Australia in India

Bolton’s blast, missing Mithali Raj and other talking points from India vs Australia

Australia chased down India’s measly 200 in the first ODI of the ICC Women’s Championship with eight wickets and 107 balls to spare.

How fast and easy would a team that blasted 413 runs a week earlier, score 201 in a one-day match?
The answer is 32.1 overs, to be exact. And very easily.

Australia chased down India’s measly 200 in the first ODI of the ICC Women’s Championship with eight wickets and 107 balls to spare, with Nicole Bolton scoring 100 of those runs all by herself. Not a nice start to India’s home season, going down 0-1 in the three-match series.

While the quality of the Southern Stars is undoubted, India’s massive defeat came as a setback, especially after their performance in South Africa. The batting lineup failed to muster a good score after electing to bat first, with the No 9 being the top-scorer. The bowlers managed just one wicket between them and the centurion was dropped by Rajeshwari Gayakwad on 66 – summing up the lackluster day for India.

On the other hand, Australian spinners made merry with eight wickets between their spinners and a commanding chase. Here are the biggest talking points from Australia’s comprehensive win:

Bolton’s ton highlights Australia’s quality

Australia haven’t played an ODI since the multi-format Ashes last October, but the players have had plenty of match practice with almost two months of top quality cricket in the Women’s Big Bash League.

Consider this: The likes of Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry and Bolton played 16 T20s between the two international series. For India, while both Veda Krishnamurthy and Harmanpreet Kaur played nine matches each in the WBBL, the only cricket in the last seven months was domestic series followed by the three ODI and five T20Is in South Africa.

After two huge wins against India A in the warm-up games, Australia looked like a well-oiled, well-drilled unit. The all-round efficiency was evident: In a chase as small as 201, they shared three 50-run plus partnerships, with every batter contributing runs.

Bolton, who was part of all three, looked in great touch from the start, even when Healy took up the role of the aggressor in the Powerplay. The third-highest run-getter in the WBBL paced her innings to ensure he got to the three-figures while being aggressive.

The wickets were shared between four out of six bowlers with Jess Jonassen and Amanda-Jade Wellington taking seven between them. The fielding was a mixed bag, but the important catches were held and there was a stunner as well, a relay catch between Perry and Rachel Haynes.

Credit to the returning captain Meg Lanning as well, as she mixed up her bowlers well. Amanda-Jade Wellington, only 10 ODIs old, got three wickets in as many overs across as many spells before Jess Jonssen did the damage to the tail.

Missing Mithali Raj

Even before the match began, India suffered a setback when captain Mithali Raj was ruled out due to illness. Already missing Jhulan Goswami, India went into the match without two of their most veteran campaigners and against a team like Australia, experience counts. Remember how Goswami had dug in to ensure India’s semi-final win?

Even then, India had the quality to set up a good total after Harmanpreet chose to bat first. But what they lacked in Raj’s absence was the anchor of the innings. With the 35-year-old around, there is stability to the bating lineup and others can bat around her and keep the scoreboard ticking. As we saw in the South Africa T20s, she can marshal both the troops and strike. But without her, nobody dropped anchor and slugged it out as six wickets fell within a span of 68.

Openers Poonam Raut and Smriti Mandhana started strong but once the dot-ball pressure started piling, the first wicket fell to off-spinner Ashleigh Gardner in the 10th over, Smriti Mandhana trying to go big and not connecting. Debutant Jemimah Rodrigues was in next and she played at an avoidable delivery going down leg to edge behind.

The procession began with barely anything on the board with set batter Raut falling on 37. Harmanpreet didn’t look very comfortable in a watchful innings, before going to knicking Megan Schutt behind on nine off 29.

Vastrakar’s world record

No one else could as much as build a partnership as India slumped to 113/7 in the 32nd over. Lower middle-order collapses seem far too usual for India, and just when Australia were well and truly in to the, India’s Nos 7 and 9 stoop up to be counted. Mithali Raj has often spoken about India’s lower order contributing with the bat, and when the time came, they did.

On a day that nothing worked for India, 18-year-old Pooja Vastrakar got a world record: the highest score by a No 9 in women’s ODIs. Not the best of bats, the last time wicketkeeper Sushma Verma notched a personal best, India beat Pakistan in the World Cup. This time, she went one ahead with her 41 off 71 steadying an end as Vastrakar took the attack to Australia with 51 at almost run-a-ball.

The 76-run partnership between Verma and Vastrakar for the eighth wicket not only helped India reach a semi-respectable 200 in 50 overs, it was India’s highest eighth wicket stand in ODIs.

Playing only her second ODI, the teen played some delightful shots befitting a batter who comes much higher. Her knock also showed the importance of basics, just stick around and see out the initial tide. Her first run came after as facing 10 balls but as she played herself in, she took on the bowlers scoring 12 in the next nine balls, building on the momentum.

This match will be an important lesson going to the next couple of matches, to be able to counter the high-flying Australians. The two teams will next meet on Thursday, giving India and Raj a couple of days to recover.

With the series on line in the next game, the hosts will look to get this defeat behind them as soon as possible.

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