Smriti Mandhana’s not-so-fluent knock of 87 off 56 helped India defeat Ireland in a game marred by wind, rain and plenty of dropped catches at Gqeberha on Monday (February 20).
It was the final group stage match for India and Ireland and a crucial game for both sides. While India needed a win to confirm their spot in the semifinals and Ireland would have looked to bow out with a win under their belt. Hoping to put up a big score on board and take their net run rate over England, Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur chose to bat first.
The Indian openers started steadily, looking to give their team a solid platform. Once the first over of Ireland’s rising star pacer Orla Prendergast was negotiated for four runs, Mandhana and Shafali Verma started to target the boundaries and found them almost every over.
The pair scored 42 runs in the powerplay without taking too many risks. However, both batters became more adventurous once the fielding restrictions were lifted. But Ireland were not able to grab the chances the Indians sent their way. Mandhana was given two lives within a span of six deliveries.
Ireland finally got a breakthrough in the 10th over when Shafali Verma was caught by Amy Hunter off Laura Delany. With that, Harmanpreet decided to promote herself in her 150th T20I game and walked in at number 3. She also brought up her 3000th T20I run soon after and became the first Indian woman to reach the milestone.
Mandhana continued to get lives and brought up her fifty with a six over deep mid-wicket in the 14th over. While Harmanpreet struggled to get going, her deputy, who had now broken the shackles, continued to look for the big hits.
After Mandhana had Delany for a maximum in the 16th over, Harmanpreet tried to follow suit, but could not get in enough power and Prendergast took a diving catch running in from the straight boundary. Ireland’s only successful bowler of the afternoon also sent back Richa Ghosh in the same over.
But Mandhana continued her charge from the other end, making good use of the strong breeze at St George's Park. She hit nine fours and three sixes, and brought up her highest T20I score, before falling on 86 to Prendergast in the penultimate over.
Deepti Sharma lost her wicket on the very next ball. Jemimah Rodrigues came out and smashed a couple of boundaries before getting stumped on the final ball of the innings.
Chasing 155, Ireland found themselves in early trouble as a throw from Rodrigues had Amy Hunter runout on the first ball. Renuka Thakur got the dangerous Prendergast clean bowled later in the over and the batting side was left reeling on a score of 1 for 2.
As India continued with pace from both ends, the experienced pair of captain Delany and Gaby Lewis pulled things back quickly. They decided to attack the Indian bowlers and went for the boundary at every opportunity.
Meanwhile, the wind kept on getting wilder and it started to drizzle. After Ireland had finished the powerplay on 44 for 2, the Indian bowlers restricted the speedy flow of runs. But halfway through the ninth over, the umpires decided that the rain had gotten too heavy to continue playing and the covers were called on. Ireland were 5 runs behind the DLS par score at this stage.
The game never resumed from there and India bagged the crucial two points and booked their spot in the semifinals for the third consecutive time in the Women’s T20 World Cups.
Brief Scores: India 155/6 (Smriti Mandhana 87, Shafali Verma 24; Laura Delany 3/33) beat Ireland 54/2 (Gaby Lewis 32, Laura Delany 17; Renuka Thakur 1/10) by 5 runs (DLS Method)
Player of the Match: Smriti Mandhana