The graceful Smriti Mandhana once again enhanced her reputation as one of India’s biggest match winners with an attractive 91 that decimated England by seven wickets in the opening WODI in Hove on Sunday.
Harmanpreet Kaur won the toss. Veteran India pacer Jhulan Goswami bowled 42 dot balls to see England manage a sub-par 227 for seven, largely due to efforts from the lower middle-order.
India was never in trouble during the chase as Mandhana played a few handsome strokes before eventually missing out on a sixth WODI hundred by nine runs. However, by the time she was dismissed, Mandhana ensured a 45th over finish for the Women In Blue, who now go 1-0 up in three-match series.
Yastika Bhatia (50 off 47 balls), who hasn’t done justice to her enormous talent, also notched up her third half-century and scored at more than run-a-ball strike-rate.
Yastika-Mandhana’s second wicket stand of 96 in just 16.1 overs set the foundation. Later, Harmanpreet (74 not out in 94 balls) eased her way to another fifty, adding 99 runs with her deputy and then finishing it off in style with a slog sweep for six.
Mandhana’s innings had 10 fours and a lovely six over long-on off seamer Issy Wong.
While both Yastika and Mandhana drove majestically through the covers during the PowerPlay, the Indian vice-captain also played a lot of pull-shots with English bowlers drifting down the leg-side.
While India spinners Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Deepti Sharma varied their pace to make strokeplay difficult, England’s seamers Kate Cross (2/43 in 10 overs), Alice Davidson-Jones (0/48 in 7.2 overs), Wong (0/35 in 5 overs) along with off-spinner Charlie Dean (1/45 in 10 overs) allowed the visiting team batters to use the pace of their deliveries to score runs behind the square.
In the first 15 overs, India hit 13 fours and a six (by Yastika). Earlier, Goswami, 39, was parsimonious, giving away only 20 runs in 10 overs. She didn’t concede a single boundary or six and also bowled a fine off-cutter to get rid of the seasoned Tammy Beaumont (7).
On a track where the ball wasn’t always coming onto the bat, India captain Harmanpreet Kaur did the right thing by opting to field.
After seamer Meghna Singh (1/42 in 8 overs) hurried opener Emma Lamb (12) with a short ball, Goswami and the two spinners Deepti (2/33 in 10 overs) and Gayakwad (1/40 in 10 overs) choked the run flow consistently. However, Sneh Rana (1/45 in 6 overs) and Pooja Vastrakar (0/20 in 2 overs) along with Meghna did leak a few runs as the home team put up a 220-plus score in the end.
Dani Wyatt (43 off 50 balls), Alice Davidson-Richards (50 not out off 61 balls) and Sophie Ecclestone (31) were the notable contributors for England. Even Charlie Dean played a nice cameo (24 no off 21 balls) towards the end to beef up the target.
Harmanpreet will be a touch disappointed that despite getting England on the mat at 128 for 6 by the 34th over, England’s Nos. 7, 8 and 9 added more than 100 runs to put up a respectable total.