England women beat India in low-scoring thriller
DHARAMSALA – Aggression is a word that is used to the point of exhaustion in cricket. For some, it means a style of batting or bowling, for others a few naughty words to the opposition. In the Group B tie of the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2016 on Tuesday (March 22) in Dharamsala, both India Women and England Women were guilty of ultra-aggression – in India’s case, it didn’t quite help their cause; for England, it almost didn’t.
Inserted in at the HPCA Stadium, India batted with a bit too much abandon and finished on 90 for 8. England approached the chase sensibly at the start but, in search of a quick finish and perhaps a vital boost in net run-rate, nearly bottled it. Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole eventually saw the side through to a nail-biting two-wicket win with an over to spare.
The hundreds that turned up to cheer for the home side witnessed a thriller, but with England just about holding its nerve better, India has a tougher road to qualification for the semi-finals lined up.
In pursuit of 91, England lost Charlotte Edwards early, Ekta Bisht having her caught by Sushma Verma, the wicketkeeper, for 4. Tammy Beaumont and Sarah Taylor, however, got the side back on track, caressing the ball between gaps, and it seemed to be a straightforward chase at that stage.
But there was a twist in the tale as Bisht and Harmanpreet Kaur sliced through the lineup to reduce England to 71 for 6 and then 87 for 8.
Beaumont was the first to perish, top-edging Kaur to Anuja Patil for an 18-ball 20. Kaur then outfoxed Taylor next ball as the wicketkeeper-batter was stumped for 16. England was 42 for 3 and played soundly once more, but then Bisht returned to have Heather Knight and Lydia Greenway dismissed off successive deliveries. Natalie Sciver became Bisht’s fourth wicket as England was left in the lurch.
Some excellent fielding from India led to England losing two more wickets but the drama came to an end with Shrubsole guiding a full toss from Veda Krishnamurthy past point to get the winning runs.
India was left to rue the what-ifs had the batters not been so eager to jump the gun earlier in the day. First, VR Vanitha top-edged a delivery from Knight in the opening over straight into the safe hands of Greenway. Then, Smriti Mandhana had a go at Shrubsole in the medium pacer’s first over, but Sciver misjudged the catch. Shrubsole was not to be denied, though, as Mandhana inside-edged one on to the stumps moments later to be out for 12.
India was 15 for 2, and that should have set off alarm bells. It didn’t. Shikha Pandey walked in and decided to attack Shrubsole as well, but Danielle Wyatt dropped a fairly easy catch at deep cover. On another day, these fumbles could have hurt England, but India kept pressing its luck. Knight had Pandey out for 12, caught brilliantly by Katherine Brunt near the boundary, while Sciver sent back Mithali Raj for 20 to leave India on a slippery slope at 47 for 4 in the 13th over.
Raj had jokingly lamented in the practice session before the game that she was having a tough time getting her girls to concentrate on the job instead of marveling at the stunning mountain backdrop. The batters didn’t do that on game day, but in the midst of all the aggressive tactics, they missed the forest for the trees.
The middle and lower order had no choice but to hit out then, and Kaur was the most successful, with a 25-ball 26 including three boundaries. Knight finished with 3 for 15 while Shrubsole picked up two wickets, but as it turned out, their runs were of equal essence as well.