Losing eight tosses in a row isn’t causing too many problems for New Zealand WHITE FERNS captain Suzie Bates.
Despite being asked to chase yet again, the aggressive Ferns comfortably claimed a 2-1 Series lead in their five-match ODI Series at Bengaluru’s M. Chinnawamy Stadium — and pocketed the final two ICC Women’s Championship points on offer to elevate themselves on the 2017 Cricket World Cup qualifying table.
Back-to-back wins have put them on equal IWC points with Pakistan, among the top five of the eight teams; whilst India Women are relegated to bottom place.
Batting first, India’s 182/9 was their highest score yet in the Bengaluru Series, helped in no small way by a half-century from 22-year-old Veda Krishnamurthy — who flung herself into a career-best 86-ball 63 on a tough, slow track that had been used for the opening ODI earlier in the week.
Krishnamurthy, along with Deepti Sharma and Niranjana Nagarajan, had been called back into the starting XI (for Poonam Raut, Shikha Pandey and Sneh Rana), and drove the much-needed rescue act after India had struggled to set up their innings, even in the compulsory power play — the late order getting them back in the game in the last 10 overs.
While the Ferns gifted India 24 extras (notably 15 wides, at both ends of the innings), they atoned by piling on the pressure with a monotonous diet of dot balls sent down by spin and pace alike through the middle, to have Mithali Raj’s unit in a choke-hold at 78/4 in the 30th over.
That was when Raj (30 off 70) feathered an outside edge to keeper Rachel Priest off the second, fullish delivery of Sophie Devine’s second spell — just when the experienced Indian skipper had been well set to make a difference. Devine, meanwhile, had been looking good for career-best ODI figures with 3-16 off seven at that moment, until the late onslaught saw her return balloon to 3-40.
The innings was distinguished by three pieces of superb fielding. A lightning-quick pounce and shy at a single stump by Katie Perkins secured a Chris Harris-like, diving run out of Harmanpreet Kaur at close range, after Kaur had misguidedly set off and turned back on 11.
Skipper Bates, running metres back from mid-off after Sharma had looked to loft Leigh Kasperek long, pulled off a two-handed blinder at almost full extension that was deemed the catch of the match.
Not to be outdone, Anna Peterson then brilliantly stopped a brutal Jhulan Goswami in her tracks with a backwards leap at cover, plucking the bullet out of the air.
The Ferns’ lead duo of Bates and Priest then showed their hosts how it was done with the bat, putting on New Zealand’s highest-ever opening stand against India of 125 (their first wicket record against all sides is 180).
Bates survived a tense moment on one, when she appeared to have been brilliantly caught in just the third over — before the third umpire noted that bowler Goswami’s foot had entirely overstepped the line. Bates relished the resultant free hit by smashing the ball to the mid-off boundary.
After the captain rode her luck again on 23, when she survived a run-out attempt, there was no looking back as she powered to her 12th ODI half-century off 81 balls — matching her positive ally Priest, who had already smashed her way to a 76-ball fifty, Priest's sixth in ODIs brought up with a handsome, leg-side six.
Ultimately the aggressive pair would fall within six balls of each other, but at 125/2 after 32 overs, the bulk of the hard work had been completed. First drop Amy Sattherthwaite was put down by Thirush Kalpana behind the stumps on 21 in the 44th over, but it was all too late with Satterthwaite unbeaten at the close on 22.
Sophie Devine would instead prove the final wicket to fall when the scores were level: she missed the ball looking to flick it to glory, only to be lbw to Sharma — handing Perkins the fun of sweeping the winning boundary next ball. The Ferns had completed their steady chase in the 46th over, to win by six wickets in a largely impressive display.
Whilst their stated intent is to take out the Series as a whole, Devine noted afterwards that “to get these IWC points away from home was really important to us. We want to make sure we are going in an upward trend, and we’ve done that here so far.”
The fourth of the five-match ODI Series is at the same venue on Monday, 6 July, and will again be televised by SKY from 3.20pm NZT. There are no IWC points riding on the final two ODIs.