After getting dominated by a strong Australia A squad in the one dayers, the selection committee decided to field a strong Indian A unit for the T20 series. With the short practice series to Caribbean being cancelled, this T20 series has acted as a much needed practice for the key players who are part of the ICC Women’s World T20.
In the first T20, Australia A batting first managed to score 160 runs for the loss of 6 wickets in the allocated 20 overs. The top order got good starts but neither could convert it into a big knock. Heather Graham was the top scorer in the innings with 43 runs of 30 balls. She along with Stalenberg (39 in 28), added 78 for the third wicket. On loss of Graham’s wicket the innings lost the momentum and Aussies could only manage 160. Anuja Patil and Deepti Sharma picked 2 wickets each.
The Indian A innings got off to a disastrous start with Cheatle striking twice in the first over with the team struggling at 4/2. However, Indian superstar Smriti Mandhana and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur put on 116 runs for the third wicket in just 71 deliveries. Mandhana scored 72 in just 40 balls which involved 7 fours and 4 sixes. Harmanpreet Kaur followed soon with India A at 126/4 needing another 35 runs in 28 balls. Harmanpreet scored 45 in 39 balls. India A lost another 2 wickets in quick succession with the team still needing 18 runs in 17 balls. However, Pooja Vastrakar (21* of 9 balls) and Deepti Sharma (11* of 7) took the team over the line with 4 wickets and 1 over to spare.
In the second T20, the India A team batted first. The innings was dominated by the legendary Mithali Raj who scored an unbeaten century. India A scored 184 runs in their innings with Mithali remaining unbeaten on 105 in just 61 balls. Her innings included 1 six and 18 fours. Nobody in the top order contributed until skipper Harmanpreet joined Mithali and the duo were involved in a 85 runs stand for the fifth wicket. Harman too scored a half century with 57 runs in 32 balls. She hit 6 fours and 3 sixes. McGrath was the most successful bowler for Australia A with 2 wickets.
With 185 needed in 20 overs, the Aussies got off to a desired start with the openers Mcgrath (47) and Dooley (14) adding 61 runs in just 7 overs. McGrath was at her aggressive best and her innings of 27 deliveries involved 7 boundaries and 2 sixes. However, Poonam Yadav and Anuja Patil struck in quick succession removing both the openers with the score at 63. The Australian A side then could not string in a decent partnership and kept on losing wickets at regular intervals. Deepti Sharma, Poonam Yadav and Anuja Patil picked up 2 wickets each making it difficult for Australia A to cope up with the increasing required rate. They could manage 156 in their 20 overs losing the match by 28 runs and conceding the series 2-0.
Harmanpreet has been consistent for India A along with Mithali and Mandhana also getting good time in the middle and scoring runs for the side. Anuja Patil and Deepti Sharma have been economical and picked up 4 wickets.
In the third and final T20, electing to bat, India put on a healthy 154/8 in their allocated 20 overs. Harmanpreet's form continued as she scored another 41 off just 27 balls. Jemimah too added crucial 38 runs. No other batters could contribute much to the score. The Indian bowlers then took the charge and bundled Australia A inning for 107 in 19.2 overs.
Poonam Yadav (3-23) Pooja Vastrakar (2-21) and Anuja Patil (2-26) shared seven wickets among themselves.
India is now entering the Women's T20 World Cup and will be confident about the tour. Let us congratulate our girls and root for them.