The last time India’s senior women’s cricket team played a home series was in March 2021, returning to action a year after their run to the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final in Australia. India played South Africa in three T20Is and five ODIs with Covid-19 restrictions in place at one venue in Lucknow. In the last three years (since October 2019), that was the team’s only international cricket at home as the pandemic affected their game time and they got busy with overseas assignments.

And so it was no surprise that they were delighted on Sunday night to play in front of reportedly more than 45,000 spectators at DY Patil Stadium against undoubtedly the best side in the game right now. The all-conquering Australian women finally lost a match in 2022 as Smriti Mandhana starred in a sensational game of cricket.

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After the match, she thanked the crowd and said it plays a part in motivating the team to do well.

“We are playing in India after a very, very long time. Last series we played in Lucknow and that too we had a lot of COVID restrictions with the crowd,” player of the match Mandhana said in the post-match press conference.

“But I think wherever we played outside India as well, we’ve got a lot of support from Indian fans. And I think we have one of the best fans in the world, people are really crazy about cricket. First series at home after two years and that’s the response they give... it is amazing, amazing for us. Very motivating as well for us as women cricketers because to see that kind of support and you know, that kind of enthusiasm from the crowd throughout the whole 40 overs was amazing. Definitely is a motivating factor for the team to keep doing well because we have bigger things coming up as well.”

Mandhana led the way with a brilliant 49-ball 79 in the run-chase after Australia coasted to 187/1. Shafali Verma (34 off 23) and Richa Ghosh (26 off 16) made key contributions. Devika Vaidya (11* off 5) hit the last ball for four to help India finish with 187/5 and tie the scores. Mandhana then smashed 13 runs off 3 balls in the super over as India defended 20 runs.

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With entry free for the series, thousands had turned up in Navi Mumbai to what will go down as one of the best cricket matches of the year across formats as momentum swung one way then the other. It was the first tied T20I featuring Indian women and it ended in a hard-fought win against Alyssa Healy’s Australia.

The Indian vice captain also that such nights are good signs for women’s cricket in general. With an IPL-style event for women around the corner, it will encourage those looking to invest in the game.

“Women’s IPL has been announced and it’s a massive opportunity,” Mandhana said.

“This series is definitely a stepping stone because we are playing a home series, don’t think we are playing another before the women’s IPL. So when people see *this* sort of match with *that* sort of crowd, it’s definitely gonna be amazing for women’s cricket. Amazing things are there in store, BCCI is doing everything they can to do well for women’s cricket.

“To see that [turnout], I’m sure that it’s gonna give a lot of confidence to the organisers, as well as the people who will maybe, you know, bid for it or whatever – I don’t understand all of that – (smiles) but yeah, definitely it’s gonna give a lot of confidence to the people who are gonna watch this and for women’s cricket that you know, it’s a sport worth investing [in],” the left-handed opener added.

Australia captain Healy too said post match that it was a worthy advertisement for the game.

You can watch Smriti Mandhana’s press conference here