Continuing their 100% win record against Pakistan, Women in Blue started their world cup campaign with a victory against the arch-rivals. Both the Indian and the Pak side led played their heart out, with the former comfortably winning the encounter with a huge margin of 107 runs. With this victory, Indian women ensured 11th victory against Pakistan women, with one member common in all the 11 matches played - Mithali Raj.
The Indian skipper, playing her 6th world cup chose to bat after winning the toss. Pakistan, which is known for its bowling lived up to the expectations in the initial overs. Diana Baig was getting the perfect swing, and Anam Amin on the other end kept bowling the lines according to the set field. With Diana breathing fire, the Indian openers started playing extremely cautiously, but Shafali eventually lost her wicket in an attempt to hit the ball for a boundary.
Then came Deepti Sharma, who was promoted to number 3 due to her performance at the same position against the New Zealand series that preceded the world cup. Both Smriti and Deepthi took their time out in the middle and then took on the bowlers with calculated risks. Deepthi demonstrated the power in her bottom hand by going aerial at mid-on and Smriti displayed her elegance after starting cautiously. Smriti attacked the most valuable player of Women in Green Nida Dar. Both the left-handers stitched a partnership of 92 runs before the former was dismissed.
Post that Smriti was dismissed after scoring a half-century. In quick succession, Indian wickets kept falling. Wickets of youngster Richa Ghosh, and experienced Mithali and Harmanpreet Kaur reduced Indian innings from 96/1 to 114/6 in 34th over. The spinners did the trick for Pakistan. The duo of Nida Dar and Nashra Sandhu used their experience to bring back Pakistan in the game. At this point, it looked like India can manage to reach the 70s.
But Pooja Vastrakar and Sneh Rana had different plans. Justifying their place in the playing eleven, both of them took no time to launch an attack on the Pak bowlers. Batting sensibly, both of them rotated the strike quickly, ran quickly between the wickets converting ones into twos, and dispatched the loose balls to the fence. Pooja displayed her wide array of shots hitting a magnificent cover drive against Baig, and cut shots against the spinners. And Sneh Rana displayed her street smartness and game awareness. Both of them, known for their lofted shots didn't hit any aerial shots knowing the importance of the situation. The duo stitched a partnership of 122 runs, which is the highest 7th wicket partnership in Women's world cup history. Their sensational batting took India from 114/6 in 34 overs to 244 runs at the end of 50 overs.
It was now the turn of bowlers. And the 39-year-old Jhulan Goswami and Meghna Singh bowled beautiful lines and length to choke Pakistan openers. After the fall of the first wicket of Pakistan, Women in Green never quite recovered from the situation. None of the Pak batters got in the groove. For India, Rajeshwari Gayakwad scalped 4 wickets, and 2 wickets were scalped by Chakdah Express Jhulan at the crucial time. After proving her worth with the bat, Sneh Rana dismissed 2 Pak batters. Deepthi dismissed the Pak skipper and Meghna put the final nail in the coffin for Women in Green by dismissing Baig. Pak was bundled for 137, and India won the encounter with a huge margin of 107 runs.
The game might look one-sided if one looks at the scorecard, but one who watched it completely understands that spirit of Pakistan women were high in the first innings. They bowled their heart out. They fielded well, making Indian batters fight for a single run and all their direct hits hit the Bullseye (but all the time Indian batters were had made the crease). In addition to this, the Pakistan skipper Bismah Maroof won hearts not just with her fielding placements, but also bringing her newborn angel in the stadium. One has to admire the dedication of Bismah Maroof. Pakistan may have lost the match, but the world cup campaign is still on for them.
I'm very happy, my first player of the match award, in my first WC game. The plan was to somehow try and get to 200. I like to bat in pressure situations, even in domestics, I told the same to Sneh (Rana), to keep the partnership going. The batters told us that the wicket was slow, so the target was 200, but we didn't bat differently. The physio said that the injury will heal quickly and I'll be back soon. -Pooja Vastrakar ,Player of the Match
Meanwhile, India has the round-robin raised the bar right in the first game. The runners-up in the last world cup, India would look to up their game with every coming encounter. The round robin format will allow them to face every participant. Indian team looks in great shape. The only worrying thing was Vastrakar's injury, which we hope should not be serious. A few changes like the inclusion of Yastika Bhatia for New Zealand and Australia encounters would ensure the short ball threat from these teams no more worries them. Also one would hope that the experienced duo of Mithali and Harmanpreet returns to form soon. Smriti Mandhana, the pillar of the Indian team who scored 25th fifty in just 66 innings becoming the fastest one to reach there would like to continue her form. With high hopes, India did well in the first match, and would surely love to do well and bring back the first World cup trophy for Women in Blue. We wish it happens. Also, we wish all these strong women a very Happy Women's Day
Authored By:- Ashwin Jangam ( Cricket Analyst, Host and Entertainer)
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