Australia 202/2 Bolton 100*, Healy 38 Pandey 1-38
India 200/10 Vastrakar 51, Verma 41 Jonassen 4-30, Wellington 3-24
by eight wickets
The last time Australia and India met, the cricketing world was introduced to the whirlwind talent of Harmanpreet Kaur at the 2017 ODI World Cup semi-final. Today at Vadodara, in the first ODI of a 3-match series, Kaur would have registered 1 on the Beaufort wind scale. Her’s was a curious knock of 9 from 29 balls at a strike rate of 31.03, the lowest among her team-mates to face more than 10 balls. Perhaps the additional responsibility of captaining in the absence of Mithali Raj, who missed out today due to
illness, and India being 45-2 in 11.3 overs tempered her natural aggressiveness.
Her innings was also symptomatic of the stranglehold that the Australian spinners along with debutant Nicola Carey had on the Indian batters. India began well, after winning the toss and electing to bat. The Australian pacers Megan Schutt and Ellyse Perry were wayward in the beginning, often straying down the leg side or bowling too wide and were duly punished by the Indian openers especially by Punam Raut. Schutt, however, fixed her radar quickly and pulled back control, her first spell going for only 14 runs in 4 overs. Once Carey and Ashleigh Gardner were introduced into the attack, India retreated into their shell. Smriti Mandhana (12 from 25 balls), who had a prolific series in South Africa, mistimed a flighted delivery from Gardner to comeback skipper Meg Lanning at mid-on.
Jemimah Rodrigues (1 from 8 balls), presented with the ODI cap today, failed to make an impression, edging a leg side delivery from Amanda-Jade Wellington straight into the hands of keeper Alyssa Healy. Carey continued her miserly first spell giving away just 8 runs in 5 overs. She finished the match with figures of 10 overs for 28 runs, an impressive performance from the debutant. The run drought along with some lovely flighted deliveries by leggie Wellington had the desired effect for Australia. Raut was out lbw for 37 from 50 balls to Wellington while attempting to sweep. Left-arm spinner Jess Jonassen continued the good work and was rewarded with the wicket of Deepti Sharma (18 from 25 balls) who fell to a good catch by Carey at square leg while sweeping. Schutt brought back for her second spell, brought Kaur’s sluggish innings to an end. Kaur in trying to steer down to the third man only managed to guide it into Healy’s gloves. Half the innings done and half the side were down for 91. India were in danger of being bundled out for an embarrassing score.
However, two partnerships, first between Veda Krishnamurthy and Sushma Verma and the second between Pooja Vastrakar and Verma, saved India the blushes.
Young Vastrakar, playing in only her third ODI and known primarily for her swing bowling, looked quietly confident and assured at the crease. Bar a few slogs here and there, her shot making betrayed an all-rounder in the making. She showed the willingness to build an innings and at the same time took on the bowlers when the opportunity presented itself. She top-scored the Indian innings with 51 from 56 deliveries and was eventually dismissed in the last over of the innings in a bid to score more. Verma provided a steady hand of 41 from 71 balls. India ended up with 200, an under par score. Mithali Raj, sheet anchor par excellence, was sorely missed. Jonassen bagged 4 wickets from her 10 overs.
The Australian openers in their reply began in their typical belligerent fashion. Healy and Nicole Bolton smashed boundaries regularly. The Indian bowlers too didn’t help their own cause, bowling too many buffet balls. While Healy (38 from 29 balls) became Shikha Pandey’s 50th ODI victim in the 10th over, Australia was well in control of the chase scoring 67 runs from 10 overs. By the time Lanning was run out for 33 from 38 balls, the writing was on the wall with Australia requiring 67 runs from 28 overs.
Perry and Bolton took Australia towards a thumping victory in 32.1 overs. In the process, Bolton also brought up her 5th ODI century off just 101 balls, probably her breeziest one and was rewarded with the Player of the Match award.