The much awaited India-Pakistan encounter at the ICC T20 World Cup 2023 lived up to the hype as Jemimah Rodrigues and Richa Ghosh rescued India from a tricky situation to guide the team to victory in its opening match of the tournament on Sunday (February 12). With the target of 150 in front of them, Rodrigues (53*) and Ghosh (31*) took on Pakistan’s spinners and pacers alike at New Lands in Cape Town to complete India’s highest-ever chase in T20 World Cups.
On a wicket that both teams expected to be dry and slow, Pakistan’s captain Bismah Maroof opted to bat first.
Pakistan started steadily, scoring just three of Renuka Singh Thakur’s first over. But as India introduced Deepti Sharma’s spin in the second over, Javeria Khan decided to be inventive. First she scooped one over fine-leg and ran two. She followed it with a reverse sweep that went to the deep third boundary.
Taking on India’s most successful bowler of recent times proved to be futile for Javeria as she ended up sweeping Deepti’s fourth delivery straight into the hands of Harmanpreet Kaur at fine-leg.
Pakistan had come in with a clear plan of not letting Sharma build pressure on them. Bismah continued to attack the spinner in her next over and scored two back-to-back boundaries. The first was a brave shot slammed down the ground and the next being a sweep to the square region. The sweep was the go to shot for the Pakistanis in the power play, who made good use of the fielding restrictions to find boundaries of the bowling off Deepti and Rajeshwari Gayakwad.
The pressure of the occasion looked to get to the Indian players as a couple of overthrows helped Pakistan finish the power play in a strong position of 39 for 1.
But the end of the power play also halted the free flow of runs. Radha Yadav removed Muneeba Ali with an arm ball in the seventh over and Pooja Vastrakar got the wicket of Nida Dar - for a duck - in the next.
Pakistan had to wait for almost six overs before the ball next made it to the boundary. After Sidra Amin’s dismissal, Ayesha Naseem decided to unleash while Bismah held one end and brought up a half-century in 45 deliveries. Dropped by India twice, Naseem finished on 43 and Pakistan put up their highest-ever T20I total against India.
Chasing an above-par 149, India started with great intent and brought up 43 in the first six overs, losing only Yastika Bhatia in the final over of the power play.
While things had gone pretty smoothly till now, one can always anticipate an eyebrow raising moment coming in an India-Pakistan game. A poor on-field decision that was overturned was followed by a seven-ball over. But the biggest ‘wow’ moment came when Amin took a stunning catch off the bowling of Nashra Sundhu to dismiss Shafali Verma, who was looking in good touch until then.
At the half-way stage, India were 67 for 2, needing 83 more to win. While Rodrigues was holding up one end, skipper Harmanpreet fell to Sundhu after hitting a couple of boundaries. It didn’t take Ghosh long to get into the groove and she was soon finding boundaries with ease.
The young pair transferred the pressure to the opposition, who ended up making too many errors on the field. The required rate constantly came down from 10.25 at the end of the 16th over to seven after the 18th.
India needed 14 off 12, but Rodrigues, having come in with a steely determination, wrapped it up in the penultimate over with three boundaries off Fatima Sana, the last of which also brought up her half-century.
Brief scores: Pakistan 149/4 in 20 overs (Bismah Maroof 68*, Ayesha Nasim 43*; Radha Yadav 2/21) lost to India 151/3 in 19 overs (Jemimah Rodrigues 53*, Shafali Verma 33; Nashra Sundhu 2/15) by 7 wickets POTM: Jemimah Rodrigues