Vastrakar, Rana, Spinners Shine amidst Familiar Pains for India
Jay gets his binoculars out, analysing India's performance in the big-ticket fixture against Pakistan
If there was any game that could demonstrate how fickle momentum can be, it was today’s contest between Pakistan and eventual winners India.
What was shaping up to be a deflating Indian collapse turned into a record-setting comeback for the ages.
However, yet again, India’s batters struggled in the middle overs. Against a more accomplished batting line-up, this probably would have cost them the game.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories and matchups from India’s performance.
Rajeshwari Gayakwad is introduced into the attack.
Pakistan hasn’t lost a wicket up to this point, but they only have 26 on the board after a Powerplay where neither Javeria Khan nor Sidra Ameen attempted any aerial shots.
Javeria, understandably, wants to grab the bull by the horns. And of course, Rajeshwari Gayakwad knows this. She has a plan.
Javeria charges down the track off Gayakwad’s very first delivery. Gayakwad sees her coming and delivers a slow, flighted delivery with plenty of revolutions. Javeria is done in by the flight and doesn’t read the length so she aborts her shot, bunting it down for a dot.
She turns the next ball — a straighter one — off her pads for a single to mid wicket.
When she gets back on strike, she is still itching for a boundary. So she tries a reverse sweep but finds the fielder for yet another frustrating dot ball. This ball was another straight delivery that angled in with the arm.
Javeria steps away from the batting crease, surveys the leg side field and gathers her thoughts before returning to take strike.
In those brief seconds, she thinks she’s figured out India’s best spinner.
Last ball. This one has to go.
After all, she had middled the last one and a sound so sweet deserved a boundary.
Gayakwad runs in, Javeria charges down. But this one doesn’t come in with the angle. It’s wide. It’s too full.
In for a penny, in for a pound
She fetches it from outside off but doesn’t get it off the middle. The ball lobs into the safe hands of Jhulan Goswami at mid on.
Javeria looks to the skies. India celebrates. Gayakwad’s plan has worked.
Gayakwad would go on to take another three wickets, including that of Aliya Riaz, who was out stumped after swinging wildly at a flighted, turning delivery tossed up wide.
Gayakwad now averages less than 19 with the ball in ODI cricket with 85 scalps to her name. Judging by the way she bowled today, she may well end up with 100 by the time the World Cup ends.
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When Pooja Vastrakar joined Sneh Rana at the crease, India’s innings had lost all momentum. India’s specialist batters had only managed 18 runs in the preceding 67 balls, during which time five of them had to walk back to the pavilion.
Under normal circumstances, you would expect the batters in the middle to dramatically reduce their targeted total as they drop anchor. However, Vastrakar was in no mood for a gradual rebuilding.
She punished Pakistan’s spinners for bowling short and wide with a flurry of back foot punches and cut shots to begin her innings. Upon returning for her second spell of the day, Diana Baig got a taste of Vatsrakar’s natural ability to time the ball, being eased into the covers for a boundary.
After biding her time, Sneh Rana cut loose with a deftly guided boundary to third man off Baig in the 41st over. She’d go on to score 43 in the last 27 balls of her innings while Vastrakar continued her assault on the opposition.
By the time Vastrakar was bowled by Fatima Sana, the pair had put on 122 runs in 100 balls. Their partnership was the highest for the seventh wicket in the history of Women’s ODIs. It was also the first time in Women’s ODI history that two batters coming in at seven or lower had made half-centuries in the same innings.
India has historically lacked power hitters and finishers down the order. It’s a big reason why they lost the 2017 World Cup final to England. However, they now have two in Vastrakar and Rana, who are also genuine all-rounders that add balance and an X-factor to India’s XI. The fact that they’ve found form at the start of the World Cup is crucial heading into key fixtures against New Zealand and the West Indies over the next week.
Batting in the middle overs
It’s happened on numerous occasions in the last year and it happened again. In ODI series against England and Australia, India were plagued by middle overs slow downs that cost them or nearly cost them multiple games.
However, today’s characteristic slow down was accompanied by a rapid fall of wickets. In case you skimmed through the previous section and missed it, India lost five wickets for 18 runs in the pace of 67 balls to Pakistan’s spinners.
Although a prolific run-scorer, Mithali Raj’s traditional approach of building an innings and catching up later can cost her team when she is dismissed before the “catch up” phase. In the 34th over, sensing the need to up a run rate that she was partly responsible for slowing down in the first place, she charged down the track to Nashra Sandhu, losing her shape and tamely lobbing a catch to Diana Baig in the circle.
Harmanpreet Kaur, who has a similar approach to an ODI innings also fell cheaply before her catch up phase.
In their collective defense, at various points in the recent past, both veterans have shown a willingness to start quicker and have adopted a less risk-averse approach at the start of their knocks.
However, today it simply did not come off for them. Pakistan’s spinners executing their game plans contributed to this, as did the shot selection of India’s other batters. However, if Mithali and Harmanpreet don’t remedy their issues immediately, India’s trophy ambitions are in grave danger of remaining unfulfilled.
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