Smriti Mandhana in action. ©ICC
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In a battle of equals, the Indian team came out as the undefeated side against the formidable Australians by 48 runs. India thoroughly outplayed Australia in every department to end the 12-consecutive win streak of Aussies. Smriti Mandhana’s magnificent knock of 83 off 55 balls was a delight to watch. She also became the 2nd quickest India player (after Mithali Raj) to score 1000 runs in T20Is. Harmanpreet Kaur also shined with the bat and scored a quick 43 in 27 balls.

Chasing a competitive target of 168, Australian batters were not allowed to score big by the Indian spinners. Anuja Patil, replacing an “unwell” Mithali took 3 wickets while Deepti Sharma, Radha Yadav, and Poonam Yadav picked 2 wickets each. Veda Krishnamurthy took 4 catches in the match. Indian fielding was spot-on in this match which was very crucial before the big knock-out games.

After winning the toss, Kaur didn’t have any hesitation to bat first on a pitch which seemed to be a good batting wicket. India once again had Taniya Bhatia open alongside Mandhana. In pursuit of quick runs, Bhatia got out skying a ball. Soon following her, the in-form Jemimah Rodrigues was brilliantly caught by Elyse Villani. On the other hand, Mandhana played some terrific shots down the ground and kept the scoreboard ticking. Mandhana’s timing was terrific and she never tried to over hit the ball. India scored 49/2 in 6.3 overs when the skipper joined her deputy.

Mandhana was playing some big shots while Kaur started with singles by nudging the ball into the gaps before changing her gears. Mandhana brought up her first World T20 fifty with a boundary off Ashleigh Gardner which was also her first 50 in her last 14 T20I innings. She didn’t try to over-hit the ball and was focussed more on timing as always. On the other end, the skipper joined the party with her trademark shot with a booming bat-swing. The duo put on a fantastic partnership of 66 which was their 5th 50+ partnership in their 10 innings together. Their calculated risks were rewarded. Both Kaur and Mandhana batted with a stamp of authority. Adding insult to the injury, the in-form Australian keeper, Alyssa Healy had a collision with Megan Schutt which didn’t allow her to bat in the second innings. A big total seemed inevitable.

However, the Australian bowlers came back into the match with some brilliant bowling in the end. In the 16th over of the match, the debutant, Tayla Vlaeminck grabbed a one-handed stunner to dismiss Veda. The two experienced campaigners of Australian bowling line up, Schutt and Ellyse Perry,who took 3 wickets in her 100th T20I, bowled well at the death to restrict India to 167/8.

In place of Healy, Elyse Villani joined the regular opener, Beth Mooney to start Australia’s chase. Australians didn’t get the best of the starts as Deepti dismissed both the openers off successive deliveries. At the end of 10 overs, they scored 57/3 with still 111 required. Indian spinners Radha and Poonam once again were at their best against this formidable Australian batting line up. Both the spinners used their variations well and foxed the opponent’s batters.

None of the middle order stood up as the Indian spinners continued to dominate throughout the innings with some sharp fielding. Veda in particular stood out with 4 catches at the boundary line.

For Australia, Perry played a lone battle and the required run-rate went out of hands. Perry scored an unbeaten 39 as Healy didn’t come out to bat and Australia could only score 119 runs which meant that India ended unbeaten in the group stage.