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India Dominate. West Indies Brought Back Down to Earth
Jay and the team at Cricket Queens look at the four biggest stories from India’s 155-run win over the West Indies
48 hours ago, India’s prospects of making the semi-final stage of the ongoing World Cup looked far from convincing. The West Indies, on the other hand, had beaten both the hosts and defending champions England.
However, as we said in the aftermath of India’s win over Pakistan, momentum can be very fickle indeed.
Here are four talking points from an eventful day at Hamilton, where runs flowed, wickets fell, and records tumbled.
Statisticians had a field day on Saturday as India registered their second-highest ODI total behind the 358/2 they scored against Ireland in 2017.
Yastika Bhatia kicked things off with an assault that went against the typical image of someone trying to cement their spot in a team. Her first boundary was an attempted hoik over mid wicket which caught her top edge and flew over the slips. In contrast to India’s powerplay batting in the World Cup up to that point, this early life did not stop her from taking the aerial route.
She pulled Chinelle Henry and Shamilia Connell in front of square every time they pitched short. By the time she lobbed a return catch back to Shakera Selman, India already notched up 49 runs with two deliveries left in the 7th over. India ended the Powerplay on 62/2, scoring more runs than both their two previous tournament powerplays put together. They also hit ten boundaries in the first ten overs, which was double the five boundaries they had accumulated in 20 combined powerplay overs against Pakistan and New Zealand.
All of India’s first three wickets came courtesy of their batters attempting aerial strokes: acceptable lapses for a team blessed with a deep batting line-up.
India’s early intent also allowed centurions Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur to bide their time. Encouragingly, they didn’t take too long to rebuild before opening up once more.
After a sedate start, Kaur cut Anisa Mohammed away for four, following it up by dancing down the track and driving her against the spin and past mid off. She closed out her innings with a procession of sweeps and slogs into the leg side. This was the Indian Vice-Captain’s first century since her iconic 171 not out against Australia in the 2017 World Cup.
Not to be left behind, Smriti Mandhana notched up her first century in 22 innings — her longest gap between hundreds in her entire ODI career.
Unlike her vice skipper, Smriti started positively before the fall of three quick wickets, and being starved of the strike, slowed her down. After Stafanie Taylor’s carefully laid plans were hacked to pieces by Yastika Bhatia, Hayley Matthews was given the ball. In her very first over, Mandhana lofted the off-spinner over cover for her second aerial boundary of the powerplay.
Even in the middle overs, Mandhana was open to going over the top, while keeping dot balls to a minimum and continuing to rotate the strike. Against New Zealand, India notched up 45 dots in the powerplay and 98 dots between overs 11-40. The corresponding numbers in this game were 35 and 82.
Regardless of whatever was thrown at them, Mandhana and Kaur never took their feet off the necks of the West Indies bowlers.
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West Indies bowling: flawed execution, muddled thinking
As we discussed in our round-up of the West Indies’ win against England, Stafanie Taylor's plans in the powerplay were simple. She relied on her tall opening bowlers to bowl back of a length on a fifth stump line with a stacked off side field and mid on and mid off up.
The simple plan allowed her to restrict New Zealand and England to 41 and 34, respectively in the first ten overs. This allowed Hayley Matthews, one of the best off-spinners in the world, to operate on turning tracks with reinforcements on the boundary and the required rate rising with each passing over.
However, a couple of things went wrong against India. Firstly, the West Indies lost the toss, which meant they’d be bowling first. Secondly, Shamilia Connell and Chinelle Henry were bowling to two left-handers in Mandhana and Bhatia. Up to that point, they had not bowled to even one southpaw during the powerplay overs in the World Cup.
Neither Henry nor Connell were sure about whether to come around the wicket or over the wicket, meaning that they sprayed their deliveries all over the place. To make matters worse, they couldn’t find the hard length that made them tough to score off in the previous two games. Their short balls were dispatched by an aggressive Bhatia, often in front of square.
Later in the innings, Matthews found it hard to adjust to the right-left combination of Mandhana and Kaur, which caused her to drift onto the pads or down the leg side on multiple occasions. In fact, the entire West Indian bowling attack continued to spray it all over the place.
To top it all off, the West Indies conceded multiple free hits, one of which Kaur dispatched for six over the head of Shakera Selman at the bowling crease.
Gayakwad shines again
Rajeshwari Gayakwad has been one of India’s mainstays for a long time in the ODI format. 88 wickets in 54 ODIs at an average of 19.1 are some champion numbers to have for a bowler in this day and age.
Mind you, these aren’t just the figures of someone who has bullied oppositions on the spinning tracks in India; these are figures of a spinner who has succeeded overseas as well.
Gayakwad averages 43.6 in Australia, but the next highest average for her in any country or region is 22.0 in the West Indies. In the other five countries where she has bowled, she has averaged much less than 22. She has been tormenting teams in this World Cup as well with seven wickets to her name.
What’s more fascinating are Gayakwad’s numbers in New Zealand. It’s a country that is not reputed for aiding the spinners, but Gayakwad has found a way to be effective by nailing her stump-to-stump lines. She has taken 13 wickets in New Zealand at an average of 20.7. In seven innings in New Zealand, she has never gone wicket-less.
The encouraging thing for Gayakwad is that most of the pitches so far have provided some assistance to the spinners, which is something nobody had expected prior to the tournament. India’s next fixture is on Wednesday against England in Mount Maunganui, where the surfaces have assisted spin. Of concern, however, is how they will be facing Australia at Eden Park which has notoriously small dimensions. Gayakwad’s form with the ball could be crucial in reigning in two of the best batting line-ups in the tournament.
Dynamite Dottin, but top-heavy West Indies
For the best part of an hour, Indian fans were gobsmacked as Deandra Dottin and Hayley Matthews propelled the West Indies to 81 at the end of the powerplay. As pointed out by famed Twitter user Hypocaust, this was the fourth-highest powerplay total in the history of women’s ODI cricket.
Sadly, the West Indies would lose the rest of their wickets for the addition of just 62 runs.
There was always an air of inevitability about this collapse, even if the severity of it was unforeseen. Clearly, the West Indies’ might is concentrated at the top of the order. While this makes it hard for them to chase large targets, it is less of an issue while batting first without the pressure of an escalating required rate.
In spite of a resounding defeat, the West Indies is still in a good position to make the semi-finals with games against Pakistan, Bangladesh, and South Africa coming up.
Before that, however, they will be facing Australia on Tuesday. Their best hope of emerging victorious is to win the toss, put runs on the board, and build required rate pressure at the start of their bowling innings.
However, even if they do all these things, it may not be enough to stave off another hit to their Net Run Rate, and indeed, their confidence.
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