Rain Rain go away, Let the Runs Rain Today…..!!
That's how everyone wished on 20th July 2017 when heavy rains lashed County Ground in Derby, the venue for 2nd semifinal of ICC Women's World Cup 2017. Also, it played hide and seek for over two hours making it too tedious for the ground staff to get it ready for the play.
As the experts started speculating the possibility of semifinal being rescheduled for the reserve day, the rain god finally got generous and the field umpires after pitch inspection, decided 5:55 PM (IST) as the time for toss with the game being reduced to 42 overs per side.
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After a long delay, the toss happened and India won the first battle and elected to bat first (A seemingly wise decision by skipper Mithali Raj as she explained that girls were used to the wicket having being already played 4 games at Derby)
Soon, Indian openers Smriti Mandhana and Poonam Raut walked into the ground to start India's campaign in this knockout match.
The streak of low scores for Mandhana continues as Megan Schutt struck in her very first over and give a perfect start to Australia.
Poonam Raut was the next to go as the young Ashleigh Gardner got her caught on 2nd ball of the 10th over. India were 36/2 at the end of 10 overs which was actually not the kind of start they would have wanted.
Captain M. Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur being put in the same situation like the last game against New Zealand, played sensibly as India stood 96/2 after 24 overs.
Just when both the batters were looking good and were set to accelerate the pace of runs, Raj was bowled out by Kristen Beams. A big wicket for Australia indeed. Least they knew that Kaur was going to be brutally harsh on them later in the innings.
Then came 27th over, third ball of which was a comical no ball followed by a huge six by H.Kaur completely cashing on the free hit given to her. Kaur reached her fifty in the same over and there was no stopping after that.
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She went on to tear apart the Australian bowling attack by striking back to back boundaries in all directions of the ground. No matter who was bowling, no matter what kind of ball was being bowled, she had only one mission and that was to hit each and every ball hard into the stands.
Eventually she reached her 3rd ODI century on the last ball of the dramatic 35th over. Kaur got furious on Deepti Sharma for almost getting her run out at that stage but shortly after that hugged her teammate cooling down her nerves. Such was the intensity of emotions in this 2nd semifinal fixture!!!
Oh my god, the middle stump mic got damaged during that run out attempt and it took too long to resume the game. Did that affect the momentum of Indian batting and Harmanpreet Kaur in particular???
Well, No! This girl was on rampage after that. Sharma fell on 4th ball of 39th over but she had done her part. Kaur and Veda Krishnamurthy continued their assaultive batting as India put up their highest total in this tournament so far and Australia needed 282 runs in 42 overs to avoid an upset.
After losing first three wickets early, including that of Australian captain Meg Lanning, Australia tried to come back into the match as Ellyse Perry and Elyse Villani took the responsibility and led the Aussie recovery. Villani’s brilliant knock was cut short by Rajeshwari Gayakwad just when India needed. After 25 overs, Australia were 135/4 as the required run rate was soaring up quickly.
Within the next 9 overs, Australia was on the verge of being thrashed by India Women as the scoreboard read 174/9 at the end of 34 overs. But that was not the end friends!!!
Alex Blackwell kept the Australian hopes alive and nearly gave Indians a scare. But as it was their day, Women in Blue won it by 36 runs as Blackwell was the last to be dismissed on the first ball of 41st over.
This is how Indians rewrote the history books by entering into the finals of the women's world cup for the 2nd time. They will play hosts England at Lord's on 23rd July in the final of this mega event.
Everyone awaits that.