Deepti Sharma knew that she had to accelerate the strike rate when she walked out to bat in the first T20I against Australia Women at the DY Patil Stadium on Friday.
The Indian women’s team was in a tricky situation with just 132 runs on the board and five wickets gone. Coming in after Richa Ghosh, who forged a strong 57-run partnership with Devika Vaidya to pull the team back from the woods, Deepti had a clear cut vision - to maximise the runs off minimum balls available.
And she did everything possible to execute the plans. Starting off with a pull and slash off Annabel Sutherland for a couple of boundaries, she kept the momentum going in Ashleigh Gardner’s next over, hammering her for two fours.
However, her best was yet to come. In the final over, bowled by Megan Schutt, Deepti looked calm and composed as she hammered four successive fours, finishing unbeaten on 36 off just 15 balls.
With the 27,500-plus home fans cheering, Deepti’s heroics guided India to a mammoth 172 for five. However, in the end, that was inadequate as Beth Mooney stood firm to guide Australia to a nine-wicket win.
The Indian team hopes to get inspired by Deepti’s heroics and bounce back when it meets Australia for the second T20I at the same venue on Sunday.
In the opening T20I, India’s fielding was shoddy and going forward, the team plans to ensure that it addresses the issue. “Definitely, the first half was pretty good but the second half didn’t go as well. We will try to rectify our small mistakes made in bowling and fielding in the next match so that we can give a tough competition in the series,” Deepti said in the post-match media interaction.
On Friday, India handed a debut to Anjali Sarvani, who became the first left-arm seamer to feature in a women’s T20I for India, in a bid to bolster its pace attack but that move did not yield results as the youngster went wicketless and conceded 27 runs in four overs.
With Mooney and McGrath taking things in their stride, none of the Indian bowlers made an impact. But Deepti pinned her hopes on Sarvani.
“I have played against her in domestic cricket. I played the (Senior Women’s T20 Trophy) final for Bengal against Railways. She (bowls) a good in-swinger with pace. Very few bowlers beat right-handers with in-swingers. It was her debut but it didn’t seem like that. She was very confident to bowl in any situation and everyone backed her,” she said.
As far as India is concerned, this series is its last opportunity to pick the right combination for the tri-series and the T20 World Cup in South Africa. Given the fact that both Shafali Verma and Richa won’t be available for the entire series, it is indeed a challenge for the team management to zero in on their back-ups. Despite Shafali starting off aggressively, India struggled in the PowerPlay in the opening game and until the 10th over, the run rate nosedived, with hardly any big shots coming India’s way.
For India’s new batting coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar, who’s in a way doubling up as the head coach, it will be a tricky challenge to sort out this issue. Middle-order has always been an area of concern for the team and even though Deepti has been quite consistent at the fag end over the last few months, it is important to not be over-reliant on Deepti.
The all-rounder worked quite a bit on her batting recently and comes with the mindset of ‘maximising the runs off the minimum balls available’, but it is time that others, too, start being consistent.
As far as Australia is concerned, it will once again pin its hopes on captain Alyssa Healy and Mooney to take charge of the batting department. However, it will be a challenge for the Aussie quicks to regroup and ensure that they don’t concede as many runs at deaths as they did in the opening game. The side has enough depth in its batting and with Tahlia McGrath, too, in-form, things certainly look bright for the top-ranked team.
Dew did play a role in the second innings of the first game, and taking lessons, both teams will be hoping to take things in their stride and adapt to the conditions. With points to prove, both teams have lots to play for.
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