India 194-5 (20)
Harmanpreet Kaur 103 (51), Jemimah Rodrigues 59 (45) Lea Tahuhu 2-18 (3)
New Zealand 160-9 (20)
Suzie Bates 67 (50), Katey Martin 39 (25) Dayalan Hemalatha 3-26 (4), Poonam Yadav 3-33 (4)
India won by 34 runs
Nerves were in evidence at the start of the inaugural match of the 2018 ICC T20 Women’s World Cup between India and New Zealand at the Providence Stadium, Guyana.
In the second over, flush from inducing opener Taniya Bhatia to ricochet the ball onto her stumps, pacer Lea Tahuhu sent down a full delivery into young Jemimah Rodrigues’ boot. A question was asked of the umpire Gregory Brathwaite who turned down the appeal. The ball which looked to be going down leg was found by Hawkeye to swing away into the leg stump. Next over, Smriti Mandhana was pinned plumb on the back foot by Leigh Kasperek. Umpire Claire Polosak, following in her colleague’s footsteps, ruled Mandhana not out. In both instances, the White Ferns were shy to call on DRS.
The review system (a first in a T20 World Cup, men’s or women’s) is in its salad days in women’s cricket. A few DRS classes would perhaps be in order. New Zealand ended up with their review still in the bank, not a deposit they would have been happy with. Indeed, the first review of the match was utilized by India in the 18th over of the second innings. The DRS was being treated with a reverence usually reserved for the Pope.
Mandhana, leading run-scorer in this year’s Kia Super League, didn’t stay long though. She failed to keep down the white globe on a pull shot and Hayley Jensen at deep square leg leapt and intercepted the ball to complete a superb catch. Tahuhu had two and New Zealand were on a roll.
Leigh joined Lea in the wickets column when debutant Dayalan Hemalatha, shuffling outside off, picked out the short fine leg with an unerring accuracy that would have done an atomic clock proud. India were three down by the end of the Powerplay. It was an all-round display of nerves by the Kiwi DRS think-tank, Indian batters, and the umpires alike.
While this part of the match looked like the prelude to a tense David Fincher movie, what was to follow was textbook Michael Bay.
In a re-jigged batting order, skipper Harmanpreet Kaur came in at number five and joined Rodrigues at the crease. Both were initially content with singles and the occasional boundary. Then came the signaling of intent in the tenth over. A rude shock awaited a full-tossed ball by Jess Watkin. It was dispatched to the cow-corner by Kaur – the first six of the tournament. Four balls later, a second six, not so imperious as the first, was muscled to long-off again by Kaur. India were now a respectable 76-3 after ten overs.
Then came the momentum shift in the fourteenth over. Captain Amy Satterthwaite brought herself on; she repeatedly tossing up the ball, Kaur repeatedly dancing down the track. Their tango yielded 18 runs in the over, the most expensive of the match.
The switch had been flipped. In the next five overs an eye-watering 71 runs were scored. Most were off Kaur’s bat. She first brought up her fifty in 33 balls and then raced to her maiden T20 century from just 49 balls. She became the first Indian to score a T20I century. Her understudy Rodrigues, who looked at home in her debut World Cup, also slashed her way to 50 from 39 balls. They shared a 134-run partnership studded with numerous boundaries. Both were happy to skip down the track and convert full deliveries to full tosses. The Kiwis did not help their cause with their lackluster and unimaginative bowling during this plundering.
Flamingoesque Kaur eventually departed reaching out for a wide Sophie Devine delivery and edging the ball to keeper Katey Martin. She giggled bashfully as she realized the jamboree was finally over. She was besieged by the ever-likeable congratulating Kiwis as she trudged back to the pavilion.
New Zealand tried to make a good fist of a record chase. Suzie Bates was especially inventive in her shots. Frustrated by the battery of India’s spin bowlers who took pace off the ball, Bates and her fellow opener Anna Peterson were guilty of awful timing intially. Eventually, Bates started creating angles. Her most memorable was during the entertaining battle with the diminutive and wily leggie Poonam Yadav.
She stood way outside the off-stump exposing all three stumps and hypnotised Yadav into bowling at her legs. Because of Yadav’s slow pace, Bates had all the time to make a cup of tea as well as sweep the ball for a four. She repeatedly employed this tactic to counter the spinners. At the other end, her partners struggled.
Peterson tried to cut towards third man but gloved the ball into Bhatia’s hands. Thus Hemlatha bagged her first T20I wicket. Yadav accounted for Sophie Devine and Jess Watkin off consecutive deliveries. Bates meanwhile swept her way to 52 from 38 balls, in the process becoming the leading run scorer in T20Is. But with Satterthwaite’s dismissal to Hemlatha in the thirteenth over and Bates’ to Arundhati Reddy in the next over, the chase was effectively over. Katey Martin did pitch in with a valiant cameo towards the end. But it could not prevent a 34 run victory for India.