Mirror Sports Bureau
Buoyed by Kaur’s blistering ton against NZ, confident India face Pakistan in Women’s World T20 clash today.
Harmanpreet Kaur’s immortal 171 in the semi-final against Australia was the highlight of the 2017 Women’s World Cup. The India T20I captain has kickstarted the 2018 Women’s World T20 in similar fashion, her 103 off 51 deliveries delivering a 34-run win over New Zealand in the tournament opener on Friday.
India’s dominating performance versus a strong opponent means they should be mighty confident going in to their next match, with Pakistan today atProvidence Stadiumin Guyana.
Not only was Kaur’s knock the first T20I hundred by an Indian woman, it was also the third-fastest ever in the format, coming off 49 deliveries. It was a typically searing Kaur innings on its own, containing more sixes (8) than fours (7), but the context in which it came elevated it even higher.
The New Zealand match was being seen almost as a virtual quarter-final for India. The top two teams out of five go through to the semi-finals. Assauming that India were favourites to defeat Pakistan and Ireland, they had to beat at least one of Australia and New Zealand. Teams against whom they had unflattering records of 3-11 and 2-5 respectively.
Further, right at the very start of their campaign, India had done the near-unthinkable. They had dislodged veteran Mithali Raj, who still captains Kaur in ODIs by the way, from her customary position at the top of the order. They sent in Taniya Bhatia, teenager Jemimah Rodrigues and debutant D Hemalatha instead.
At 40 for 3 in the sixth over, though, the changed top order hadn’t clicked. This was when Kaur walked in. At one stage, she was 5 off 13. She went on to loot an astonishing 98 off her next 37 balls, overcoming cramps and back pain.
Once Kaur gets going, it is remarkable how little she mishits for the amount of power she generates. Especially for someone whose preferred hit is on the move over longon, a combination susceptible to an unstable hitting position, she rarely loses shape. Some of her sixes were ending in the stands. There was even an 85-metre monster that clattered straight in to the sightscreen. There were also clever glides between backward point and short third man, and slog-sweeps placed so well they didn’t seem to have been slogged. “I was having little bit back problem (on Thursday),” Kaur said. “In the morning, I was not feeling well, when I came to the ground I was feeling a little low and getting some cramps. When initially I was running twos, I got a little cramp, after that the physio gave me medicine, and it settled down a little bit. Then I thought instead of running too much, if I could I get more big shots … because you run too much, you get more cramps. Then I told Jemi (Rodrigues), ‘if you give the strike to me, Ican go for more big shots’.”
Rodrigues displayed the maturity and awareness of someone a decade older, turning the strike over to her senior partner regularly. The pair put on a record 134 in 76 before Rodrigues was stumped for 59 off 45.
India posted 194 for 5, their second-highest T20I total, after which their spin battery slowly strangled New Zealand. Leggie Poonam Yadav and offie Hemalatha picked up three wickets each while left-arm orthodox Radha Yadav took two. India’s next opponents, Pakistan, were hammered by 52 runs by Australia on Friday. The Indians enjoy an 8-2 record over the Pakistanis. The fact that they lost their previous World T20 encounter to them by two runs at home in Delhi in 2016 should be added motivation today.