bowling- Shikha Pandey, Pooja Vastrakar, Ekta Bisht– for it just didn’t matter, Healy led the charge, held the contest by bare-hands and very early in the game, turned it around Australia’s way.
Of course, it dearly helped those others in the lower middle order- Haynes, Mooney, and company joined in, seemingly driven by their wicketkeeping batswoman’s assault; one who established a world record becoming the first Australian keeper to register a ton in limited overs cricket.
India’s reply to Australia’s ask of chasing 333 was right on the money as Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues registered a fantastic start, seemingly targeting Megan Schutt and Ellyse Perry respectively. It was quite a sight, with both openers unrepentantly driving the ball through the covers and opening the face of the bat to explore a gamut of runs on either side of the wicket.
By the time Australia commenced bowling the 14th over of the Indian innings, Mandhana and Rodrigues had taken the score to 101. Which is precisely where Ashleigh Gardner with her slow off-breaks struck an important blow, sending Rodrigues back. But as fans of the home team, you wondered would India still possess the vulnerability of losing the contest going well over 7-an over, having crossed 100 already in the 14th over?
But often it’s said, cricket belongs to the side that keeps its cool and so eventually it boiled down to Australia’s way as next setbacks were strewn by arguably their bowler of the tournament- Jess Jonassen supported by Gardner, who claimed the important wicket of Mithali Raj.
There was a brief period where runs were leaking like a tap left unclosed- Raj in that period of a 46-run stand with Kaur– striking the shot of the day, a glorious full-length extra cover drive off Schutt, that beat Perry in the outfield. But ever since Kaur departed, caught brilliantly by Healy standing up to medium pacer Nicola Carey, the rest of the team found it hard to get going in an onerous challenge of overcoming 333 runs.
But that said, it can’t be said that there weren’t spurts of occasional brilliance, most noticeably through the sound blades of Sushma Verma and Deepti Sharma, who scored 30 and 36 respectively, but they weren’t enough to contain the Perry and Schutt storm, the duo striking in the lower half of the Indian innings to tame the home side at its own den.
That told, it remains to be seen if Indian middle order can keep its act together, the side remaining ever so dependent on fiery starts given by the freely-striking Mandhana. Equally, for Australia, a worrying sign was Healy standing up for opening bowler, Megan Schutt, a fiery pacer who for some reason resorted content at bowling slower leg cutters and off cutters. Whether that was a deliberate plan for a bowler who possesses the cheekiness of bowling at an angle as well as nagging bounce, it’s not a pretty sight with the keeper standing up.