Should India give a spinner the last over? Or were the conditions tough for them and hence a seamer would have been right? The group of Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Smriti Mandhana and Deepti Sharma could be perhaps seen discussing just that. Goswami and Raj asked Sharma a few things. The off-spinner nodded assuredly. It seemed a decision was made.
But then Goswami was seen walking to her bowling mark with the ball in hand. She was the most experienced bowler on the night. She was one of the two most experienced players in the world currently. She had given away just 27 in her seven overs before that and had bowled THAT ball to dismiss Alyssa Healy for a duck, ending the wicketkeeper-batter’s streak of 40 successive ODIs without one.
“We were just discussing if we want to go to spin or give Jhulu di the last over. But definitely, we stuck to the experience of Jhulu di,” Mandhana would say after the match on Friday (September 24). “Because there was so much of dew, we thought it was better for pace bowler to go for the yorker and maybe restrict them. Jhulu di has the best yorkers in our team. We backed the experience.”
Australia were on a 25-match winning streak. They were eyeing a 26th win on the trot. And so, perhaps if a streak had to be ended it HAD TO be Goswami on the night at the Great Barrier Reef Arena in Mackay, hasn’t it?
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Goswami bowled a good couple of balls to start the over, giving away five runs, one of which was due to an overthrow. The third one slipped out of her hands and turned out to be a beamer that caught Carey flush on her helmet. Immediately Goswami apologised.
The free-hit ball that followed yet again asserted the class of the 37-year-old, nailing the yorker outside leg, after anticipating Carey making the room. But an alert Mooney helped Australia seal a bye. After another couple of balls, Australia were left needing three of the last ball.
Surely, the streak was to end for Australia. And it did. Almost. A full toss from Goswami was hit straight to Yastika Bhatia to spark celebrations in the Indian camp. However, after looking at multiple replays, the umpire ruled that it was above waist high. A no-ball then. But it was not deemed to be dangerous and so, Goswami was allowed to bowl the final ball.
Two runs needed, one ball in hand.
Goswami speared one full around the middle and leg, Carey dug it out towards long-on. Despite a good throw from Jemimah Rodrigues, Australia had managed to hustle back for two, notching up their 26th win on the trot.
That Mooney was batting on a different plane, which rubbed off on Tahlia McGrath first, and then on Carey, meant that the decision didn’t look good at the end. The southpaw, promoted to open in Rachael Haynes’ absence carried her bat through the chase, hitting her second ODI hundred in the process.
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“Whilst it was a hard battle out there, I had to fight my ego a little bit in trying to take the game on. You have to suck it up a bit and do the job required at that time,” said Mooney after the game.
Were India wrong in entrusting Goswami in the final over? Perhaps not. Who would Mooney and Carey have liked to face in a crunch situation like this? Any spinner, with a wet ball.
Sharma, whose first four overs went for 20 runs, was brought back for another spell in the 39th over when Mooney and McGrath were going strong. She immediately struck to dismiss the latter, ending their 126-run partnership. She was kept on from one end and bowled five overs on the trot. Sharma didn't give any boundary in the last three overs she bowled. Yadav, on the other hand, bowled the 46th and 48th over, giving away 15 off those two overs. A wet ball and a wrist spinner don't always go along anyway. So that ruled a spinner out.
And hence, going ahead with the veteran pacer was not a bad call. Nine out of ten times Goswami would have delivered the goods in such a scenario. The second ODI was perhaps the one occasion she couldn’t.